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Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Benzodiazepine use in Canada

Benzodiazepines are sometimes used in the symptomatic management of major depression - usually targeting symptoms such as anxiety and sleep problems. Unfortunately, with any use of these medications for longer than a few weeks there can be development of tolerance, such that rebound anxiety and insomnia may occur on discontinuation, making it difficult to stop them. For this, other reasons, the prevalence of use of these drugs has been persistently high over the past several decades, as discussed in a paper by Kassam et al., available here. In the February edition of the  Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, we compare two mental health surveys conducted in Canada - one in 2002 and one in 2012. One of the positive changes over this ten year period is a decline in the frequency of benzodiazepine use in the general population, down to 1.5% whereas this was previously about 3%. While this is good news, it is possible that the use of benzodiazepines has merely been replaced to some extent by the use of sedating antipsychotics such as quetiapine, where an increase in the frequency of use was observed.

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