Press releases

Psychotropic drugs: consumption and drug dependency

25 Oct 2012 | By Inserm (Newsroom) | 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 drugsFamily (examples)Molecule (examples)
Anxiolytics or tranquillisersBenzodiazepinesDiazepam, bromazepam
Hypnotics or sleeping pillsBenzodiazepinesFlunitrazepam, nitrazepam
 Benzodiazepine- related


Zolpidem, zopiclone
Neuroleptics or antipsychoticsTypical neuroleptics typiquesChlorpromazine, haloperidol
 Atypical neurolepticsOlanzapine, risperidone
AntidepressantsInhibitors of serotonin reuptakeFluoxetine
 Inhibitors of noradrenaline reuptakeTrimipramine, mianserine
 Inhibitors of serotonin catabolism (IMAO)Moclobemide
Thymoregulators Lithium carbonate
Psychostimulants SympathomimeticsMethylphenidate
Analgesic opiates Opium alkaloidsMorphine sulfate
Opiate substitutesMorphinomimeticsHigh 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.

Researcher Contact
Groupe d’experts et auteurs 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 05 61 14 56 06 rf.3eslt-vinu@ertsem-eryepal.esyram Florence NOBLE, Unité de Neuropsychopharmacologie des addictions, Inserm UMR-S 705 / CNRS UMR 8206, Université Paris Descartes, Paris 01 53 73 95 61 rf.setracsedsirap@elbon.ecnerolf Florence VORSPAN, Csapa (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 01 40 05 42 75 rf.phpa.brl@napsrov.ecnerolf

Coordination scientifique de l’expertise

Centre d’expertise collective de l’Inserm

Press Contact
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