Doctors face intimidation from patients demanding tranquilliser prescriptions
Medical convention opens in Helsinki
Doctors on duty at Finnish public health clinics constantly have to deal with patients whose only purpose is to get a prescription of a psychoactive medicine. Such situations are the most frequent occasions where doctors at public health clinics face threats of physical violence. The situation is worst in large cities.
The most sought-after drugs are benzodiazepines.
"A typical problem group are men who are marginalised, with a violent background, and who have problems with intoxicants. They sometimes visit a doctor for no other reason than to use extortion to get a prescription", said prison doctor Hannu Lauerma at the Finnish Medical Convention on Monday.
According to Lauerma, benzodiazepines have been called "too good" medicines, because they are fast and efficient at fighting anxiety; the patient does not necessarily notice the negative effects on their performance capability.
They can also be taken in fairly high doses before any danger of overdose sets in.
"Some people take them with alcohol in order to climb in the ape hierarchy of their corner pub", Lauerma says.
Taken in large doses with alcohol, benzodiazepines can induce strong intoxication and remove inhibitions.
"A doctor should tell the patient about all of a medicine’s effects as thoroughly as possible. The doctor’s safety must be guaranteed. Sometimes extra hands - guards - are needed", Lauerma says.
He points out that extorting prescriptions from doctors is a crime, for which some people have been jailed.
Hannu Lauerma predicts that benzodiazepines will remain on the market for a long time, because they are effective in the treatment of anxiety, in spite of their considerable abuse potential, and addictive properties.
He adds that most patients use the drugs with consideration, and follow the rules.
"The fact that people use knives to kill does not rule out the possibility that a knife could be used as a useful tool", he notes.