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Long-Term Benzodiazepine Use and Discontinuation Among Patients in the U.S. Veterans Health Administration.

Timko C, Hoggatt KJ, Esmaeili A, Lewis E, Lor MC, Maust DT, Nevedal AL. Long-Term Benzodiazepine Use and Discontinuation Among Patients in the U.S. Veterans Health Administration. Psychiatric services (Washington, D.C.). 2022 Nov 1; 73(11):1217-1224.

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OBJECTIVE: Although long-term benzodiazepine use is not recommended, patients are often prescribed benzodiazepines for andgt;30 days (long-term use). Data from the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) may inform efforts to discontinue such use. This study sought to describe benzodiazepine use and discontinuation among VHA patients and compared patients who continued and discontinued use. METHODS: The study used nationwide electronic health record data for all VHA-enrolled patients (age = 18) from fiscal year (FY) 2019 (N = 6,032,613). The primary outcome, benzodiazepine discontinuation, was defined as no prescription refill for 120 days. RESULTS: In FY2019, 3.5% of VHA enrollees were prescribed benzodiazepines for andgt;30 days, which was 72.0% of those prescribed benzodiazepines. One-third of veterans prescribed long-term benzodiazepines discontinued use. Continuation was more likely among patients who were older, not Black, taking benzodiazepines longer, and taking higher doses. When demographic factors were controlled, patients who continued long-term use were more likely to have a diagnosis of anxiety, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), bipolar disorder, or psychosis and less likely to have depression or an alcohol or drug use disorder. Continuation was associated with a lower likelihood of sleep and cardiopulmonary disorders and of dementia. CONCLUSIONS: Higher discontinuation prevalence among patients with substance use disorders, dementia, or cardiopulmonary disorders is encouraging. However, the challenge remains of discontinuing long-term use among patients who are White, older, or diagnosed as having anxiety, PTSD, bipolar disorder, or psychosis. There is a need to identify provider, patient, and contextual factors driving long-term benzodiazepine use in these patient groups to effectively apply evidence-based discontinuation strategies.

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