January 20, 1984

Prevalence and Correlates of the Long-term Regular Use of Anxiolytics

Author Affiliations

From the Institute for Research in Social Behavior, Oakland, Calif (Dr Mellinger); the Applied Therapeutics and Health Practices Program, National Institute of Mental Health, Rockville, Md (Dr Balter); and the Department of Psychiatry, The University of Chicago (Dr Uhlenhuth).

JAMA. 1984;251(3):375-379. doi:10.1001/jama.1984.03340270053027

Long-term use of anxiolytics has been a cause for concern because of the possibility of dependency and other adverse consequences. In a nationally representative probability survey of adults conducted in 1979, we found that long-term use (defined as regular daily use for a year or longer) was relatively rare, occurring among 15% of all anxiolytic users—a rate of 1.6% of all adults between the ages of 18 and 79 years in the general population. The data indicate that long-term regular users tend to be older persons with high levels of emotional distress and chronic somatic health problems. They are preponderantly women, and many are sufficiently distressed to seek out other sources of help (mental health professionals and other psychotherapeutic medications) as well. The sizable majority of long-term users is being monitored by their physicians at reasonably frequent intervals. The data give little support to current stereotypes of long-term users and suggest, instead, that such use is associated with bona fide health problems that are being treated within the broader context of the health system.

(JAMA 1984;251:375-379)