The highly addictive drug, Benzodiazepines, has become increasingly available to members of the public in Ireland without a prescription. The drug is being sold on to all different types of social classes from people who have multiple prescriptions or who purchase the drug online. The medication, which is usually prescribed by Doctors for the short term treatment of anxiety disorders and insomnia, has made its way into the drugs trade and has become increasingly popular for people who it is not primarily intended for.
This form of drug is said to be highly addictive if used over the necessary prescribed time and can lead to side effects when used chronically, including confusion, dizziness, blurred vision, weakness, slurred speech, lack of coordination and drowsiness. The consistent use of the medication may also cause side effects that the drug was previously prescribed for such as insomnia and anxiety. Doctors and Pharmacists recommended that the maximum time that a person should use Benzodiazepines is three weeks, due to the addictiveness and reliance that can develop. The drug affects the Central Nervous System (CNS) that diminishes brain or spinal cord functions/activity.
Benzodiazepine can come in different forms and under different names, due to the chemical balance and the variable levels of sedation that they can inflict on the user. The most common forms prescribed are Valium, Xanax, Rohypnol and Diazepam. Street names used for the drugs are known as Benzo’s or Downers, named this because of their use from people who need to come down off eccentric drugs such as cocaine or ecstasy.
Currently, there is new legislation being drafted that will aim to assist Gardaí and custom officers in prosecuting anyone found in the unauthorized possession of Benzodiazepines under the Misuse of Drugs Regulations, 1988. Because of the lack of legislation currently in place, the drug can easily be brought into Ireland and sold onto street users who do not have a prescription from their doctor or a licence to import.
In Ireland, under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1977: Section 23 (1) the article states that; “A member of the Garda Síochána who with reasonable cause suspects that a person is in possession in contravention of this Act of a controlled drug, may without warrant search the person and, if he considers it necessary for that purpose, detain the person for such time as is reasonably necessary. They can also search other transport vehicles where they suspect drugs may be found.” But for people who have a prescription for the substance, there is little that can be done.
I also spoke to a member of An Garda Siochana from one of Dublin city centres main stations and drug unit, on how Benzodiazepine are becoming increasingly more common on the black market.
“The sale and supply of unauthorized prescription drugs in the city centre has become progressively more obvious over the last number of years. It’s not just the heroin and clinic users that we have to deal with, but now with the mixed substances it is becoming more difficult. You eventually begin to read the signs and symptoms of members of the public who have taken Benzodiazepine. I have found both men and women from as young as 16, slumped against the wall completely unaware of their surroundings and what is going on.”
Not only are the mentioned side effects a need for immediate legislation from the Irish government on the importation and possession of Benzodiazepines, but the tablets have been increasingly used as a form of ‘date rapes’ and sexual assaults because of its high ability to make a person drowsy, unaware of their surroundings and impair their functions of normality.
*Conor, a 22 year old student from Dublin has been using and dealing Benzodiazepines for almost two years.
“I was prescribed the drug from my doctor after I was having trouble sleeping because of home and college issues. The stuff just puts you asleep, makes you forget about a lot of the problems that you might have going on, but to be honest I know I’m addicted to them. I have gone to a few different doctors to get a prescription, and even if I don’t take them myself, a few friends of mine would normally buy them off me.”
When mixed with other drugs such as alcohol or cannabis, Benzodiazepines can become increasingly more dangerous, with the possibility of accidental overdose.
“I take them after smoking a joint of weed from time to time. The Benzo’s make smoking the joint that little bit stronger. The same with the people I sell onto. I could get from €2 to €5 per pill, even more for the whole tray.” says Conor.
“I know I am dependent on Benzo’s. I’m addicted to how it makes me feel and the euphoric feeling that I get. I tried to stop before but I found the craving too much to be honest. When I did start to withdraw I just felt like my mind was going crazy and that there as too much deal with. Some people are addicted to alcohol or heroin…this addiction is just as strong”
A pharmacist for a Dublin store, says the dangers of not only taking the drugs that are not properly prescribed or dispensed can be extremely harmful to the person’s physiological and physical dependence for the drug.
“If a person buys Benzodiazepine of any form over the internet, the dangers of detrimental side effects are almost doubled. You don’t know chemicals and ingredients have gone into these pills, if they are even real and what damage they may cause. It’s a huge risk to take from online purchases or even black market dealings. At least through the prescription of a doctor and dispensing through the pharmacy you know the correct amount that you are being given, that it is the correct dosage and ingredients have been given. With any drug there are side effects and precautions to be taken, and I would strongly advise that the directions be followed, not to take longer than the recommended time limit and to especially avoid any other substances that will have influence or effect.”
Hannah* a recent college graduate from Dublin, previously became reliant on the medication in her final year of her accountancy exams. “It was a once off and I will never do it again. I had taken Benzos after I had trouble sleeping. They belonged to my sister who was prescribed them for anxiety. They didn’t seem to harmful at the time and I found they helped me sleep. I felt that I needed them each night. I did try to go without them but when its four o’clock in the morning and you are still wide awake and have to be up at seven to go into lectures and to study, they almost seem like the only way your body can function. You know the reaction that they are having though. I had the ‘cotton mouth’ feeling, I became agitated and just was not all with it.”
It is important for anyone who is not prescribed the drug by their doctor or who feels that they are becoming reliant or suffering from any of the symptoms that are mentioned that they immediately seek help and support.
There are a range of clinics and support services in Ireland that are available to the public that help through the different processes of detoxification. The main aim for the clinics, both private and public, is to wean the patient off the drug, detox and manage the withdrawal, in a supported environment as painlessly and effectively as possible. The Health Service Executive (HSE) runs an addiction rehabilitation centre in Dublin called Soilise. Through five stages, they offer help and support to anyone suffering from addiction, including the dependence of Benzodiazepine. The stages include recovery group sessions, individual care planning and aftercare.
Brian Baxter uploaded his experience to withdrawal to You Tube so that viewers could understand what really happens. An insightful story that should be watched.
Let me know what your thoughts are on Benzodiazepine and Brian’s You Tube story.