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Dr. Finalyson is in the center

Researchers at Vanderbilt, including Dr. Finlayson, posed to study what the best predictors of suicide are.

Benzodiazepine usage became one of the predictors, finding:

The association of benzodiazepines with physician suicide parallels the Gold et al study of 31,636 suicide deaths on the National Violent Death Reporting System (2003–2008). They identified 203 physician suicides and observed that being older and having job problems were much more likely among physicians, in contrast to non-physician suicides, for whom bereavement or relationship crisis was more frequently associated with suicide. Sedative-hypnotic drugs were significantly more frequently present in post mortem physician suicides than in non-physician suicides, although the presence of benzodiazepines in post-mortem physician suicides in their study did not differentiate between therapeutic, toxic intent, or recreational use that may have led to impaired judgment.

The study also notes that:

The long-term use of benzodiazepine is associated with worse outcomes in substance use disorders, in co-morbid mental illness, in panic disorder, and in post-traumatic stress disorder. The chronic use of benzodiazepine agents for anxiety disorders remains controversial, confounded by the difficulty to distinguish between severe withdrawal effects and symptoms of anxiety.

A challenging problem with benzodiazepines is that it is extremely hard to distinguish the side effects of the drug, and tolerance to the drug, from the originating problem.  This inability to distinguish (often even for the patient themselves) may lead to many preventable deaths.  A better system of managing these medications, treating and identifying problems attributed to the drug needs to be implemented. More education and information is needed, and the information needs to be easily accessible.

Read Suicidal behavior among physicians referred for fitness-for-duty evaluation HERE