The dependence potential of short half-life benzodiazepines: a meta-analysis

Am J Public Health. 1993 Sep;83(9):1300-4. doi: 10.2105/ajph.83.9.1300.


Objectives: The dependence potential of benzodiazepine medications is now widely recognized, but uncertainty exists as to whether use of short half-life vs long half-life drugs results in greater dependence. The present study reports a meta-analysis of the extant research to evaluate the dependence potential of different types of benzodiazepines.

Method: Seven studies were found that specifically compared long half-life and short half-life benzodiazepines and allowed statistical comparison by their homogeneous dependent variables. Drugs in these studies were used as daytime sedatives.

Results: Substantial evidence was found for differential effects of short vs long half-life drugs at withdrawal. In all studies, dropouts were higher among short half-life subjects. In the random-assignment short-term use studies, Hamilton Anxiety Scale scores showed higher incidence of rebound among subjects who used the short half-life drugs.

Conclusions: The present meta-analysis confirms clinical impressions of the greater dependence potential of short vs long half-life benzodiazepines. Doctors, patients, and policymakers need to be informed so as to avoid harm to the public health through unintended drug dependence.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Anxiety Agents / pharmacokinetics*
  • Benzodiazepines
  • Half-Life
  • Humans
  • Substance-Related Disorders / physiopathology*


  • Anti-Anxiety Agents
  • Benzodiazepines