Objective: To evaluate whether prescribed benzodiazepines affect one's risk of suicide.
Data sources: A PubMed search of English-language publications from database inception until October 11, 2016, was conducted using the terms benzodiazepine and suicide. References and related articles were also searched to yield additional publications.
Study selection/data extraction: Studies were included if they addressed the relationship between suicidal behavior and the prescribed use of either specific benzodiazepines or benzodiazepines as a class. A total of 17 studies were included in this review.
Results: The majority of studies found that benzodiazepines were associated with increased suicide risk. This finding was consistent across various populations and different types of research, including a placebo-controlled crossover trial, a laboratory model of suicidal behavior, case-control studies regarding completed suicides on inpatient units, and large naturalistic studies.
Conclusions: Benzodiazepines appear to cause an overall increase in the risk of attempting or completing suicide. Possible mechanisms of prosuicidal effects may include increases in impulsivity or aggression, rebound or withdrawal symptoms, and toxicity in overdose.
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