HRB Factsheet January 2017 – Seditives and tranquilisers: the Irish situation

Sedatives and tranquillisers: the Irish situation

January 2017

What are sedatives and tranquillisers?

‘Sedatives’ and ‘tranquillisers’ are commonly used terms for a group of medicines which depress, slow down or calm the brain and central nervous system. Benzodiazepines (‘Benzos’) are the most common type of drug in this group, but other drugs with the same effects are also included.

What do sedatives and tranquillisers do?

Sedatives and tranquillisers can be used as hypnotic or anti-anxiety agents, depending on the dosage and on the time of day that they are taken. Hypnotics are used to treat insomnia (lack of adequate restful sleep) which is causing distress. Anti-anxiety drugs (anxiolytics), such as benzodiazepines, are used to obtain relief from severe and disabling anxiety.¹

How do we know how many people use sedatives or tranquillisers in Ireland?

Every four years the National Advisory Committee on Drugs and Alcohol (NACDA) and the Northern Ireland Public Health Information and Research Branch (PHIRB) commission a survey of the general population to estimate the number of people in Ireland who use drugs and alcohol.² Face-to-face interviews take place with respondents aged 15+a normally resident in households in Ireland and Northern Ireland. This type of survey is not designed to include people who do not normally live in private households (such as prisoners or hostel dwellers).

How many people use sedatives or tranquillisers in Ireland?

The 2014/15 survey involved 9,505 people (7,005 in Ireland and 2,500 in Northern Ireland). The results for Ireland showed that:

  • 14.3% of the population had used sedatives or tranquillisers at least once.
  • Lifetime usage of sedatives or tranquillisers is higher amongst females than males across all age groups.
  • Use was higher among 65+ year-olds (21.4%) than all other age groups.

Use among young people

The European School Survey Project on Alcohol and Other Drugs (ESPAD) collects comparable data on substance use among 15–16-year-old students in 30 countries. According to the 2015 ESPAD report, 11% of Irish students (aged 15–16) reported that they had taken prescribed tranquillisers or sedatives at some point in their lives, and a further 2.8% had taken them without a prescription. Of 37 students who used non-prescribed tranquilisers or sedatives, 28 were aged 14 – 16 and 3 reported being 11 years old or younger. 20% of respondents said it was fairly easy or very easy to obtain sedatives or tranquilisers.

How many people receive treatment for sedative and tranquilliser use?

The National Drug Treatment Reporting System (NDTRS) provides data on treated drug and alcohol misuse in Ireland.b The most recent published data from the NDTRS4 shows that:
The number of cases entering treatment and reporting a benzodiazepine as their main problem drug increased from 78 in 2005 to 827 in 2014. Of the 827 cases who reported benzodiazepines as their main problem drug:

  • 347 (42%) were new cases.
  • 257 (31%) lived in Dublin.
  • 522 (63%) were men.
  • 50 (6%) were aged under 18 years; 577 (70%) were aged 18–34; 129 (15%) were aged 35–44; and 45 (5%) were aged 45–64.
  • 589 (71%) used benzodiazepines with other drugs.
  • 399 (48%) used benzodiazepines daily, 177 (21%) used it between two and six times per week, 57 (6%) used it once per week or less, and 150 (18%) had not used it in the last month.

How many people die from misuse of sedatives and tranquillisers?

The National Drug-Related Deaths Index (NDRDI) is a database of cases of death by drug and alcohol poisoning and deaths among drug users and people who are alcohol dependent. Two thirds of poisoning deaths involved poly-drug use, with an average of four different drugs
involved. Benzodiazepines were the most common drug group involved in deaths involving more than one drug (poly-drug). Diazepam (a benzodiazepine) was the most common single prescription drug, implicated in one-third (32%) of all poisoning deaths. Zopiclone-related deaths (a nonbenzodiazepine sedative drug) increased by 41% between 2013 and 2014.

Non-fatal overdoses and drug-related emergencies

According to the Hospital In-Patient Enquiry Scheme (HIPE), there were 4,233 cases of non-fatal overdose discharged from Irish hospitals in 2013. There was evidence of benzodiazepines in 19% (818) of cases of overdose.

What does the law say about sedatives and tranquillisers?

Under the Medicinal Products (Prescription and Control of Supply) Regulations 2003–2008, a prescription medication can only be supplied in accordance with a prescription, and the supply must be made from a registered pharmacy by or under the personal supervision of a registered pharmacist. It is illegal for prescription medicines to be supplied through mail-order or internet sites. A person who has in his possession a prescription medicine containing a substance controlled under the misuse of drugs legislation for the purpose of selling or otherwise supplying it is guilty of an offence under that legislation.

Changes to regulations under the Misuse of Drugs (Amendment) Bill will introduce stricter controls on benzodiazepines and an initiative to tackle overprescribing. You can find more information about Irish drug laws, offences and penalties on the Citizens Information Board website.

Seizures of sedatives and tranquillisers

The Garda send drugs seized to the laboratory of Forensic Science Ireland (FSI) for analysis. Seizures of a selection of benzodiazepines and Z-hypnotics analysed by FSI in 2014 included 201 seizures of Alprazolam, 420 seizures of Diazepam and 125 seizures of Zopiclone. According to the
2015 Garda annual report 749 grams of benzodiazepines were seized with a value of nearly one million euro.

For more information on sedatives and tranquillisers please refer to the following sources:

  1. National Advisory Committee on Drugs & Public Health Information and Research Branch (2012)
    Drug use in Ireland and Northern Ireland. 2010/11 drug prevalence survey: sedatives or tranquillisers and anti-depressants results. Bulletin 6. Dublin: National Advisory Committee on Drugs. [See glossary]
  2. National Advisory Committee on Drugs & Public Health Information and Research Branch (2016) Prevalence of drug use and gambling in Ireland & drug use in Northern Ireland. Bulletin 1. Dublin: National Advisory Committee on Drugs and Alcohol.
  3. Taylor, Keishia and Babineau, Kate and Keogan, Sheila and Whelan, Ellen and Clancy, Luke (2016) ESPAD 2015: European Schools Project on Alcohol and Other Drugs in Ireland. Dublin: Department of Health.
  4. Treatment data HRB National Drugs Library interactive tables.
  5. Health Research Board (2016) National Drug-Related Deaths Index 2004 to 2014 data. Dublin: Health
    Research Board.
  6. Health Research Board. Irish National Focal Point to the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction. (2016) Ireland: national report for 2015 – harms and harm reduction. Dublin: Health Research Board.
  7. Health Research Board. Irish National Focal Point to the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction. (2016) Ireland: national report for 2015 – drug markets and crime. Dublin: Health Research Board.
  8. An Garda Siochana. (2016) An Garda Siochana: annual report 2015. An Garda Siochana, Dublin.

See also: European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction. (2015) Perspectives on drugs: the misuse of benzodiazepines among high-risk opioid users in Europe. Lisbon: EMCDDA

How to cite this factsheet:

HRB National Drugs Library (2017) Sedatives and tranquilisers: the Irish situation. HRB National Drugs Library, Dublin


Other Factsheets in this series:

Cocaine: the Irish situation

Opiates: the Irish situation

Sedatives and tranquillisers: the Irish situation

Cannabis: the Irish situation

Alcohol: the Irish situation

HRB National Drugs Library – find the evidence

  • Quick updates – newsletter & Drugnet Ireland
  • Summaries – factsheets & Annual national reports
  • Policy – policy page & Dail debates
  • International research on interventions – Evidence resources
  • Publications of key organisations – HRB, NACDA, & EMCDDA
  • Explanations of terms and acronyms – glossary
  • Treatment of data – key Irish data link
  • Search our collection – basic and advanced (you can save your results)

HRB National Drugs Library
Health Research Board
Grattan House
67-72 Lower Mount Street
Dublin 2, Ireland
t: +353 1 2345 175
e: [email protected]

First Annual Community Day 2016

Unity in the Community 2016

Our Lady of Lourdes Church Volunteer playing games

Last Wednesday, 10th August 2016, HOPE played host to the North Inner City’s first annual Community Unity Day Our Lady of Lourdes Church on Sean McDermott Street. This was made possible through a financial contribution from the Croke Park community fund. This was truly a community event with many contributors. We would like to say a big thank you to Our Lady of Lourdes Church, Dublin City Council, An Garda Síochana, The Crinan Youth Project, The Fire Station Artist Studios, Urban Soul, The Home of the Elderly at Our Lady of Lourdes, and Foundation for a Drug-Free World. Without whom, the day’s success would not have been possible.

Crinan Youth Project playing games


The Firehouse Project Exhibition
The Firehouse Station Artist Studio
Urban Soul painting faces
Complimentary ice cream for all guests
Complimentary ice cream for all guests
Urban Soul teaching kids how to fly
Kids waiting for their turn on Urban Soul’s obstacle course
“I don’t like magic”
Magic Show in the Curch
Complimentary meal for all guests
Community Guests

WE are already counting down the days ’til next year’s event.

Facebook Photos

“North Inner City Dublin”

From Community Unity Day 2016. Posted by HOPE Hands On Peer Education on 8/11/2016 (52 items)

Generated by Facebook Photo Fetcher 2

HSE Public Health Warning

fent28th July 2016

HSE Statement : Fentanyl Implicated in Overdose Deaths

Arising from a number of drug-related deaths in Dublin and Cork in recent weeks, the HSE is issuing an alert in relation to the dangers of a class of Opiate drugs known as Fentanyl. While fentanyl is a narcotic analgesic and used in both anaesthetics and for analgesia, a number of non-pharmaceutical Fentanyl have been implicated in deaths where it has been assumed to be Heroin (or in some cases possibly other drugs). Fentanyl can be up to 600 times more potent than Morphine and may be sold as ‘designer’ fentanyl or ‘synthetic’ heroin. Therefore even experienced heroin users are at risk if they take this drug.

To date, five deaths are being investigated in Ireland where Fentanyl have been implicated and it seems that the deaths have occurred after users have either smoked or injected the drug. This has occurred over the last number of years in other European countries. Overdose results in respiratory depression which is reversible with naloxone.

At this time it seems most likely that Fentanyl may be sold in powder form possibly mixed with Heroin or alternatively mixed with Caffeine and Paracetamol to mimic the effect of Heroin. Therefore the drug can be snorted, swallowed or prepared for injection. By any route, this drug is very dangerous.

Fentanyl is extremely potent and even the smallest amount of the substance can cause overdose and death. Fentanyl may also be absorbed through the skin. The effects of the drug may be indistinguishable from Heroin meaning that at this time Heroin users are most at risk to unwittingly consume this substance”.

For support around drug and alcohol use the HSE Drugs & Alcohol Helpline that is available Monday to Friday, 9.30am, and 5.30pm. This confidential service has both a freephone Helpline (1800 459 459) and an email support service ([email protected]). Information is also available on in relation to this substance.

If anyone in the Dublin North Inner City area is in need of help,
H.O.P.E. Ltd. is here.

[email protected]

01 887 8404

Our Digital Mission….

We would like to express many thanks to all those who joined us in celebrating the joint launch of our 2015 annual report and new digital media channels. We have been promoting recovery on the ground in the community for 12 years, and now we have expanded into the realm of digital.

Lunch Launch Team
The greater HOPE team

We would like to give special thanks to our guest speakers – Declan “Deco” Murphy, Catherine Mangan, Kenneth Reilly and Cllr. Christy Burke.

Research from around the world is always shedding new light on the dark world of addiction! Through our new digital channels, we will be promoting evidenced based recovery research, treatments, and support from around the globe.

We support our clients to find RECOVERY through an abstinence-based lifestyle. We feel this provides the greatest quality of life for the individual, their family, and community. This point-of-view, however, is not widely held. We hope to not only promote adequate rehabilitation but to encourage discussion and debate of the best possible way to support people’s recovery from addiction.


Michael Jackson Family Fun Day

H.O.P.E. is happy to support the Michael Jackson Annual Family Charity Fundraiser.  This year all proceeds will be in Aid of Hugh’s House

The fundraiser itself is a great day for the kids, it is free of charge and open to all. This has been a very successful annual event in Halston Park, and each year the proceeds go for a different good cause.

Please read more about Hugh’s House by clicking the link above.


Lunch Launch Press Release

HOPE (Hands On Peer Education Ltd.) is a small community project in Dublin’s North Inner City. We have been helping the community deal with addiction since 2003.

We support our clients to find RECOVERY through an abstinence-based lifestyle. We feel this provides the greatest quality of life for the individual, their family, and community. We believe that any addict can attain and maintain freedom from addiction with supports in place. We would like to see the cycle of multigenerational alcoholism, drug abuse, and drug substitution broken in this community. Our community detox consists of assessment, case management, key working, care planning, building interagency links, helping access a medically supervised detox (either in or outpatient) and accessing other therapies if needed. We also work to help people access residential treatment centres and day programmes. When someone is not ready to become addiction free, we refer them to a service where they can find daily maintenance support and work with them around advocacy issues if needed.

As well as help individuals find recovery from addiction, we support clients’ families and the wider community.  We run a range of prevention and education programmes in local schools and have run many addiction and health awareness training. In terms of advocacy, we enable our clients to find education, employment, and housing, as best we can.

Through our new digital outlets, we in HOPE wish to further promote RECOVERY, and let people know that freedom from addiction is possible. We would like the community and our colleagues to join us to celebrate the joint launch of our 2015 annual report and new digital outlets; the website, blog and social media platforms. The lunchtime launch will be held on Monday 11th of April at 12.30 at the Killarney Court Community Centre, on Upper Buckingham Street, in Dublin 1.  A light lunch will be served promptly at 12.30.

We look forward to seeing you there.

Thanks for reading.

The HOPE Team.


Lunch Launch Invitation



Stories of HOPE in 2015

“I come from the North Inner City, and had been addicted all my life.  I come from a dysfunctional family.  My father was a docker and an alcoholic, and my mother a street trader. I’d be sent down to him on a Thursday to get his wages, or the money would be drunk. Times were hard and my mother struggled to put food on table, so I went out robbing and I loved it.  I didn’t like school, and ran with all the older people. My first experience with drugs came after my best friend fell through a hole in the roof catching pigeons, and my family blamed me, said I murdered him. I found his body, and was given an injection and sent to live with my Grandmother who lived in the old diamond. I could do whatever I wanted, and I was a street devil and a house angel. She sent me up one day to collect her valium, and I started taking them. I could face things then, and at 14 I got introduced to heroin. I skin popped it, got sick, and said never again – but it took my worries away.  I eventually got strung out, and didn’t stop for 20 years.  I was in and out of prison all the time. I loved prison – three meals a day, no bills.  I’ve a conviction for everything, all kinds of crimes, and some very serious charges.  One time when I was locked up, I was taken down to a methadone clinic and offered a maintenance.  I thought “great free drugs!” I didn’t think 20 years later I would still be on it, but I was. I disagree with maintenance, I think it should be a three month detox max.  I lost my oldest brother through methadone, and my youngest through heroin, and my mother through cancer.  Today I feel this, my feelings aren’t numb any more, and I realise how I wasted so much of my time.  It was a miserable life on drugs.

I got introduced to HOPE, and became willing to follow the suggestions – and I am coming up on 5 years clean.  HOPE has helped me since over the years, with housing, legal, and financial issues.  They helped me with basic things that were hard for me, like getting a passport and a bank account.  I call into HOPE about once a week for chat.  I do NA meetings in this community, I pray and mediate, and I give back to the community and volunteer.  I love the life I have today, I look after my health, and I just got back from an amazing holiday, and I have learned to laugh.  I have members of my family still on drugs, and I visit my brothers in prison on a weekly basis – the staff there has been amazed by me and I am an inspiration – most people never thought I would never make it.

Today I can function and I am happy, and I am not closed minded liked I was.  If I can get clean, anybody can—but you got to put the work in.  At least 15 people I sent down to HOPE are clean now.  If you are reading this, give yourself a chance.”

Stories of HOPE in 2014

“I took drugs when I was 13 or maybe younger. Drugs helped me fit in with my friends and have confidence, I felt alone and scared and didn’t feel a part of my family. I always wanted to live in someone else’s house. My father was an alcoholic and we lived in the flats. I was the second youngest of my family, the only girl. From a young age I suffered physical, mental, and emotional abuse. I went through a lot with my father, I didn’t know how to deal with the feelings. I felt like nobody cared or would listen to me. I kept a lot in and blocked a lot out with drugs and running all the time. Drugs made me feel good and numbed the feelings. I have lost so much because of my drug use such as time with my son, jobs, relationships, homes, and nearly lost my life. I lost the ability to grieve for my son’s father who died from addiction. I missed out on relationships with my brothers, my mother, niece and nephew and I lost all my self-worth, self-respect, and confidence. Some of the drugs I have used over the years were alcohol, ecstasy, cocaine, weed, snow blow and tablets. These brought me to terrible mental states on many occasions and some suicide attempts. I just wanted the pain to go away so I could live! Over the past few years I had thoughts of stopping drugs, but I didn’t know how to stay stopped. My low self-esteem and pride led me to believe that treatment was for people on heroin and phy (methadone), not for people like me. I didn’t want people to think I was a “Junkie” as people call addicts. My mother tried for many years to help me, with my son, with money for apartments which I abused.

Every home I had was about having parties and not giving caring about anyone just once I had somewhere to use my drugs with so-called friends, somewhere to sleep all day without someone disturbing me. By the end of my using I lost everyone around me. I ended up living in a woman’s refuge for a little while, I was losing my mind. I was paranoid, I didn’t want to come out the door. I thought people were jumping out of cars to get me and they would only be parking. So I isolated, I couldn’t deal with my life anymore, I never thought I could change, I couldn’t see a way out. I was losing the will to live.

I first went into the H.O.P.E. project for help in 2012, my mother suggested it because they had helped my brother. I stayed clean for a while, then I relapsed and avoided the project for a while. I hit a bottom and returned to H.O.P.E. in 2013. This time I was ready to put in the work. H.O.P.E. said that the door never closes, and they once again did out a care plan and offered support, and I have gone from strength to strength.

H.O.P.E. encouraged me to go to 12 step meetings, and did a referral for me for the Gateway project. They helped me apply for several colleges, and I was accepted into a barbering college, which I am now in. H.O.P.E. helped me get funding through the Annie Kelly Bursary. The next issue was housing, and they helped me access rent allowance, the RAS scheme, and then one day I received the keys to my new flat for me and my son, and I was delighted. I also through H.O.P.E. attended Soilse, and the Strengthening Families programme. I went on a group trip with staff from H.O.P.E. and members of the community to Lourdes. When H.O.P.E. organised the community concert, they got me to push past my fear and get up and sing in front of hundreds. I have now been clean for 16 months. I stop in on a regular basis for tea and a chat, and see John Hickey counselling.

H.O.P.E. gave me the opportunity to volunteer and give back to my community. I have participated now for the last few years in their mini marathon, bag packing days, and as Santy’s elf! I also come in and have chats with addicts looking for recovery to give them some HOPE.”

Stories of HOPE in 2013

“I first took drugs when I was about 14, at first it was to fit in with my friends. Before I took drugs I felt sad lonely scared and empty. My parents were alcoholics, we lived in the flats. I was the oldest child and from a young age I suffered physical, mental and emotional abuse and then sexual abuse from my father. I went through many traumas, one example is them leaving my 3 month old baby brother in my care while they were out when I was 11, he died of cot death and my dad blamed me. The drugs made me feel good and numbed the feelings. Over the years I have lost so much because of my drug use such as time with daughter, I never got to do the things I wanted to do with her. I lost jobs, relationships, and nearly lost my life. I lost the ability to grieve for my sister who died from her addiction. I missed out on relationships with brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews and I lost all myself worth and confidence.

Some of the drugs I used over the years were alcohol, LSD, ecstasy, tablets, cocaine, and snow blow. These brought me to terrible mental states on many occasion, and I had numerous suicide attempts. I was in a psychiatric ward a few times. Over the years I had thoughts of stopping drugs, but my low self-esteem led me to believe that treatment was for the rich, not for people like me. I had no family support or encouragement. The one positive thing in my life that I still have is a partner of 20 years and an 18 year old daughter. For some reason they stayed with me. This on one hand helped me have a bit of stability in my life, but on the other hand I put them through a lot.

I first came into contact with Irene from HOPE in 2003, and I knew Joe all my life. When I would meet them they would encourage me to come in and get help, and I made a few attempts but would never follow up on anything. In June 2012 I came back in and did a 17 day detox. HOPE organised for me to get brought to 12 step meetings, relaxation sessions at the Sanctuary and with HOPE’s holistic therapist. They put a care plan in place for me, but I wasn’t feeling confident and didn’t follow it. I went back using for the next 8 months, which were like hell. I was doing a lot of snow blow, and mentally was in very bad shape.

I got a telephone call from HOPE in February 2013 when I was really on the bottom. They talked me into coming back down, and even came and collected me. That was a new beginning. I had one slip but was supported and encouraged and kept coming back. When I went into HOPE I felt like they cared, and I could trust them. They saw something in me that I couldn’t see in myself. This time I stuck to the care plan. I went to meetings, holistic therapies, came into HOPE on a regular basis for one to ones and care planning. HOPE also organised for some sessions with myself and my partner, which helped me. They did a referral for me to High Park residential treatment centre, and I went there for 5 weeks. Being there and just working on myself was a great help, and strengthened me. HOPE then did a referral for me to the Soilse day programme which I was on for six months. In Soilse I learned a lot about myself, to isolate less, open up, and share. I also took many FETAC accredited courses, and realised that I could do things with my life. Since finishing Soilse at Christmas, I have stayed working with a counsellor and going to my 12 step meetings and linking in with HOPE. Today HOPE got me a job! I start Tuesday catering, it’s the first time I have worked in many years and I am very excited. I am also working with HOPE around going back to college in September.

I would recommend HOPE to anyone, they helped me get a life I never thought was possible. Today I am 11 months drug and alcohol free, and I am able to have a relationship with my daughter and partner and they have their peace of mind back. I feel so much more confident, and that life is full of possibilities.”

Stories of HOPE in 2012

“We will call him Steven G. (after his favourite footballer!). He is 29 years old. Here is his story in his own words:

“I was lost before I came in to H.O.P.E. I thought life just revolved around drugs. I didn’t know there was a way out. I was taking cocaine and tablets on a regular basis.   I also used alcohol, ketamine, methadone, snow-blow, whatever I could get. I started drinking alcohol when I was 16, and starting getting into drugs heavy when I was 20. I lost my job on a building site, and got kicked out of home a few times. I didn’t realise what I was putting my family through, their worry and embarrassment. The closest I came to dying was when I got a meat cleaver in the head when I was drunk and got brain damaged. I spent 6 months in hospital. I had to learn to walk and talk again. When I got out of hospital the first thing I did was go get drugs.

My father then got into the pub business and that was the worst thing that could have happened to me. I thought everyone was my friend, because I could get free drink and drugs. I had a baby, and left the girl over drugs. Then my family left the pub, and I found myself with no money, no job, and no friends. Things got worse and worse. I really hit a bottom when I started robbing my family. I lost all my self-respect. This dragged on for 2 more horrible years, I did not see my baby, talk to anyone, or look after or clean myself. I ended up locked in my bedroom in darkness on my own, talking to myself. I then tried to hang myself. My brother came into the room and cut me down.

A few days later, for the first time, I went to my family and said I needed help. It was St. Stephen’s Day, and H.O.P.E. was closed. My mother rang Joe Dowling, and he met me at the office on December 27th. That was my first day clean, and I haven’t used anything since.   So the workers in H.O.P.E. put a care plan around me right away, and we built up a relationship.

  • I came into H.O.P.E. every day
  • I started going to NA meetings as suggested
  • O.P.E. referred me to the Oasis Counselling Centre, where I went every Tuesday for one to one counselling
  • The Advocacy worker Alison helped me find a fitness instructor course with the Football Association
  • Recommended me for the Annie Kelly Bursary, which I received for the course
  • I got really into the football and health and fitness, and I was then picked to represent Ireland in the Homeless World Cup. I went to Mexico in July for that, and the staff of H.O.P.E. helped with raising funds and writing letters on my behalf

So today I am 13 months clean. I still come into H.O.P.E. Regular and go to NA and my counselling. I sometimes help out in H.O.P.E. by talking to and taking a client to a meeting. I will finish my course in May, and I look forward to working in health and fitness. I re-established contact with my son’s mother, and now see my son every day. Life is good.

H.O.P.E. is a really good project. The staff have great relationships with people and will help you with anything. My advice to anyone who has a problem, is don’t be afraid to ask for help – open your mouth – it can all get better.”