College of Psychology: Faculty Articles

Title

Long Term Alprazolam Use: Abuse, Dependence or Treatment

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

1991

Keywords

Adult, Alprazolam, Psychiatric Status Rating Scales, Substance-Related Disorders

Publication Title

Psychopharmacology Bulletin

ISSN

0048-5764

Volume

27

Issue/No.

3

Abstract

Concern about persistent benzodiazepine use should be informed by data about reasons for such use. Consecutive long term alprazolam users (n = 25) admitted to an advertised outpatient program for discontinuation were characterized with respect to alprazolam use patterns and lifetime and current Axis I and II disorders. Patient characteristics were: females 50 percent; mean age, 46 +/- 12 yrs; prior medication use--benzodiazepines, 47 percent, antidepressants, 23 percent; median duration of use 104 +/- 96 wks; median daily dose, 0.5 mg; continued effectiveness of alprazolam 50 percent. Over the duration of use patients shifted their initial pattern of use from as prescribed to a self-controlled "as required" basis (p less than .05). Interviews using the Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-III-R (SCID) yielded diagnoses of DSM-III-R alprazolam dependence in all patients plus at least one additional psychiatric diagnosis in 65 percent (Axis I 65%; Axis II 39%). Most persistent alprazolam use does not represent abuse or addiction as usually understood. These data are most consistent with the interpretation that alprazolam is the most recent benzodiazepine used by patients to help control clinically important psychopathology and that most users make efforts to control or stop use.

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