Substance Use - Benzodiazepines


Clinical Guidelines

Information and Resources for

Health Care Professionals

Information and Resources for

Older Adults and Care Partners

Information for Health Care Professionals

Benzodiazepine Use Among Older Adults

  • Benzodiazepines (BZRAs) are the most prescribed psychiatric medication for older adults. Despite agreement that BZRAs should be avoided whenever possible, they continue to be frequently prescribed.
  • Health care providers should use non-pharmacological approaches for anxiety and insomnia and advocate for more resources.
  • BZRAs should never be prescribed for longer than 4 weeks. Health care providers should work towards gradual withdrawal and discontinuation where possible.
  • Patients should be made aware of BZRAs limited use and risks.
  • There are resources available to support the withdrawal and discontinuation of BZRAs and for alternate treatments of anxiety and insomnia.

Substance Use Disorder Among Older Adults

Substance Use Disorder (SUD) is common in older adults, effecting up to 21% of the geriatric medical population and up to 44% of the geriatric psychiatric population. In 2015, people over 50 years of age accounted for 39% of deaths from SUD. Older adults have an increased vulnerability to the effects of substance use and they experience more harm associated with them compared to younger adults.

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Learn more about the Benzodiazepine Clinical Guidelines here.

Read the Canadian Geriatrics Journal consensus statement in Vol. 23 No. 1 (2020).

Discover online resources for Benzodiazepine Use Disorder

This list is designed to help primary health care & clinical care providers assess and discuss with persons aged 65 or older, the potential risks and benefits of taking benzodiazepines.

Watch the webinar (showcased on the right) which summarizes the Clinical Guidelines on Benzodiazepine Receptor Agonist (BZRAs) Use Disorder Among Older Adults. The session provides guidance for clinicians on preventing the development of a BZRAs Use Disorder and optimally assessing and treating older individuals who have developed such a disorder.

Speaker: Dr. David K. Conn, MB, FRCPC, is the vice-president of Education and inaugural director of the Centre for Education and Knowledge Exchange in Aging at Baycrest, and a professor in the department of Psychiatry at the University of Toronto. He is the founding co-chair of the Canadian Coalition for Seniors’ Mental Health, and is chair of the Coalition’s National Guidelines project.