Alcohol consumption among Canadians taking benzodiazepines and related drugs

Pharmacoepidemiol Drug Saf. 2009 Mar;18(3):203-10. doi: 10.1002/pds.1702.


Purpose: Benzodiazepines and related drugs (BZDs) are widely used for the treatment of anxiety, insomnia and other conditions. The combination of BZDs with alcohol increases risk for oversedation, abuse, dependence and accidents. This study examines drinking behaviour among Canadians taking BZDs.

Methods: We use data from cycle 1.2 of the Canadian Community Health Survey, a large (n = 36,984) population survey conducted in 2002 by Statistics Canada. We use bivariate methods and logistic regression to test the independent association between BZD use and 2 levels of recent drinking in the general population, and then examine associations between drinking and sociodemographic factors within the group of BZD users.

Results: Any drinking and heavy drinking are less common among users of BZDs than among other respondents, but these differences are small (any drinking, OR = 0.77, p = 0.02; heavy drinking, OR = 0.81, p = 0.13) when differences in respondent characteristics are controlled statistically. Among BZD users, any drinking is associated with male sex, younger age and not meeting criteria for a past-year anxiety disorder. Heavy drinking is associated only with younger age.

Conclusions: Heavy alcohol use is uncommon among users of BZDs, and the combination of alcohol and BZD use is rare in the general population. Differences between BZD users and others are not large when other factors are taken into account, however, which may call into question the effectiveness of physician and pharmacist warnings against this combination. People treated for an anxiety disorder with BZDs may be less likely to use alcohol than those taking them for other indications.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Alcohol Drinking*
  • Anti-Anxiety Agents / therapeutic use
  • Anxiety Disorders / drug therapy
  • Benzodiazepines / administration & dosage*
  • Benzodiazepines / therapeutic use
  • Canada
  • Drug Interactions
  • Ethanol / administration & dosage*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Sex Factors
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Surveys and Questionnaires*


  • Anti-Anxiety Agents
  • Benzodiazepines
  • Ethanol