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Prescribing Patterns of Benzodiazepines

Benzodiazepines are accounted for a growing number of overdose-related deaths

A PPM Brief

A new study1 looked at the nature of how benzodiazepines are being prescribed and how certain prescribing patterns have changed over a 12-year time period. A yearly population-based sample of outpatient visits among adults, ranging from 20,884 visits in 2003 (representing 737 million visits) to 24,273 visits in 2015 (representing 841 million visits) was analyzed, using nationally representative National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey data.

Benzodiazepines are accounted for a growing number of overdose-related deaths. (Source: 123RF)

In a serial cross-sectional study of 386,457 ambulatory care visits during this time period:

  • 919 benzodiazepine visits occurred in 2003 vs 1,672 in 2015 (nationally representing 27.6 million and 62.6 million visits, respectively)
  • Prescribing of benzodiazepines in ambulatory care increased from 3.8% to 7.4%, including co-prescribing with other medications
  • Prescribing among psychiatrists stabilized (29.6% vs 30.2%)
  • Prescribing increased among all other types of physicians, including PCPs (3.6% vs 7.5%), who accounted for about half (52.3%) of all benzodiazepine visits
  • The benzodiazepine visit rate increased slightly for anxiety/depression (26.6% to 33.5%) and neurologic conditions (6.8% to 8.7%)
  • Visits increased for back and/or chronic pain (3.6% to 8.5%) and other conditions (1.8% to 4.4%)
  • Use stabilized for insomnia (26.9% to 25.6%)
  • The coprescribing rate of benzodiazepines with opioids quadrupled from 0.5% to 2.0%
  • The coprescribing rate with other sedating medications doubled from 0.7% to 1.5%.

“The outpatient use of benzodiazepines has increased substantially,” the study authors concluded. “In light of increasing rates of overdose deaths involving benzodiazepines, understanding and addressing prescribing patterns may help curb the growing use of benzodiazepines.”

Last updated on: February 21, 2019
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