The prescribing of anxiety medication has been highlighted as an issue in Northern Ireland recently.
The Northern Ireland Audit Office found that Pregabalin, a drug used to treat anxiety can cause euphoric feelings similar to a tranquiliser, is prescribed more readily in the country than anywhere else in the UK.
The ‘abuse’ of the drug is costing a reported £17 million per year, and highlights a need for better alternative treatment and prevention methods.
The drug, which is also used to treat epilepsy and chronic pain, is the most prescribed drug in Northern Ireland, and in 2013, it cost £9.43 per head. This is over twice as high than in the rest of the UK, where it is prescribed at approximately £4 per head.
It is thought that the high level of prescriptions for this drug is down to the lack of non-medicinal treatments, including counselling. Tom Black, the chair of the Northern Ireland General Practitioners Committee, agreed that the drug was prescribed in unusually high quantities.
“I think they are right about Pregabalin, we are not closing our ears and saying we can’t do something,” he said. “If [the Department of Health] don’t spend money on mental health services they will spend more on prescriptions.”
He added: “We would wish that patients had the alternative of talking therapy. If we had that we would need fewer drugs.”