Annual Conference 2021: The challenge of benzodiazepine use in the context of escalating drug deaths

At the SSA Annual Conference in November 2021, Dr Sarah Welch chaired a session...
Created On: 25 January 2022   (Last updated: 10 February 2022)

At the SSA Annual Conference in November 2021, Dr Sarah Welch chaired a session about the challenging context of benzodiazepine use in Scotland. Watch the series of talks and follow-up Q&A now.  

There were 1,339 drug-related deaths in Scotland in 2020, the highest number of deaths since records began and around 4.5 times as many deaths as in the year 2000. Almost three quarters of those deaths (73%) involved benzodiazepines – a group of drugs originally designed for use in the medical treatment of anxiety and insomnia – and this provided the backdrop for a special session of the SSA’s 2021 Annual Conference.

Three experts gathered to discuss benzodiazepines, and the opportunities for providing treatment and support, and preventing drug-related deaths. In the first presentation of the session, Dr Andrew McAuley talked about the prevalence and determinants of non-prescribed benzodiazepine use and related harms among a national sample of people who inject drugs. In the second presentation, Dr Trina Ritchie focused on experiences of non-prescribed benzodiazepine use by people on opioid agonist therapy in a city centre treatment service. And in the final presentation, before moving onto the Q&A session, Professor Catriona Matheson considered the evidence base in Scotland for the clinical management of high-risk benzodiazepine use.

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