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Estimates of Patients Experiencing Withdrawal

*Note: The term “addicted” in quoted statistics are conflated with what may actually be physical dependence so long as there is no behavior of abuse involved.

According to Dr. Heather Ashton, “Some people can stop their benzodiazepines with no symptoms at all: according to some authorities, this figure may be as high as 50% even after a year of chronic usage. Even if this figure is correct (which is arguable) it is unwise to stop benzodiazepines suddenly.”

Dr. Malcolm Lader states, “I estimate about 20-30% of people who are on a benzodiazepine like diazepam have trouble coming off and of those about a third have very distressing symptoms.”

Reconnexion, a nonprofit organization in Australia offering counseling and support for benzodiazepine dependent patients, states: “It is estimated that between 50-80% of people who have taken benzodiazepines continually for six months or longer will experience withdrawal symptoms when reducing the dose.”

In this study, which compared “the effect on withdrawal severity and acute outcome of a 25% per week taper of short half-life vs long half-life benzodiazepines in 63 benzodiazepine-dependent patients,” ninety percent of patients experienced a withdrawal reaction but, according to the study authors, “it was rarely more than mild to moderate.”

According to the American Psychiatric Association’s Benzodiazepine Task Force on Benzodiazepine Dependence, Toxicity, and Abuse 40-80% of patients experience withdrawal.

The Royal College of Psychiatry and the Royal College of General Practitioners states that “around 4 in every 10 people who take them every day for more than 6 weeks will become addicted*.”

Hood et al. (2014) finds that anyone who has taken benzodiazepines for a period of at least six months and then who attempts to quickly stop the medication will experience some withdrawal reactions, and for 40% the reactions will be moderate or severe.

The American Psychiatric Association’s (APA) Clinical Practice Guidelines for Panic Disorder (2009) warns that “all benzodiazepines will produce physiological dependence in most patients.”

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