Clinical aspects of chronic use
of alprazolam and lorazepam

Romach M, Busto U, Somer G, Kaplan HL, Sellers E.
Clinical Research and Treatment Institute,
Addiction Research Foundation,
Toronto, Ont., Canada.
Am J Psychiatry 1995 Aug;152(8):1161-7


OBJECTIVE: The authors' goal was to determine the clinical characteristics of persistent users of alprazolam or lorazepam who wished to discontinue their medication. METHOD: Long-term users (daily use for more than 3 months) of alprazolam (N = 34) or lorazepam (N = 97) who entered an outpatient treatment program for discontinuation of benzodiazepines were carefully assessed. Detailed histories of benzodiazepine use were obtained; a structured interview was used to make psychiatric diagnoses based on DSM-III-R criteria. RESULTS: The majority of patients were using low therapeutic doses of medication (lorazepam: mean = 2.7 mg/day; alprazolam: mean = 1.2 mg/day) and had either maintained their initial daily dose over time or decreased it. Individuals tended to shift their use of medication from an as-prescribed to an as-needed pattern. Forty-seven percent of the patients were diagnosed with at least one current anxiety disorder, most commonly generalized anxiety. At least one diagnosable personality disorder was found in 45% of the patients, most commonly obsessive-compulsive personality disorder. Patterns of benzodiazepine use were influenced by age, gender, and past history of alcohol dependence. CONCLUSIONS: Long-term users of alprazolam/lorazepam seeking treatment for discontinuation had clinically important past and current psychiatric histories. They used a constant or decreasing dose of medication and made attempts to stop their use. Persistent use of alprazolam/lorazepam for therapeutic purposes did not represent abuse or addiction as the terms are usually understood. A substantial proportion of these patients may be receiving appropriate maintenance therapy for a chronic psychiatric condition.
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