Patterns and correlates of benzodiazepine use in the French general population

Eur J Clin Pharmacol. 2004 Sep;60(7):523-9. doi: 10.1007/s00228-004-0808-2.


Objective: To investigate the prevalence of current use of benzodiazepines (BZDs) and related drugs in the French general population and factors associated with this use.

Methods: National cross-sectional telephone survey conducted between 25 April 2001 and 8 May 2001 in a representative sample of non-institutionalized adults of BZD use and duration, prescriber specialty, socio-demographic data and mood and anxiety disorders, using a structured diagnostic interview.

Results: The prevalence of current use of BZD was 7.5%. It was higher among women (9.7%) than men (5.2%). It increased with age and was higher in the jobless (10.9). Duration of BZD use was more than 6 months in 75.9% of users and increased with age. Of the 711 (17.7%) subjects with at least one mood or anxiety disorder, 122 (17%) used BZD compared with 180 (5.5%) of the 3296 subjects without mood or anxiety disorders. In multivariate analysis, factors associated with BZD use were age [odds ratio (OR): 3.6; 95% confidence interval (CI) 2.0-5.6], 6.5 (4.1-10.3) and 10.9 (6.9-17.1), respectively, for ages 35-44 years, 45-59 years and over 60 years compared with below 34 years, female gender (OR: 1.7; 95% CI 1.3-2.1), anxiety only (OR: 2.2; 95% CI 1.5-3.2), mood disorder only (OR: 4.4; 95% CI 2.7-7.1) or both mood and anxiety disorders (OR: 8.8; 95% CI 5.9-12.6).

Conclusion: Despite precautions, warnings and attempts to limit use, there remains a high proportion of long-term BZD users in the general French population, especially in the elderly. Our findings add to the weight of opinion that messages concerning proper use of BZDs certainly need to be clarified and amplified.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Distribution
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Anti-Anxiety Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Anxiety Disorders / drug therapy*
  • Benzodiazepines / therapeutic use*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • France
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pharmacoepidemiology
  • Population Surveillance / methods*
  • Prevalence
  • Sex Distribution


  • Anti-Anxiety Agents
  • Benzodiazepines