Attitudes Toward Benzodiazepines Over the Years

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Benzodiazepines have been used extensively for the treatment of anxiety and related disorders since the 1960s. Although they have been proven to be effective as first-line treatment for anxiety disorders, during the 1980s public perception and concern for abuse liability and physical dependence with long-term use gave rise to a great deal of controversy. Negative perceptions toward the use of benzodiazepines for treating anxiety not only caused severely ill patients to go untreated or undertreated but also called into question whether the illness itself was worthy of treatment. Although new pharmacologic and psychological treatments for anxiety are available, psychopharmacologists continue to endorse benzodiazepines as primary or adjunct treatment for anxiety disorders. The intent of this article is to provide a historic overview of these issues and to offer some general clinical principles to help minimize the risk of abuse and dependence with benzodiazepine use.

J Clin Psychiatry 2005;66(suppl 2):4-8