Benzodiazepine Dependence - Epidemiology


Research studies have come to different conclusions on the number of therapeutic dose users who develop a physical dependence and withdrawal syndrome. Estimates by researchers of the number of people affected range 20–100% of patients prescribed benzodiazepines at therapeutic dosages long term are physically dependent and will experience withdrawal symptoms.

Benzodiazepines can be addictive and induce dependence even at low doses, with 23% becoming addicted within 3 months of use. Benzodiazepine addiction is considered a public health problem. Approximately 68.5% of prescriptions of benzodiazepines originate from local health centers, with psychiatry and general hospitals accounting for 10% each. A survey of general practitioners reported that the reason for initiating benzodiazepines was due to an empathy for the patients suffering and a lack of other therapeutic options rather than patients demanding them. However, long-term use was more commonly at the insistence of the patient, it is presumed, because physical dependence and/or addiction had developed.

Approximately twice as many women as men are prescribed benzodiazepines. It is believed that this is largely because men typically turned to alcohol to cope with stress and women to prescription drugs. Biased perception of women by male doctors may also play a role in increased prescribing rates to women; however, increased anxiety features in women does not account for the wide gap alone between men and women.

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