Risks and benefits of long-term benzodiazepine use.
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Despite a sharp decline in the prescription of benzodiazepines during the past decade, reservations about their use have continued to escalate. This article presents converging data from three diverse sources: national survey data from consumers, laboratory data on the drug preferences of normal subjects, and a controlled clinical study of long-term diazepam treatment and withdrawal. These data suggest that (1) the risks of overuse, dependence, and addiction with benzodiazepines are low in relation to the massive exposure in our society; (2) benzodiazepine addiction can occur when doses within the clinical range are taken regularly over about 6 months; (3) many patients continue to derive benefit from long-term treatment with benzodiazepines; and (4) attitudes strongly against the use of these drugs may be depriving many anxious patients of appropriate treatment.