Objective: Benzodiazepines and similar sedative-hypnotics (BDZ-SSHs) are associated with both beneficial and adverse effects. Pharmacoepidemiologic data describing the use of these medications in contemporary Canadian populations has not been readily available. Our objective was to examine the hypothesis that increasing use of antidepressant medications for anxiety and mood disorders during the past decade led to less frequent use of BDZ-SSH medications.
Method: We used data from an Alberta Mental Health Survey to describe the pattern of BDZ-SSH use and to estimate provincial and health region frequencies of use. We supplemented the data with pharmacy dispensing data from IMS Health.
Results: The frequency of use was comparable to that reported in previous studies. Unexpectedly, in the survey data, we observed trends suggesting regional variation both in the frequency and pattern of use. Examination of prescription dispensing data confirmed this pattern. Clinical factors, including the use of other psychotropic medications and psychiatric diagnoses, were strongly associated with BDZ-SSH use. Among the drugs examined, zopiclone had the highest frequency of use. Prescription dispensing data confirmed that the frequency of zopiclone use in Alberta is higher than that in most other provinces.
Conclusions: This descriptive study generates several new research questions and provides benchmarks for future pharmacoepidemiologic monitoring.