Benzodiazepines implicated in a huge number of ambulance callouts

Sleeping Pill 01Benzodiazepines were responsible for significantly more ambulance callouts than heroin last year in Victoria, as revealed in a report by Turning Point. The “Ambo Project: Alcohol and Drug Related Ambulance Attendances” highlights the growing trend of prescription medicine misuse and overdose that is afflicting much of Australia.In comparison to illicit drugs such as crystal methamphetamine and heroin, the potential health risks associated with the misuse of benzodiazepines are not widely understood. Better awareness in preventing misuse and providing primary care providers with the best tools are important measures to address this increasing problem.

The Turning Point report was a collaborative effort between Turning Point and Ambulance Victoria, funded by the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services. It encapsulates important data to help us better understand the impacts of drug-related ambulance cases and sheds light on important overdose statistics. The data was extracted from the electronic system used by Ambulance Victoria paramedics to record details of the emergency ambulance callouts that they attend. It is a combination of data from both metropolitan and regional Victoria. (ref)

The report showed that alcohol was responsible for the highest number of ambulance callouts, with 12,482 ambulance callouts, an average of 45 patients a day.

Benzodiazepines were implicated in the second highest number of ambulance callouts, with a total of 3,021. This is equivalent to 11 ambulance callouts per day and is higher than the number of cases related to heroin, cannabis and crystal meth.

Other prescription medicines such as opioid analgesics, anti-psychotics and anti-depressants were also included in the top ten ambulance callouts, which highlights the potential risks of prescription medicines. (ref) These statistics add weight to the growing body of evidence highlighting the potential dangers associated with the misuse of many prescription medicines. While many Australians use their medicines sensibly and safely, these medications are readily accessible and can lead to dependency, when consumed excessively. It is imperative that consumers understand the impacts of their medications and that prescribers are equipped with necessary tools to monitor their patients’ medication history.

The data showed that the mean daily number of ambulance callouts related to benzodiazepines was higher than the previous year, although there was a decrease in the number of events that occurred in public spaces. (ref)

MediSecure is committed to promoting awareness of the potential harms associated with benzodiazepines, which have also been highlighted by Victorian Coroners as a serious concern in relation to deaths associated with prescription medicine misuse. Education is a significant part of the required response, as is the rollout of a real time prescription monitoring system, such as MediSecure’s DrShop, allowing prescribers to check on patients’ histories in making an informed prescribing decision.

In March, the Victorian Health Minister, Jill Hennessy, announced that the Victorian Government would spend $45.5million on an ‘Ice Action Plan’ in tackling the increasing issues associated with the drug. While ice have been getting a lot of attention in the recent months, it is crucial for the Government to allocate funding to prevent prescription medicine misuse and fatal overdoses, particularly benzodiazepines, opioid analgesics and anti-depressants. The recent Turning Point report has yet again highlighted that prescription medicines contributed to more ambulance calls than illegal drugs.

MediSecure continues to call for increased Government funding to implement broad-based education campaigns, as well as to provide necessary tools to support prescribers in preventing further harms relating to prescription medicines.

If you are interested in finding out more about how to address this serious problem visit

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