While all medications can pose benefits and risks, some are particularly of concern for reasons of misuse/harm, including opioid medications, used as analgesics to treat pain, and benzodiazepines, used as sedatives to treat sleep troubles and anxiety. Typically, these medications are classified as “controlled drugs” that are subject to additional legislation and regulations including restrictions on possession and supply, additional requirements for prescriptions, and specific law enforcement powers.

The aim of this project is to evaluate prescribing of analgesic and sedative medications, with a focus on controlled drugs. It will examine time trends in volumes and patterns of prescribing in Ireland, to understand how the use of these medications has increased over the last number of years. It will also consider how changes in health policies may have affected prescribing of these medication as well as harm to patients (in the form of drug poisonings and deaths). Lastly it will examine how much difference there is between regions and GP practices in the level and way they prescribe these medicines, to help understand where and how they may be over- or under-prescribed.

Ultimately the goal is to generate evidence on policies and practices to support optimal use of these medications and reduce medication harm. This is particularly relevant at the moment, as the World Health Organisation (WHO) have set “Medication Without Harm” as their Third Global Patient Safety Challenge.