Use and abuse of benzodiazepines in primary healthcare: Professional practices in Brazil and Cuba

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The current study aimed to grasp the healthcare aspects present at the basis of the indiscriminate use of benzodiazepines. Based on a partnership between a Brazilian university and a Cuban university, the study aimed to understand the practices related to the use of these drugs in primary care and the meanings healthcare workers assign to them. The research was part of a multiple case study in the cities of São Paulo and Diadema (Brasil), and Santiago de Cuba (Cuba). The fieldwork data collection strategy was based on individual interviews and focus groups. Data were analyzed thematically and yielded five themes: (i) no man’s land: lack of management of benzodiazepine use by primary care workers; (ii) inadequate indications: the benzodiazepine prescribed for unjustifiable situations; (iii) salvation and perdition: the medicine as attenuating the difficulty of acting in mental health by primary care professionals; (iv) limited empowerment to work in mental health; and (v) fragmented care: dissociation of the psychosocial care network. Limited grasp of mental health issues by primary care workers, fragmented care, work overload with what are considered other priorities, deficiencies in the availability of therapeutic resources, and limited investment in specific training contribute to the inadequate use of benzodiazepines. Independently of the health contexts, the challenges are similar for the health systems and can only be confronted if they become a priority for the organizations’ management and the health workers as a whole.




Fegadolli, C., Varela, N. M. D., & de Araújo Carlini, E. L. (2019). Use and abuse of benzodiazepines in primary healthcare: Professional practices in Brazil and Cuba. Cadernos de Saude Publica, 35(6).

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