The use of prescription medication to treat insomnia and anxiety has been steadily increasing among Finns in recent years.
Statistics show that about 190,000 people used diazepam in 2010; more than 100,000 took prescription medication for insomnia, while an additional 70,000 took drugs designed specifically as a sleeping aid.
Benzodiazepines are the most common form of anxiety and insomnia drugs and are often prescribed to patients with high levels of stress, or those that feel consistently shy, bullied or unnecessarily anxious in everyday tasks. Experts say that they are not to be administered to patients for periods in excess of 12 weeks, though doctors commonly prescribe them for months and even years at a time, often leading to dependency.
According to the National Supervisory Authority for Welfare and Health, such medication should only be used for a short time, as it poses, “a serious danger of physical and psychological dependence and abuse,” the Helsingin Sanomat reports.
In addition to dangerous addictive habits, abuse of the drugs can lead to exhaustion, memory problems and the overall slowing of cognitive abilities.
Talking to the Helsingin Sanomat, Turku Psychiatric Clinic’s professor Jarmo Hietala said, “We want to take issue with this long-term use. The cognitive damage caused by benzodiazepines is well known, but they are taken into consideration fairly little.”