Pattern of benzodiazepine use in psychiatric outpatients in Pakistan: a cross-sectional survey.

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Background: Benzodiazepines (BDZ) are the largest-selling drug group in the world. The potential of dependence with BDZ has been known for almost three decades now. In countries like Pakistan where laws against unlicensed sale of BDZ are not implemented vigorously the risk of misuse of and dependence on these drugs is even higher. Previous studies have shown that BDZ prevalence among Patients/visitors to general outPatient clinics in Pakistan may be as high as 30%. However, no research has been carried out on the prevalence of BDZ use in psychiatric Patients in Pakistan. Methods: We carried out a cross-sectional survey over 3 months in psychiatry outPatient clinics of two tertiary care hospitals in Karachi and Lahore. Besides basic socio-demographic data the participants were asked if they were taking a BDZ at present and if yes, the frequency, route and dosage of the drug, who had initiated the drug and why it had been prescribed. We used chi-square test and t-test to find out which socio-demographic or clinical factors were associated with an increased risk of BDZ use. We used Logistic Regression to find out which variable(s) best predicted the increased likelihood of BDZ use. Results: Out of a total of 419 participants 187 (45%) of the participants had been currently using at least one BDZ. Seventy-three percent of the users had been using the drug for 4 weeks or longer and 87% were taking it every day. In 90% of cases the BDZ had been initiated by a doctor, who was a psychiatrist in 70% of the cases. Female gender, increasing age, living in Lahore, and having seen a psychiatrist before, were associated with an increased likelihood of using BDZ. Conclusion: The study shows how high BDZ use is in psychiatric outPatients in Pakistan. Most of the users were taking it for a duration and with a frequency which puts them at risk of becoming dependent on BDZ. In most of the cases it had been initiated by a doctor. Both Patients and doctors need to be made aware of the risk of dependence associated with the use of BDZ.


Clinical Practice and Epidemiology in Mental Health : Cp & Emh