Deprescribing Strategies for Opioids and Benzodiazepines with Emphasis on Concurrent Use: A Scoping Review

J Clin Med. 2023 Feb 23;12(5):1788. doi: 10.3390/jcm12051788.


While the Food and Drug Administration's black-box warnings caution against concurrent opioid and benzodiazepine (OPI-BZD) use, there is little guidance on how to deprescribe these medications. This scoping review analyzes the available opioid and/or benzodiazepine deprescribing strategies from the PubMed, EMBASE, Web of Science, Scopus, and Cochrane Library databases (01/1995-08/2020) and the gray literature. We identified 39 original research studies (opioids: n = 5, benzodiazepines: n = 31, concurrent use: n = 3) and 26 guidelines (opioids: n = 16, benzodiazepines: n = 11, concurrent use: n = 0). Among the three studies deprescribing concurrent use (success rates of 21-100%), two evaluated a 3-week rehabilitation program, and one assessed a 24-week primary care intervention for veterans. Initial opioid dose deprescribing rates ranged from (1) 10-20%/weekday followed by 2.5-10%/weekday over three weeks to (2) 10-25%/1-4 weeks. Initial benzodiazepine dose deprescribing rates ranged from (1) patient-specific reductions over three weeks to (2) 50% dose reduction for 2-4 weeks, followed by 2-8 weeks of dose maintenance and then a 25% reduction biweekly. Among the 26 guidelines identified, 22 highlighted the risks of co-prescribing OPI-BZD, and 4 provided conflicting recommendations on the OPI-BZD deprescribing sequence. Thirty-five states' websites provided resources for opioid deprescription and three states' websites had benzodiazepine deprescribing recommendations. Further studies are needed to better guide OPI-BZD deprescription.

Keywords: benzodiazepine; concurrent use; deprescribing; opioid; tapering.

Publication types

  • Review