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Psychotropic drugs: consumption and drug dependency

Press file | 25 Oct 2012 - 11h19 | By INSERM PRESS OFFICE
Public health

The term ‘psychotropic drug’ is used to define medication that acts on the central nervous system by modifying certain mental processes. Generally speaking, these are medicines used to treat mild or serious mental illness and to alleviate pain.

Due to their psychoactive properties, psychotropic medicines may cause dependency if used chronically or if abused.

Psychotropic medication is sometimes consumed outside any medical context and may be misappropriated or even trafficked in the same way as illegal drugs.

France’s Interministerial Mission to Combat Drugs and Drug Addiction (MILDT) asked Inserm to produce a collective expert opinion on the consumption of psychotropic medication and the misuse and drug dependency associated therewith so that a scientific light can be thrown on these phenomena, with the addition of useful recommendations for improving the regulations and current prevention and care arrangements in France.

To comply this request, Inserm has created a multi-disciplinary group of 11 experts in the fields of epidemiology, drug monitoring, public health, sociology, anthropology, toxicology, psychiatry and neurobiology. The group analysed more than 1100 international scientific publications, making it possible to report on the main findings concerning the French situation.

Principal classes of psychotropic drugs

Class of psychotropic drugs Family (examples) Molecule (examples)
Anxiolytics or tranquillisers Benzodiazepines Diazepam, bromazepam
  Antihistamines Hydroxyzine
  Carbamates Meprobamate
Hypnotics or sleeping pills Benzodiazepines Flunitrazepam, nitrazepam
  Benzodiazepine- related


Zolpidem, zopiclone
Neuroleptics or antipsychotics Typical neuroleptics typiques Chlorpromazine, haloperidol
  Atypical neuroleptics Olanzapine, risperidone
Antidepressants Inhibitors of serotonin reuptake Fluoxetine
  Inhibitors of noradrenaline reuptake Trimipramine, mianserine
  Inhibitors of serotonin catabolism (IMAO) Moclobemide
Thymoregulators   Lithium carbonate
Psychostimulants Sympathomimetics Methylphenidate
Analgesic opiates Opium alkaloids Morphine sulfate
Opiate substitutes Morphinomimetics High Dosage Buprenorphine

(HDB), methadone

What is Inserm’s Collective Expert Opinion Centre?

Collective expertise has been an Inserm initiative since 1994. More than seventy collective expert opinions have been produced in numerous healthcare fields.

Inserm’s Collective Expert Opinions throw scientific light on a given healthcare subject based on critical analysis and a summary of the international scientific literature. It is performed at the request of institutions that need recent data produced from research to help them in their decision-making process with respect to public policy. The Expert Opinion should be considered as the initial stage necessary to result in decision-making in the long term.

In response to the issue in question, Inserm brings together a multidisciplinary group of recognised experts consisting of scientists and doctors. These experts meet, analyse scientific publications and summarise them. The salient points are extracted and recommendations are often made.

The conclusions obtained through the collective effort of experts contributes to the debate of healthcare professionals involved and the social debate.

Press file – Inserm press room Psychotropic drugs: consumption and drug dependency Link :
Researcher Contact

Group of experts and authors Maryse LAPEYRE-MESTRE, Équipe Pharmaco-épidémiologie, Laboratoire d’Épidémiologie et analyses en santé publique, Inserm, UMR 1027, Université Paul Sabatier ; Centre d’évaluation et d’information sur la pharmacodépendance et d’addictovigilance (CEIP-A) de Toulouse, Service de pharmacologie clinique, CHU, Toulouse +33 (0)5 61 14 56 06 Florence NOBLE, Unité de Neuropsychopharmacologie des addictions, Inserm UMR-S 705 / CNRS UMR 8206, Université Paris Descartes, Paris + 33 (0)1 53 73 95 61 Florence VORSPAN (Centre de soins, d’accompagnement et de prévention en addictologie) Espace Murger, Hôpital Fernand Widal, AP-HP ; Unité de Neuropsychopharmacologie des addictions, Inserm UMR-S 705 / CNRS UMR 8206, Université Paris Descartes, Université Paris Diderot, PRES Sorbonne Paris Cité, Paris +33 (0)1 40 05 42 75

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