Librium and Valium were the first of a new type of tranquillizing drug to be introduced during the early 1960s. They were called "minor tranquillizers" (benzodiazepines) and many similar drugs quickly followed. They soon became the most widely used of all prescribed drugs. Almost immediately after the introduction of Librium and Valium, doctors reported cases of dependence but it was generally assumed that high doses were necessary.(1) At the usual therapeutic amounts, dependence was thought to be uncommon and not a serious problem. The idea prevailed for 20 years and received support from laboratory research since “animal experiments...do not indicate the potential for the development in the human of dependence at therapeutic dosage levels.”(2)
It is known, however, that “animal studies...do not predict clinical dependence potential reliably,”(3) and more careful human observations revealed that tranquillizers could induce dependence at ordinary doses. By the mid-1980s, an estimated 500,000 people in Britain alone may have been addicted to their treatment.(4)
1) H.Petursson & M.Lader, Dependence on Tranquillizers (Oxford University Press, 1984).
2) J.Marks, The Benzodiazepines (MTP Press, 1978).
3) Drug & Therapeutics Bulletin, 1989, vol.27, 28.
4) The Benzodiazepines in Current Clinical Practice, Eds. H.Freeman & Y.Rue (Royal Society of Medicine Services, 1987).
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