Ministry of Health
2018/09/06 - 2019/03/08
Statistics of Lithuania demonstrate poor mental health status. For example, highest suicide rate in EU, increasing number of people with alcohol-related mental and behavioral disorders, growing number of reported domestic violence cases. Stigma towards mental disorders discourages people to seek help. In addition, only one percent of those who seek help receive non-medication treatment.
Prescription drugs are an essential part of effective health systems worlwide. However, sometimes decision to use medicines is made in a rush without carefully weiging potential risks and benefits. Specifically, we are concerned about high levels of benzodiazepine (BZD) consumption. BZDs are mainly prescribed to treat anxiety, insomnia, and alcohol withdrawal symptoms. BZD consumption in Lithuania is nearly three times higher than in neighboring countries Latvia or Estonia, and two times higher than the average consumption in OECD countries.
Although BZDs are very effective while managing symptoms of anxiety and insomnia, there might be serious side effects: drowsines, decline in cognitive and psychomotor functions. Side effects are more severe and less predictable when drugs are consumed with alcohol. The risk increases with long term use (more than 4 weeks) – overtime tolerance to the drug increases and higher doses are needed to reach the same effects. Discontinuation of this medicine is a long and gradual process. Abrupt cessation of BZDs may result in decline of cognitive functions, life-threatening withdrawal sypmtoms, seizures and even death. According to the literature, BZDs are more addictive than alcohol. Elder patients are extremely active BZD consumers. Due to the muscle relaxant and sedative properties these drugs are often associated with higher risk of falls and bone fractures. Successful BZD withdrawal has shown to improve person’s mental state, quality of life, diminish levels of anxiety, and increase productivity.
Treating anxiety or insomnia with BZDs is a short-term and least effort requiring approach. Nonetheless, complex measures are ought to be implemented in order to tackle mental health disorders. The quickest and easiest way out may not always be the correct one. Therefore, Enrikas and Vaiva will work on BZD reduction strategy and tools to ensure safe BZD usage and prevent from dependency Lithuanian citizens.
Enrikas Etneris Vaiva Gerasimavičiūtė Psichikos sveikata BZD benzodiazepinai SAM sveikatos apsaugos ministerija
To develop BZD reduction strategy and set of measures (we expect by 2022 BZD consuption levels will decrease to the average levels of OECD countires).
Analysis of the current situation in Lithuania and the best foreign practices
Public consultation with general practitioners and benzodiazepine users
Written strategic plan to reduce benzodiazepine use
Launched public relations campaign to increase awareness about benzodiazepines
Introduced strategy to the public and enabled institutions to ensure project continuity