Clinical Edge

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Outpatient Benzodiazepine Prescribing in US

JAMA Netw Open; 2019 Jan 25; Agarwal, et al

Outpatient use of benzodiazepines had increased substantially in US adults and addressing prescribing patterns may help curb the growing use and increasing rates of death involving these drugs, a new study found. The serial cross-sectional study used nationally representative National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey data. The yearly population-based sample of outpatient visits among adults, ranging from 20,884 visits in 2003 to 24,273 visits in 2015, was analyzed. Prescribing patterns were examined by specialty and indication. Researchers found:

  • Among the 386,457 ambulatory care visits from 2003 to 2015, a total of 919 benzodiazepine visits occurred in 2003 and 1,672 in 2015, nationally representing 27.6 million and 62.6 million visits, respectively.
  • The benzodiazepine visit rate doubled from 3.8% to 7.4% of visits, including coprescribing with other sedating medications.
  • Use among psychiatrists was stable but increase among all other types of physicians.
  • Visits to primary care physicians accounted for ~half of all benzodiazepine visits.


Agarwal SD, Landon BE. Patterns in outpatient benzodiazepine prescribing in the United States. JAMA Netw Open. 2019;2(1):e187399. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2018.7399.