Importance: Although concern exists regarding the rate of benzodiazepine use, especially long-term use by older adults, little information is available concerning patterns of benzodiazepine use in the United States.
Objective: To describe benzodiazepine prescription patterns in the United States focusing on patient age and duration of use.
Design, setting, and participants: A retrospective descriptive analysis of benzodiazepine prescriptions was performed with the 2008 LifeLink LRx Longitudinal Prescription database (IMS Health Inc), which includes approximately 60% of all retail pharmacies in the United States. Denominators were adjusted to generalize estimates to the US population.
Main outcomes and measures: The percentage of adults filling 1 or more benzodiazepine prescriptions during the study year by sex and age group (18-35 years, 36-50 years, 51-64 years, and 65-80 years) and among individuals receiving benzodiazepines, the corresponding percentages with long-term (≥120 days) benzodiazepine use, prescription of a long-acting benzodiazepine, and benzodiazepine prescriptions from a psychiatrist.
Results: In 2008, approximately 5.2% of US adults aged 18 to 80 years used benzodiazepines. The percentage who used benzodiazepines increased with age from 2.6% (18-35 years) to 5.4% (36-50 years) to 7.4% (51-64 years) to 8.7% (65-80 years). Benzodiazepine use was nearly twice as prevalent in women as men. The proportion of benzodiazepine use that was long term increased with age from 14.7% (18-35 years) to 31.4% (65-80 years), while the proportion that received a benzodiazepine prescription from a psychiatrist decreased with age from 15.0% (18-35 years) to 5.7% (65-80 years). In all age groups, roughly one-quarter of individuals receiving benzodiazepine involved long-acting benzodiazepine use.
Conclusions and relevance: Despite cautions concerning risks associated with long-term benzodiazepine use, especially in older patients, long-term benzodiazepine use remains common in this age group. More vigorous clinical interventions supporting judicious benzodiazepine use may be needed to decrease rates of long-term benzodiazepine use in older adults.