The Substance Misuse Committee of the Mental Health Foundation has produced a booklet called Guidelines for the Prevention and Treatment of Benzodiazepine Dependence. The problem addressed is twofold: encouraging and managing withdrawal, and preventing new cases of dependence. There is no room for complacency because although prescriptions for anxiolytics have halved over the past ten years, prescriptions for hypnotics are unchanged – now twice the number for anxiolytics. The average GP can expect to have about 50 long-term benzodiazepine users on his or her list. The long-term safety of these drugs is uncertain and there are side effects, e.g. memory impairment, ataxia and falls in the elderly, and road traffic accidents.
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