Doctors accused of creating pill addicts

DOCTORS are prescribing drugs rather than talking to patients - creating sleeping pill and tranquilliser addicts, a psychiatrist claims.

And the problem is compounded by the fact that many doctors are themselves addicted to medication, Chinese University head of psychiatry, Professor Chen Char-nie, said.

''Doctors think they know drugs better than anyone,'' he said.

''But in fact they are the most vulnerable to drug abuse - many doctors are addicted to drugs.'' Professor Chen said tranquillisers and sleeping tablets were often used by physicians themselves, but the most widely abused drugs were painkillers.

Legislative Council medical representative, Dr Leong Che-hung, said most doctors prescribed drugs only when they were needed.

The problem of abuse was no bigger among doctors than among the general population.

Dr Leong said being hooked on sleeping tablets was different from abusing heroin - the former was an ''habituation'' rather than an addiction, he said.

Professor Chen said pills were being doled out to patients who really needed psychiatric counselling.

This was partly because of the shortage of hospital psychiatrists in Hongkong, with fewer than 25 for six million people, he said.

Professor Chen said doctors in general practice were also too quick to prescribe drugs that could lead to dependency if used for more than two or three weeks.

''One reason is that doctors in Hongkong have no time for patients because they have too many,'' he said.

''They only ask questions and get answers to fit their own framework of mind and they think the drug will perform all the wonders for them.'' Hongkong University honorary psychiatry lecturer Dr Barry Connell agreed. He said that doctors prescribed drugs because they worked in the short-term.

''There is an expectation among the population that if you see a doctor, you should get some medication - and if you don't, he's a bad doctor,'' he said.