Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland Coláiste Ríoga na Máinleá in Éirinn

Irish relationship with ‘Mammy’s Little Helper’ to come under spotlight at free public lecture

25 February 2015

RCSI MiniMed event to feature debate on anti-anxiety medication by health professionals

The rational use of benzodiazepines and other types of anti-anxiety medication will be up for discussion this evening at the RCSI (Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland) MiniMed Lecture Series. The evening will consist of a lecture followed by a panel debate, which will discuss the role anti-anxiety medication plays in Irish society. The event is open free of charge to the public, and will be held from 7pm to 9pm at RCSI, 123 St. Stephen's Green.

The Rolling Stones released the song ‘Mother’s Little Helpers’ in 1965, describing a housewife’s despair over the tedium of her life which could only be relieved by taking the tranquiliser diazepam, marketed under the trade name Valium, which is a member of the family of anti-anxiety medications called the benzodiazepines. The night’s opening lecture, entitled ‘Mammy’s little helper- the Irish relationship with anxiety medication’ will dispel any myths and give guests a better understanding of anti-anxiety medication. This will be delivered by Dolores Keating; Honorary Senior Clinical Lecturer at the RCSI School of Pharmacy and Head of Pharmacy Services at Saint John of God Hospital.

Dolores Keating

During the talk, Dolores will look at the history of anti-anxiety medication from the 1950’s up to the current day. She will assess the social impact and awareness of these medications in popular culture and look at some of the advertising approaches that have been taken over the years. In addition she will speak about anxiety, as a condition, and the role which these medicines have in assisting with the treatment of this condition, including the risks and benefits.

Speaking ahead of the lecture Ms Keating said “The story of the benzodiazepines is indeed a fascinating one. Once embraced as a triumph of pharmaceutical science, their misuse has led to significant health issues in Ireland today. Benzodiazepines are useful medications in certain circumstances but, as with all medications, their benefits must be balanced against the risks associated with their use for every individual patient. The aim of this RCSI MiniMed lecture is to explain how and why”.

Prof Paul Gallagher will chair the panel discussion

The Head of the RCSI School of Pharmacy, Professor Paul Gallagher said “While benzodiazepines are generally considered safe and effective for short term use in the treatment of anxiety and insomnia, the risk of overuse, abuse and dependence remains a key concern. Approximately 15% of adults in Ireland have taken a sedative tranquiliser in their lifetime. Use of sedatives and tranquilisers is higher among older adults (35-64 years) and women are more frequently prescribed sedatives than men” (i). These issues and more will be up for discussion during the second part of the evening which will take the form of a multi-disciplinary panel discussion, entitled ‘Anti-anxiety medications: problem, cause or cure?’ chaired by Prof Gallagher. “The panel discussion will take a logical, holistic and compassionate approach as it considers key aspects of the Irish relationship with anti-anxiety medication” concluded Professor Gallagher.

The Benzodiazepine commission (2000) identified the most desirable outcome would be the preservation of benzodiazepines as versatile and valuable drugs in clinical medicine through the fostering of rational prescribing practices of these drugs for all groups of patients (ii).

The RCSI MiniMed Open Lecture Series is free of charge; however registration is essential in order to guarantee a place.  Previous lecture series have attracted widespread public interest with demand for places far outstripping availability. Register online at and you can join the conversation online, on the night, on Twitter at #RCSIMiniMed. To view previous RCSI MiniMed lectures from the last series on the RCSI YouTube channel at

RCSI is among the top 50 most international universities in the world (Times Higher Education University World Rankings, 2014-15). It is a not-for-profit health sciences institute which focuses on education and research to drive positive change in all areas of human health worldwide. RCSI is headquartered in Dublin and is a recognised College of the National University of Ireland. In 2010, RCSI was granted independent degree awarding status by the State, which enables the College to award degrees alongside its traditional powers to award licentiates.


[i] Drug Use in Ireland and Northern Ireland 2010/2011 Drug Prevalence Survey, National Advisory Committee on Drugs and Alcohol
[ii] Report of the Benzodiazepine Commission 2002, Department of Health and Children (DOHC)