Benzhexol-dependence resulting from self-medication for intermittent explosive disorder

Ali Abdurrahman Younis, Hamdy Fouad Moselhy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Objective. Recent observations in Iraq during the period of sanction suggest the existence of benzhexol prescribing linked to its calming effects on explosive behaviours. This inspired our group to research the existence of this practice and the characteristics of those involved in it. Method. All patients from the psychiatric service in Merjan Hospital, Al Hilla City, Babylon Governate, Iraq, who had a prescription for benzhexol between January 1991 and December 2000, were identified. All participants received their diagnosis based on the clinical criteria of the DSM-IV, after taking a comprehensive medical and psychiatric history, mental state examination and collateral information from family members. The patients were evaluated by the same qualified consultant psychiatrist at the initial assessment and all through the period of follow-up. Results. In the 10-year period under study, 354 patients were prescribed benzhexol. A total of 190 patients diagnosed as intermittent explosive disorder (IED) and 164 suffering from severe mental disorders or personality disorders were excluded from the study. The average age of the IED group was 29.5 years. On direct questioning, the main reason patients gave most frequently for using benzhexol was to control the aggressive outbursts (N=92, 48.4), to get high (N=49, 25.8), to relax (N=26, 13.7), to get rid of boredom (N=23, 12.1). In total, the whole group were prescribed benzhexol, at an average dose of 12.5 mg/day (range 2-20 mg/day). At the time of final assessment the mean dose of prescribed benzhexol had fallen slightly to 12 mg/day (2-20 mg/day), with 10 patients being benzhexol free. Of the 190, three patients had a diagnosis of obsessive compulsive disorders, 36 patients had a diagnosis of benzodiazepines dependence, and a further five had a diagnosis of alcohol dependency syndrome. Eighty percent felt satisfied with the effect of the drug and 95 were not motivated to stop it. Conclusions. There are a significant number of patients who are routinely prescribed benzhexol as a replacement therapy. The main original reason for starting it is to control outbursts and improves their reaction to stress situations. This growing issue raises the need for awareness, by both public and medical practitioners, of the potential adverse effects of benzhexol and its untoward consequences.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)11-15
Number of pages5
JournalInternational Journal of Psychiatry in Clinical Practice
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Benzhexol
  • Drug abuse
  • Intermittent explosive disorder

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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