Objective: Clinical status and use of benzodiazepines and other psychotropic drugs at follow-up were assessed in patients who had been chronically dependent on benzodiazepines and had been referred for participation in a discontinuation study.
Method: Of 123 benzodiazepine-dependent patients screened for entry into a tapered discontinuation program, 48 had completed the program, 38 had not, and 37 had not undergone drug tapering. Follow-up information was obtained through a structured telephone interview and a mail questionnaire that included a global severity scale assessing anxiety and depression and the Hopkins Symptom Checklist. The time to follow-up was 2.7-5.0 years, and the mean +/- SD interval between screening and follow-up was 2.9 +/- 0.9 years.
Results: Outcome at follow-up significantly favored the patients who had completed the discontinuation program; 73% were not using benzodiazepines, compared to 39% in the unsuccessful taper group and 14% in the no-taper group. Moderate or marked anxiety was still reported by 35% of the patients who were taking benzodiazepines and 25% of those who were not. At follow-up, 22% of the patients were being treated with nonbenzodiazepine psychotropic agents, primarily antidepressants.
Conclusions: The high percentage of patients who were benzodiazepine-free at follow-up and the continued anxiety and depression present in many patients suggest that some patients may have been taking benzodiazepines because of chronic or recurrent anxiety or depression, not physical dependence.