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Dublin: 1 °C Sunday 17 November, 2019

The new Minister for Drugs is planning a crackdown on 'benzos'

There’s been an increase in ‘polydrug’ use – taking more than one drug, including prescription pills – in recent years.

drugs1 Discarded Diazepam packaging - just off Dublin's Italian Quarter. Source: Daragh Brophy

RECENTLY-APPOINTED DRUGS Minister Aodhán O’Ríordáin is planning additional controls on benzodiazepines and the class of drugs known as ‘z-drugs’.

It follows an increase in ‘polydrug’ use in recent years.

Data from 2012, the latest year for which the figures are available, shows more than half of poisoning deaths that year were as a result of taking a mixture of drugs.

There was a 60 per cent increase in the number of deaths involving polydrug use between 2004 and 2012.


Benzodiazepines or ‘benzos’ – including widely-known drugs like Diazepam – are bought by drug users to achieve a sedating effect.

Z-drugs act in a similar way to benzos – but are in another class of medicine.

One drug in that class, Zopiclone, which is commonly prescribed for people with problems sleeping, was the main drug recorded in 22 poisoning deaths in 2012.

Originally marketed in the 1990s as an alternative to benzos, “it was marketed as though it was not addictive,” Dr Bobby Smyth of the Drug Treatment Centre Board told last year.

It was marketed as though it was not addictive…. However, it certainly is addictive.

drugs2 Source: Shutterstock

Following the legal loophole that emerged back in March – requiring emergency drug legislation to be brought in, ministerial regulations governing drugs can 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,” O’Ríordáin said.

“It is my intention to have this Bill published and enacted within the current year.”

The new measures will include stricter controls on the import and export of benzodiazepines, a spokesperson for the Department of Health explained.

Stricter prescribing and dispensing controls will also be brought in.

Read: Peter McVerry says he’d be embarrassed if he was Alan Kelly >

Read: ‘Every alley way in Dublin is used for public injecting at some point’ >

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