Alprazolam and benzodiazepine dependence

J Clin Psychiatry. 1993 Oct:54 Suppl:64-75; discussion 76-7.


The incidence of nonmedical use of alprazolam is very low relative to its widespread legitimate medical use; in fact, given the millions of patients who have received this medication, the incidence is remarkably small. In particular, among patients with anxiety disorders, dependence does not appear to be a clinically important problem. Alprazolam abuse and dependence represent only a small fraction of the large and serious nonmedical use problem in the United States, and when they occur, are among individuals who abuse other drugs. For example, a serious problem of alprazolam abuse may exist among patients in methadone maintenance treatment. A similar problem exists with diazepam. Alcohol abusers and alcohol-dependent individuals are another group among whom concern about benzodiazepine and alprazolam abuse exists. However, more and better information about the extent and nature of this use is needed. Many patients with alcohol or drug abuse also have anxiety disorders for whom effective pharmacotherapy may be needed. In the interim, caution but not prohibition to use should prevail in prescribing alprazolam to such patients. To the extent that nonmedical alprazolam use exists, evidence suggests that the vast majority of such use is the consequence of the inappropriate prescribing of the medication by a small number of physicians. One way to reduce the inappropriate use of benzodiazepines in methadone programs is to drug test the methadone-maintenance patients and to link positive urine tests to contingency-management strategies. The available data provide some support to the idea that alprazolam and diazepam have more abuse liability than other benzodiazepines.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Alcoholism / epidemiology
  • Alprazolam / adverse effects*
  • Benzodiazepines / adverse effects*
  • Comorbidity
  • Diazepam / adverse effects
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Methadone / therapeutic use
  • Middle Aged
  • Opioid-Related Disorders / epidemiology
  • Opioid-Related Disorders / rehabilitation
  • Substance Abuse Detection
  • Substance-Related Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / etiology


  • Benzodiazepines
  • Diazepam
  • Methadone
  • Alprazolam