Benzodiazepine Addiction Statistics

From 2015to 2016, about 5.2 million adults reported misusing benzodiazepine in the past year. Benzodiazepine drugs are prescribed by doctors to help a person relax and are used to treat anxiety and insomnia.

Statistics on Benzodiazepines

Common benzodiazepine medications include Valium (diazepam), Xanax (alprazolam), and Klonopin (clonazepam).

Out of adults in the U.S.:

  • 12.5% use benzodiazepine
  • 2.1% misuse benzodiazepine
  • 0.2% have a benzodiazepine use disorder

Of adults in the U.S. who have used benzodiazepine:

  • 17.1% misuse them
  • 2% have a benzodiazepine use disorder

Dangers of Benzodiazepine Misuse by the Numbers

Dangerous side effects of benzodiazepines include memory and reasoning impairment, dependence, attention deficits, drowsiness, uncoordinated motor actions, confusion, hallucinations, and more.

The effects of benzodiazepines can cause people to fall and hurt themselves, become dependent or addicted to the drugs, or even overdose if used in large quantities or with other drugs.

  • 16% of overdose deaths involving opioids also involved benzodiazepines in 2019
  • 9,711 people died of a benzodiazepine-related overdose in 2019
  • 35% of people who take benzodiazepines for more than 4 weeks will become dependent

Benzodiazepines can be very helpful for treating insomnia and anxiety but they also have many negative side effects and should be used carefully.

Benzodiazepine Misuse in Young People

Tranquilizers, sleep medications, and anxiety medications containing benzodiazepines can be misused by young people to get high. In large doses, benzodiazepines can cause users to experience euphoria, hallucinations, and calming effects.

Reported Use of Tranquilizers (Including Benzodiazepines) by Adolescents in 2020

8th Graders 10th Graders 12th Graders
Lifetime 3.9% 4.9% 7%
Past Year 2.2% 2.6% 3.2%
Past 30 Days 1.1% 0.7% 1%

While some teenagers may be prescribed these drugs to help them with anxiety and insomnia, many are abusing their own or another person’s prescription recklessly.

Benzodiazepine Misuse in Older People

In 2011, there were an average of 2,056 drug-related emergency visits made by adults ages 65 and older. 290 of these visits involved illegal drug use, including misuse of prescription drugs.

The second most common reason for these visits was benzodiazepine misuse. Pain relievers were the only drugs that caused more emergency room visits than benzodiazepines.

  • 48 out of 290 Emergency Department visits by older adults were for benzodiazepines
  • 20-50% of women over age 60 are prescribed benzodiazepines
  • Somewhere between 9% to 54% of older adults have taken benzodiazepines in the past year
  • Old age and gender are the greatest factors in benzodiazepine use
  • Women are twice as likely as men to use benzodiazepines

Chronic anxiety and sleep problems are common in older adults and therefore benzodiazepines are prescribed to them often. Benzodiazepines are most effective when given for a short period of time. Many older adults, especially women, find themselves using benzodiazepines long-term and becoming dependent.

Benzodiazepines can cause users to become confused and alter their motor skills to the point where they become uncoordinated. For many older adults, a simple accident such as losing their balance and falling down can cause serious injuries. Chronic use, misuse, dependence, and addiction to benzodiazepines is are dangerous issues among older adults.

Treatment Types and How to Get Help

Benzodiazepine addiction can be treated in many different ways. Addiction treatment professionals use different types of medications and therapy to help patients stop using benzodiazepines. Help is available in many different programs throughout the United States.

Reviewed by:Kent S. Hoffman, D.O.

Chief Medical Officer

  • Fact-Checked
  • Editor

Kent S. Hoffman, D.O. has been an expert in addiction medicine for more than 15 years. In addition to managing a successful family medical practice, Dr. Hoffman is board certified in addiction medicine by the American Osteopathic Academy of Addiction Medicine (AOAAM). Dr. Hoffman has successfully treated hundreds of patients battling addiction. Dr. Hoffman is Co-Founder and Chief Medical Officer of Addiction Guide and ensures the quality of our website’s content and messaging.

Written by:

Content Manager

Jessica Miller is a USF graduate with a Bachelor’s Degree in English. She has written professionally for over a decade, from HR scripts and employee training to business marketing and company branding. In addition to writing, Jessica spent time in the healthcare sector (HR) and as a high school teacher. She has personally experienced the pitfalls of addiction and is delighted to bring her knowledge and writing skills together to support our mission. Jessica lives in St. Petersburg, FL with her husband and two dogs.

6 references
  1. NIDA. 2018, October 18. Research suggests benzodiazepine use is high while use disorder rates are low. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/news-events/science-highlight/research-suggests-benzodiazepine-use-high-while-use-disorder-rates-are-low

  2. Benzodiazepines and Opioids | National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). (2021). Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/drug-topics/opioids/benzodiazepines-opioids

  3. Overdose Death Rates | National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). (2021). Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/drug-topics/trends-statistics/overdose-death-rate

  4. Monitoring the Future Study: Trends in Prevalence of Various Drugs | National Institute on Drug Abuse (Nida). (2020). Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/drug-topics/trends-statistics/monitoring-future/monitoring-future-study-trends-in-prevalence-various-drugs

  5. A Day in the Life of Older Adults: Substance Use Facts. (2017). Retrieved from https://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/report_2792/ShortReport-2792.pdf

  6. Perceptions of Benzodiazepine Dependence Among Women Age 65 and Older. (2014). Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4205187/

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