Home > Dail Eireann debate. Written answer 23 - Misuse of drugs [20536/15] [Prescription sedatives].

[Oireachtas] Dail Eireann debate. Written answer 23 - Misuse of drugs [20536/15] [Prescription sedatives]. (28 May 2015)

23. Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Health the steps being taken to address the growing addiction to tablets, prescription and other; if he will consider adding the drugs known as Z drugs to the list of controlled drugs; if he will address the need for clinical guidelines in relation to recovery from benzodiazepines and the short detox time required before accessing treatment. [20536/15]


Minister of State at the Department of Health (Deputy Aodhán Ó Ríordáin): Government's response to the problem of drug misuse in our society is set out in the National Drugs Strategy 2009-2016.


I am aware that in recent years, the nature and scale of drug misuse has changed, with an increased prevalence of polydrug use, as well as use of benzodiazepines, and other prescription or non-prescription tablets. Treatment figures indicate an increase in the number of people seeking treatment for benzodiazepine use.


The Misuse of Drugs (Amendment) Act 2015, as well as controlling substances decontrolled as a result of a Court of Appeal decision, reconfirmed existing Ministerial regulations and orders made under the 1977 Act. These regulations and orders may now only be amended by primary legislation. While it is intended to bring forward regulations to impose additional controls on benzodiazepines and z-drugs, a second Misuse of Drugs (Amendment) Bill must first be enacted in order to provide the Minister with the necessary powers in this regard. It is my intention to have this Bill published and enacted within the current year.


Clinical guidelines are set out in the Department of Health's "Good Practice Guidelines for Clinicians" for the prescribing of benzodiazepines. The HSE addiction services provide a comprehensive substance treatment service orientated towards those with polydrug issues. Consequently, problem drug users attending such services and who are dependent on benzodiazepines or other z-drugs have this addressed as part of their treatment. I am advised by the HSE that clinical protocols in relation to benzodiazepine treatment are currently under consideration by the National Clinical Effectiveness Committee, and that some HSE addiction services are piloting these protocols.


The Department of Health is beginning work on the development of a new National Drugs Strategy for the period after 2016. The process will include a comprehensive consultation with key stakeholders and the public on the current national drugs policy and future priorities, including treatment. It will also take account of evidence-based research, information and data sources on the extent and nature of problem drug use in Ireland. As Minister with lead responsibility for drugs policy, I will play an active role in the development of the new Strategy and I would urge all interested parties to engage in the process.

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