Study finds increasing use, and misuse of benzodiazepines

Among people taking benzodiazepines without a prescription, the most common source was a friend or relative.


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Benzodiazepines are a class of drugs primarily used for treating anxiety, but they also are effective in treating several other conditions. They include Alprazolam (Xanax, Niravam) diazepam (Valium), clonazepam (Klonopin), lorazepam (Ativan) and others.

In a recent study by the American Psychiatric Association, scientists found that 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.

The specialists characterized misuse as any way a doctor did not direct, including utilizing the drug without a medicine or more regularly or longer than recommended. Misuse was most elevated among youthful adults 18 to 25 (5.6 percent) and was as regular as endorsed use.

Scientists analyzed the data from the 2015 and 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health.

This is the first study that found the highest benzodiazepine use among adults 50 to 64 years (13 percent); previous studies found the highest use was among those 65 and older. Benzodiazepine use has gone under expanding investigation given the related damages and more safer alternatives, especially in light of the opioid epidemic. The investigation discovered benzodiazepine abuse was strongly connected with misuse of or reliance 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 benzodiazepines 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 health care generally and behavioral treatments specifically and suggest that some misuse could be reduced with improved access to behavioral interventions for sleep or anxiety.

The study is published online today in Psychiatric Services in Advance.