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New dependent drug guide for GPs

New dependent drug guide for GPs
Photo: New GPs dependent drug guide
A new guide has been created for Australian GPS prescribing benzodiazepines to improve patient care.

GPs prescribing benzodiazepines can now use an Australian-first guide aimed at reducing patient harm and misuse of the sedatives. 

Nearly seven million prescriptions are issued nationally every year for benzodiazepines, frequently used to treat anxiety or sleep problems, with the most common including Valium and temazepam.

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) has created a new guide for prescribing the drugs, which can lead to dependence, to address the current lack of clinical guidelines.

RACGP President Dr Frank Jones said there was growing concern about the harms associated with both the authorised and unauthorised use of the drugs.

While problems associated with the drugs' use were rare in patients who took low doses for recommended periods, some patients may be more vulnerable to harms, he said.
"As GPs we need to be vigilant in identifying patients who may be misusing or abusing benzodiazepines because this can become a long-term and distressing problem," he said.

"Patients who have a substance use disorder may doctor shop to gain prescriptions and increase their use and dosage.

"When taken in combination with other substances such as opioid medications, illicit drugs and alcohol, this can result in death."

Patients also needed to understand that medication was only part of the answer to managing complex mental health issues and non-drug therapies should also be explored, Dr Jones said.

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