Study finds increasing use, and misuse, of benzodiazepines

More than one in eight U.S. adults (12.6 percent) used benzodiazepines in the past year, up from previous reports. Misuse of the prescription drugs accounted for more than 17 percent of overall use, according to a study published online today in Psychiatric Services in Advance. The researchers defined misuse as any way a doctor did not direct, including using the drug without a prescription or more often or longer than prescribed. Misuse was highest among young adults 18 to 25 (5.6 percent) and was as common as prescribed use.

Benzodiazepines are a class of medications used to treat conditions such as anxiety and insomnia. They include Alprazolam (Xanax, Niravam) diazepam (Valium), clonazepam (Klonopin), lorazepam (Ativan) and others. Researchers analyzed data from the 2015 and 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health.

Although there were differences in the studies, research from 2013 and 2014 found about 4 to 6 percent of adults used benzodiazepines. Previous national estimates of use have not accounted for misuse. In addition to finding that overall use has increased, today's study is the first analysis to find the highest benzodiazepine use among adults 50 to 64 years (13 percent); previous studies found the highest use was among those 65 and older. Whereas women were more likely than men to report any use of benzodiazepines, men were more likely than women to report misuse. Benzodiazepine use has come under increasing scrutiny given the associated harms and safer alternatives, particularly in light of the opioid epidemic. The study found benzodiazepine misuse was strongly associated with misuse of or dependence on prescription opioids or stimulants.

When asked about the reasons for misuse, nearly half said to relax or relieve tension and just over a quarter said to help with sleep. Among people taking without a prescription, the most common source was a friend or relative.

The authors, led by Donovan Maust, M.D., with the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, suggest that patients also prescribed stimulants or opioids should be monitored for benzodiazepine misuse. They also note that some misuse may reflect limited access to generally and behavioral treatments specifically and suggest that some misuse could be reduced with improved access to behavioral interventions for sleep or anxiety.

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More information: Psychiatric Services (2018). DOI: 10.1176/
Journal information: Psychiatric Services

Citation: Study finds increasing use, and misuse, of benzodiazepines (2018, December 17) retrieved 18 October 2019 from
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Dec 18, 2018
As usual, TEN references in this short article to MISUSE of benzodiazepines; where are the warnings on the danger in taking them AS PRESCRIBED? The 17% of users "misusing" them likely already know that's a bad idea, they were also asked why. That leaves 83% of benzo users paying no attention because they're compliant patients following Drs.' orders. And although they weren't asked, I'd venture to say a huge portion are taking them because they can't stop. These drugs can cause dependence in as little as a few short weeks in anyone taking them on a daily basis, and withdrawing from them has caused disability and death all over the world for 50 years. Benzos were never intended OR studied for long-term use, and it's way past time to fully educate both physicians and patients on the extreme dangers in doing so. PTs taking them long-term have multiple health problems that are not being recognized as being caused by the drug itself, taken exactly as prescribed, let's address that. NOW.

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