Benzodiazepine Use and Harms Among Police Detainees in Australia
This paper investigates self-reported prevalence, patterns and potential harms of benzodiazepine use in a sample of adult police detainees, using data from the Drug Use Monitoring in Australia (DUMA) program for the period 1999 to 2005. Of the sample, 15% had used illegal benzodiazepines in the previous 12 months, and around 13% had used prescribed benzodiazepines in the previous fortnight. The extent of self-reported benzodiazepine dependence was much lower than that for heroin, and similar to that for amphetamines. There is evidence of use of benzodiazepines in conjunction with other drugs, particularly heroin and amphetamines, which indicates a greater risk of harms, notably heroin overdose. Although these are preliminary findings only, they point to the value of further analysis to reveal more complex patterns of behaviour and use. For the relatively small number of people in contact with the criminal justice system whose only illegal drug use is of benzodiazepines, the results suggest the need to ensure that they have access to the treatment and other interventions available to the much larger group who use and are dependent on multiple drugs, notably heroin and amphetamines.
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