Stays in hospital are a major way of people getting hooked on tranquillizers or sleeping pills (benzodiazepines), according to a recent study.
Of 58 Bristol cases of non psychiatric patients with prescriptions for tranks during a two week period in 1990, 17 started on benzodiazepines in hospital had never used them before, and 12 had started taking them during previous hospital admissions. That means that 29 nearly half the group began their drug use while in hospital.
The rationale for the drugs was, in many cases, questionable. In eight of the cases, the drug had been prescribed when the patients had been admitted, before need had been established.
Once prescribed the drugs, many became habitual users. Of the 48 older time users, (including the 12 who'd started in hospital) seven had been taking them for up to a year and 20, for more than a year.
This study jibes with one conducted in 1986 which showed that 2 per cent of the elderly admitted to hospital left with a discharge prescription for benzodiazepines.