‘Patient experiences and perceptions of receiving benzodiazepines and z-drugs: lessons for safer prescribing’: international conference presentation

Dr Coral Sirdifield, Senior Research Associate at CaHRU, presented at the Society for the Study of Addiction annual conference – an international conference which was held online on the 4th and 5th of November 2021.
Coral’s presentation was part of a special session held as a tribute to the contributions of the late Professor Malcolm Lader. Her talk focused on a systematic review and metasynthesis of patients’ experiences and perceptions of seeking and using benzodiazepines and z-drugs which was published online in The Patient – Patient-Centered Outcomes Research in 2016.
Benzodiazepines and z-drugs can be prescribed short-term (four weeks or less) to support people experiencing insomnia, anxiety or pain. However, research has shown that they are often prescribed for longer than this, particularly in individuals aged 65+ years. This can have a number of adverse consequences including addiction.
The study that Coral presented identified and included nine studies of patients’ experiences and created a model that contained seven core themes organised around the patient journey – from recognising that they had a problem, through to medical help-seeking, and on to experiences and perceptions of withdrawal or reasons for ongoing use. Three core recommendations were made to support safer prescribing in future practice:
1. Creation of educational resources: studies have shown that direct education can encourage discussion around discontinuing or reducing use. The research recommended resources that could include guidelines on use; and information about self-help strategies, potential side-effects of medication, realistic expectations around ‘good quality sleep’, and effective alternative treatments.
2. Make alternatives such as CBT and CBT-I more widely available
3. Targeted conversations: open conversations between patients and healthcare professionals around how medication is being used and the need for staged withdrawal, ensuring that a patient feels that they are being taken seriously and is aware of the risks and the advice around short-term use.
For further details of the study please see: Sirdifield, C., Chipchase, SYC., Owen, S., and Siriwardena, A. (2016) A systematic review and meta-synthesis of patients’ experiences and perceptions of seeking and using benzodiazepines and Z-Drugs: towards safer prescribing. The Patient – Patient Centered Outcomes Research, 10(1): 1-15.

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