The face of benzo addiction: Who uses benzodiazepines? (INFOGRAPHIC)

Benzodiazepine use is most prevalent among women (nearly twice as prevalent as men) and increases with age. What are some other demographic characteristics of benzo users? Discover in this infographic.

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Who uses benzos in the U.S.?

An estimated 50 to 70 million Americans suffer from chronic sleep disorders. It is very likely that at some point a doctor will prescribe a benzodiazepine drug to help them deal with anxiety disorders or insomnia (although there might be other solutions to dealing with insomnia). In fact, roughly 1 in 20 U.S. adult citizens filled a benzodiazepine prescription during the course of a year.

In 2008, a report found that approximately 5.2% of US adults used benzodiazepines. And, this percentage increases with age:

The face of benzo addiction: Who uses benzodiazepines? (INFOGRAPHIC)

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  • 2.6% of benzo users are 18-35 year olds
  • 5.4% of benzo users are 36-50 year olds
  • 7.4% of benzo users are  51-64 year olds
  • 8.7% of benzo users are  65-80 year olds

Moreover, not only does benzodiazepine use increase with age, it is nearly twice as prevalent in women as men.

Long term benzo medication use

Benzodiazepines are one of the most commonly prescribed classes of psychotropic medications in developed countries. These medications are advised to be used for only short-term management of anxiety and sleep disorders.

However, doctors keep prescribing and patients keep taking them for far long than it is suggested or safe. Statistics suggest that among older adults who are treated with benzodiazepines, nearly one-third use benzodiazepines on a long-term basis. In fact, roughly 9 out of 10 older adults who use benzos long-term have their prescriptions written exclusively by primary care physicians or other nonpsychiatrists.

Several factors may contribute to the observed high rates of long-term benzodiazepine use in older adults, including:

  • treatment of persistent anxiety disorders
  • deficits in specialized knowledge concerning benzodiazepine prescribing risks in geriatric care
  • limited access to alternative effective evidence-based treatments (such as cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia)
  • unwillingness of some older people to consider reducing or discontinuing benzodiazepines
  • competing clinical demands on physician time related to the other physical health needs of their patients.

Benzodiazepine use questions

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Reference Sources: SAMHSA: Emergency Department Visits for Adverse Reactions Involving the Insomnia Medication Zolpidem

ResearchGate: The misuse of Ambien among adolescents: Prevalence and correlates in a national sample

NCBI: A survey of nonmedical use of tranquilizers, stimulants, and pain relievers among college students: patterns of use among users and factors related to abstinence in non-users.

DrugAbuse: Drug Abuse Statistics

DrugAbuse: Ambien Abuse


National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH)

About the author
Lee Weber is a published author, medical writer, and woman in long-term recovery from addiction. Her latest book, The Definitive Guide to Addiction Interventions is set to reach university bookstores in early 2019.
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