‘Emerging crisis’ among young in Letterkenny – doctor

Dr. James McDaid pictured in his surgery this week.

A LEADING doctor has expressed concern of an “emerging crisis” among young people in Letterkenny using highly-addictive benzodiazepines.
Former Government Minister Dr James McDaid warned that many people who are prescribed benzodiazepines are mixing them with illicit drugs like cannabis which can often lead them into trouble.
Benzodiazepines, one of the most common anti-depressants which are also used to treat anxiety, insomnia, epilepsy and alcohol dependence, is widely prescribed as a ‘cure all’ for several mental disorders.
Earlier this month, Dr McDaid was called as a witness by Letterkenny District Court to explain why a defendant was not able to access rehabilitation in White Oaks. A condition of entry into the addiction treatment centre is dependant on the client being drug free for at least one week.
Dr McDaid expained that such is the addiction to benzodiazepines that people often struggle to cope once a dose is reduced. This is leading doctors to find themselves between a ‘rock and hard place’ because they have a duty to protect society from patients who would otherwise be volatile and aggressive when unmedicated.
Speaking to the Donegal News, Dr McDaid said that an ‘awful’ lot of people across Donegal were using benzodiazepines.
“The simple fact is that I could fill White Oaks six times over with the number of people who come into my surgery alone. There’s an awful lot of people using Xanax and other members of the benzodiazepine family.
“We have a responsibility to reduce the medication and start to bring it down to minimal doses. This type of medication is only supposed to be used as a short term measure. However, when we reduce it, they start to lose control,” he said.
The drugs are also being used by people who are hooked on illicit substances like cannabis.
“It is not just the benzos that are the problem, it’s the illicit drugs also. When they run out of cash, they come to the doctors to get an alternative.
“If we do not give these benzos to patients, they can be quite horrific. They can lose all control and get quite violent. I have seen it myself a number of times in the surgery.
“Doctors are breaking our own rules by prescribing these in many cases for longer than we should be but we have a responsibility to the community, to protect them from the behaviour of these individuals.
“We are only supposed to give them for three to four weeks but unless we give these tablets then they become a danger to society,” Dr McDaid said.
‘Catch 22’
“It’s a Catch 2,” he continued. “Doctors are trying to get them off these prescription drugs but unfortunately a lot of them simply end up in prison again.
“White Oaks is an absolutely brilliant facility but it’s too small. We could fill it six times over,” he added.
“There’s not an awful lot we can do. They come into their GP looking for a prescription letter when all you’re actually doing is marking a day down on a calender for when they’re back in court. They’re abusing us and I’m getting tired of it. There’s a growing crisis out there,” Dr McDaid warned.
The Letterkenny GP said that he now only allows patients to collect their prescription from one pharmacy as his signature has been duplicated fraudulently on a number of occasions.
“The solution is there, but people have to want to help themselves – they have to want to come off benzos and that is why we need places like White Oaks. But it is a requirement of acceptance into the programme at White Oaks that people must be drug and drink free for a short period of one week.”

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