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What to do about those benzos?!? Chris Ford GP & Clinical Director SMMGP 4 TH West Midlands Conference Birmingham 25/06/10.

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Presentation on theme: "What to do about those benzos?!? Chris Ford GP & Clinical Director SMMGP 4 TH West Midlands Conference Birmingham 25/06/10."— Presentation transcript:

1 What to do about those benzos?!? Chris Ford GP & Clinical Director SMMGP 4 TH West Midlands Conference Birmingham 25/06/10

2 Aims To discuss the use and non-use of benzodiazepines by people who use drugs and the professionals who work with them Using collect experience develop a consensus of how and when to use them

3 Mary 28 years Used drugs for 15 yrs, started diazepam 14yrs, heroin aged 18 and crack aged 20yrs Tends to binge drink when other drugs not available Lived in care, no children and known HCV PCR positive In treatment 6/52 with you and settled well on 80mg methadone Always open about diazepam use – 30-40mg / day All urines positive for benzodiazepines Requests BZ cause helps her mood and sleep and reduces her alcohol and asks you again to prescribe Who would prescribe benzodiazepines for Mary?

4 Benzodiazepines in people who use drugs Are they a problem? Why?

5 Are they a problem? Is prevalent and is now the largest group of users of benzodiazepines Studies show between 80-97% of people attending services used BZ in the last year, third used 70mgs or more and about % had injected them Methadone maintenance patients using non- prescribed benzodiazepines on higher doses and more risk-taking behaviour Place in drug-related deaths Major problem to some users

6 Why do patients love them? Most loved Addiction. 99(2): , February 2004 Jaffe et al 1.Anxiety and Insomnia 2.Because of their own effects of intoxication / pleasure 3.As a primary drug 4.To enhance a drug, such as methadone 5.Self medication to help mood, coping skills and / or reduce voices 6.To help come down from amphetamines, ecstasy, crack cocaine or cocaine

7 Why do we fear or ignore them? Addictive, misuse, dependence (Ashton 2002, NICE 2004) Tolerance develops & effectiveness wears off (Ashton 1995, Lader 1997) Withdrawal symptoms (30-45% after long- term use Ashton 1995) Can be snorted, injected (Lader 1997) Serious problem in many drug users (Strang, NICE) Anxiety, hallucinations, depersonalisation In MMT more risk-taking behaviour, social dysfunction, fatal overdose (Strang, NICE)

8 Long-term effects Medication becomes the problem: Underlying issues avoided; BZ seen as the solution Anxiety may reduce if BZ stopped (Rickels 90, 91, Schweizer 90) Emotional suppression: Reduced use of coping skills for emotional problems & problems coming off Cognitive effects: Tolerance to most cognitive effects on long term dosing (Lucki & Rickels 1986, 1988)

9 Tolerance to BZ Effects (Argyropoulos & Nutt 1999, Lucki & Rickels 1986) Rapid tolerance to sedation, cognitive and motor effects (but may never be complete) Little tolerance to other therapeutic effects: Anxiolytic & antipanic effects (& amnesic effects post dose)

10 Effect of Tolerance on Behaviour If rapid tolerance occurs (high, sedation): Escalate dose Use in binges (with gaps in between) Use route with more rapid speed on onset e.g. inject rather than oral Use in combination with other drugs that potentiate each others effects e.g. opiates If little tolerance occurs (anxiety): No need to increase dose, binge, increase speed of onset, polydrug use

11 Who escalates their BZ Dose? Primary drug / pleasure associated abuse of BZ: Seeking buzz/high & sedation, often escalate their dose Includes bingers & those who use to potentiate drug effects Self-medication not associated abuse of BZ: Seek relief from negative symptoms, rarely escalate dose Includes those who use BZ regularly, & use to treat withdrawal & medication or drug side-effects Typically take BZ 3-4 times a day Combined self-medication & pleasure seeking: Characteristics of both groups, i.e. may abuse BZ Need to be aware if using for pleasure, self-med or both

12 How Addictive are BZ? Depends on population being considered: Ordinary populations: Risk very low Psychiatric patients: Intermediate risk Addictive populations: Risk higher but little firm data Also depends on non-drug factors: Non-pharmacological factors: patient factors such as personality, gender, vulnerabilities, health, anxiety trait and depressive diagnosis (Rickels et al 1990) Pharmacological factors: drug factors (Rickels et al 1990)

13 What is our experience with BZ and drug-using patients? Does everyone have access to benzodiazepine prescribing? If not would they like to? How do we decide if and when to prescribe benzodiazepines? What can help us with our decision?

14 Benzodiazepines: what is our current practice? Why such wide variation in practice? Postal questionnaire to Drug Services ( 75% detox, 35% maintenance Williams 2005) Sometimes BZ given rather than opioid in general practice

15 Should we prescribe BZ to people who use drugs and / or alcohol? Polarise practitioners into purists and realists Most people who use drugs and / or alcohol have used BZs Most of us have found ourselves in a position having to judge whether to start or continue BZ prescription Literature confusing


17 Mary Used drugs for 15 yrs, started diazepam 14yrs, heroin aged 18 and crack aged 20yrs Tends to binge drink when other drugs not available Lived in care, no children and known HCV PCR positive In treatment 6/52 with you and settled well on 80mg methadone Always open about diazepam use – 30-40mg / day All urines positive for benzodiazepines Requests BZ cause helps her mood and sleep and reduces her alcohol and asks you again to prescribe On what heard so far anyone changed? Would you decide whether to prescribe benzodiazepines for Mary or not?

18 What are the possible values of prescribing BZ to Mary? Is it a big problem to her? Yes! Started diazepam 14yrs and has used them for 15yrs and all urines positive for benzodiazepines Is she self-medicating or pleasure? Self-medicating: Lived in care Might it help her settle? Some people settle better on combination of methadone and DZ and Mary has settled well on methadone but still requesting BZ Does it help an alcohol problem? She feels it does and helps her mood

19 What are the possible harms of BZ to Mary? Is there evidence of harm? Long term prescribing may cause harm and little evidence prescribing helps effective harm reduction Do we have evidence she is buying? Yes! May continue to buy on top Is she at risk of drug related death? Drug deaths more common in poly drug use e.g opiates, alcohol and benzodiazepines Would her children be at risk? Risk to the children if binge use

20 What else do we know? Some research on benzodiazepine use in drug users Most BZ research on psychiatric patients Some new evidence Little evidence who uses BZ and then go on to have problems Little evidence to support long-term use So much of current practice based on opinion rather than evidence

21 Do the Clinical Guidelines 2007 help us? Own addictive potential and taken in combination with opiates Little evidence of reducing harm Increasing evidence can cause harm Normally detox regime If long term same principles as other prescribing Sudden stopping can lead to a withdrawal state Methadone should be kept stable through BZ reduction

22 Substitute prescribing of benzodiazepine: On the one hand: Can help DU to control their BZ use Not all users become dependent Takes people out of illicit drug markets On the other hand: Long term prescribing of BZ is of uncertain benefit and high dose may cause cognitive impairment Some continue to buy in addition

23 Evidence for: Study: BZ prescribing in MMT patients (Weizman 2003) 79% on maintenance BZ stopped illicit use compared to 27% when BZ tailed off Study: opiate overdoses (Anoro 2004): 2 risk factors associated with respiratory arrest: 1.prior abstinence from opiates 2.prior abstinence from benzos Study: Reduced injecting in Edinburgh (Rosenberg 2002) Could this endorse maintenance benzodiazepine prescribing?

24 Evidence against: Study: long-term effects (Nystrom 2005) 30 psychiatric patients – increased passive coping in users, reduced psychiatric symptoms in stopped and more active coping Study: cognitive effects (Barker 2003) Most improved cognitive function after withdrawal but not all at 6 months

25 New evidence: reassessing the risk-benefit profile of BZ Memory problems: More of an acute & chronic issue than previously thought Emotional & coping problems : More of an issue long-term than previously thought Liking (& predisposition to addiction): More prevalent than previously thought Pharmacology: No reversal of underlying neurotransmitter abnormalities Tolerance: Develops more slowly for therapeutic indications than previously thought Long-term use: May be appropriate where tolerance is unlikely to occur

26 Evidence lacking No controlled studies of additional benzodiazepines Limited guidance (ACMD 2000, DH 1999, MOC 2002) SMMGP guidance 2005

27 BZ as Symptomatic Px Only Work merely by suppressing symptoms, rather than reversing underlying neurotransmitter abnormalities: BDZ useful for self-limiting problems e.g. insomnia, anxiety: self-limiting problem resolved, can be stopped If underlying problems exist that are not self-limiting: Underlying problems must also be tackled, as the BZ will not resolve them e.g. psychological issues If underlying problems not resolved, problems continue so risk of prescribing long term So primarily prescribe BDZ for self-limiting problems or problems that will resolve i.e. shorter-term use only If prescribe BZ for other types of problems, may end up prescribing long term

28 Only give BZ longer term if Treatment remains effective: Reduces core symptoms of disorder and effect worthwhile Tolerance is incomplete, helped by using PRN If better than other px on risk v benefit: Lower adverse effects Lower risks of misuse or diversion Better than other medications that reverse underlying neurotransmitter abnormalities But dont give BZ if: BZ no longer effective or worse than other px

29 Risks & Benefits Clinicians need to maintain an overview of benefits and adverse effects, with the associated risks: Rebound and memory problems effects with every dose, on both short & long term use Adverse effects at initiation only, such as sedation, and most cognitive & motor effects (on short term use only) Adverse effects which develop or accumulate over time, such as tolerance, emotional suppression, coping responses and dependence (on longer term use only) Associated risks such as misuse (overuse/underuse), diversion and overdose

30 BZ addictiveness The more you do it The more you will end up doing it The more problems you will have from it (physical, psychological & social health problems, tolerance) And the more difficulty you will have stopping it (physical & psychological dependence) Reinforces

31 At the top: Pt can easily stop themselves going down Relatively little harm In the middle: Pt cant easily stop themselves going down Harm accumulating At the bottom: Maximum harm & psychological addiction The Slippery Slope to Psychological Addiction & Harm

32 Benzo trap to long-term use Start BZ: Short term use for a clear indication Slippery slope & extension of prescribing occurs: Pressure from patient & indication becomes less clear (e.g. to help cope) BZ script becomes difficult to stop: Patient clearly likes BDZ and reports continuing efficacy Underlying problems not resolved

33 Avoiding the Benzo Trap Keep indications for use clear: Dont give for chronic general stress Try to manage the patients expectations If extension of BDZ script requested: Assess reasons why carefully, including reassessing diagnosis Assess recent efficacy, adverse effects & associated risks If BZ liking may be present: Reassess & monitor even more carefully, esp. if a high risk of misuse

34 Degree of psychological reinforcement from taking BZ Speed of onset of positive effects: Rapid onset drugs assoc. with most abuse: Whether longer half-life (e.g. diazepam) or shorter half-life (e.g. flunitrazepam) Slow onset drugs assoc. with least abuse e.g. oxazepam is BDZ of choice if misusing BZ (unless pregnant) Also related to dose of BDZ: Higher dose gives bigger positive effect (buzz)

35 Problems with old guidance Minimise risk, but no balance of risk & benefit Excludes the longer term conditions where BZ most useful e.g. anxiety disorders Need to reduce BZ dose as soon as the therapeutic dose is reached or even before! No guidance on treatment of: Moderate symptoms Treatment resistance to non-BDZ drugs Treatment in drug/alcohol users The evidence base for the 2-4 week time limits doesnt stand up to scrutiny

36 So How Can we Improve on This?

37 a) Different Populations Be aware different people use for different reasons: Fun use & self-medication Be aware of different level of risk for different populations: Anxiety & insomnia Poor copers and chronic stress Drinkers, including social drinkers Drug users, especially opiate and BZ users

38 b) Only prescribe BZ when ALL 5 criteria been met 1.Clear indication for which BZ use is appropriate 2.Define & agree the short term goals with the patient 3.Have treated underlying causes (e.g. anxiety, insomnia) with other means first 4.Weigh up the risks & benefits of initiating (or not) BZ: Discuss with patient memory & other cognitive effects, driving, rebound, dependence If unsure benefits outweigh risks, do not prescribe 5.If short term use, symptoms must be self- limiting or if longer term use, only where tolerance is unlikely &/or better than other tx

39 c) Reducing inappropriate prescribing of BZ Prescribe within the evidence base: For longer than is advisable In larger amounts than is advisable Regular use, when PRN would be better In situations where BZ are not advisable: Not the most appropriate treatment option Not warranted for the diagnosis Contraindicated

40 Reducing inappropriate prescribing of BZ (cont) Do terminate the prescription when BDZ should no longer be prescribed: No longer clear evidence of benefit Adverse effects significant e.g. memory Associated risks increasing: Slippage down the slippery slope is occurring When using illicit BDZ, diverting, overusing or loosing scripts When drinking alcohol when taking BDZ

41 d) Avoiding inadvertent long- term BZ Use If risk of long-term use on initiating script, treat as any other addiction med: Agree goals/aims Specify length of script & when review it Issue short term scripts only (initially) Use intermittently Review regularly: Access progress towards goals, efficacy, adverse effects & associated risks No automatic renewals (initially) Ensure continuity of prescriber

42 e) Long-term use defensible when all 5 criteria been met 1.Treatment resistant: alternatives failed 2.Benefits outweigh risks 3.Decision taken in conjunction with patient including discussing risk of dependence 4.Treatment is strictly individualised 5.Need for treatment reviewed periodically

43 Conditions where long-term BZ use is more common Treatment resistant persistent severe anxiety or insomnia: Panic disorder, GAD, social phobia, dysphoric disorder, anxiety due to medical illness BZ withdrawal symptoms: If persistent debilitating BZ withdrawal syndrome Long term BZ users on prescription unwilling to stop As harm reduction treatment: Inability to stay off alcohol or illicit BZ or contact with illicit markets despite them causing considerable harm (but able to stop this harm when on a BZ prescription) Help passive coping skills Settle better on a dose of opioid substitute drug and BZ

44 f) Illicit BZ users need to meet five additional criteria before prescribing 1.You have a least 2 BZ positive screens 2.No BZ negative urine screens in the last 4 months 3.Evidence from the history & symptoms that the Pt is physically dependent on BZ 4.You believe that the benefits of treatment will outweigh the risks (diversion, overdose etc) 5.You are happy to do so

45 Would you change your mind about prescribing for Mary? Used drugs for 15 yrs, started diazepam 14yrs, heroin aged 18 and crack aged 20yrs Tends to binge drink when other drugs not available Lived in care and known HCV positive In treatment 6/52 with you and settled well on 80mg methadone Always open about diazepam use – 30-40mg / day All urines positive for benzodiazepines Requests BZ cause helps her mood and sleep and reduces her alcohol and asks you again to prescribe What do you now decide? Prescribe benzodiazepines for Mary or not?

46 Change to Mario Started heroin aged 19yrs and crack aged 20yrs Been in treatment 4 times but never engaged Uses diazepam to come down from crack Urine positive for benzodiazepines on one occasion only Requests BZ Prescribe benzodiazepines for Mario or not?

47 To Martin Came on 80mg diazepam and 40mg temazepam and 40mg methadone Diagnosed personality disorder Prescribe benzodiazepines for Martin or not?

48 Summary BZ prescribing is complex but knowledge increasing, so risk-benefit balance has changed BZ suppress symptoms: dont treat cause Follow RULES OF FIVE for prescribing Short term use ok for self-limiting conditions Longer term use ok if no tolerance In illicit drug users, prescribe as for addiction Avoid slipping into longer prescribing: Avoid use for general stress & poor coping Be more active when initiating & reviewing

49 What we can do about those benzodiazepines? Lots! Thank you

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