One in four people given a prescription for benzodiazepine sedatives will become addicted to the drugs, according to new research by the University of Michigan.
Long-term use can increase the risk of cognitive impairment and memory loss.
The new study, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, looked at benzodiazepine use by low-income older adults. The researchers say their findings point to a strong need for better education of healthcare providers, and the public, about the risks associated with these drugs.
Of the 576 adults who received their first benzodiazepine prescription between 2008 and 2016, 152 still had a current or recent prescription a year later.
Those whose initial prescriptions were written for the largest amounts were also more likely to become long-term benzodiazepine users. For just every 10 additional days of medication prescribed, a patient’s risk of long-term use nearly doubled over the next year.
Lauren Gerlach, the study’s lead author, said: ‘This shows that we need to help providers start with the end in mind when prescribing a benzodiazepine, by beginning with a short-duration prescription and engage patients in discussions of when to reevaluate their symptoms and begin tapering the patient off. We also need to educate providers about effective non-pharmaceutical treatment alternatives, such as cognitive behavioral therapy, for these patients.’
Long-term users were more likely to say they had sleep problems, despite the fact that benzodiazepines are not recommended for long-term use as sleep aids and may even worsen sleep the longer they are used.