Conference Coverage

What’s the proper place of benzodiazepines in psychiatry?

Tread carefully, but do not eliminate them as an option, two experts advise.



– Not long before his presentation at Psych Congress 2019, psychiatrist Rakesh Jain, MD, MPH, chatted with a fellow attendee, a nurse practitioner from Tyler, Tex. As Dr. Jain recalled later, his fellow Texan told him that “it’s not unusual to see patients on three benzodiazepines.”

The nurse practitioner “talks to them about how they need to do things differently, and they forget,” Dr. Jain said. “He’s very worried about them.”

Dr. Jain is familiar with the feeling. Like many mental health professionals, he worries about the role of benzodiazepines, which seem to be both widely used and misused. Figuring out their proper place in psychiatry “may require us to raise our game,” said Dr. Jain, of Texas Tech University in Midland.

What to do? Dr. Jain and a colleague offered the same answer – tread carefully, but do not eliminate them as an option – in two separate sessions at the annual Psych Congress.

As Dr. Jain noted, benzodiazepines are popular, and for good reason. “There are many patients, perhaps hundreds of thousands, who are using benzodiazepines chronically, and they’re doing it right. There’s not a CVS in America where benzodiazepines aren’t well stocked. They’re very inexpensive, and the most costly benzodiazepine is still cheaper than Motrin.”

On the other hand, he said, the medications are linked to addiction and physical dependence. “Thirty percent of those who die of opioid overdoses may not have died if they didn’t have benzodiazepines [in their systems].”


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