Benzodiazepine and z-hypnotic prescribing from acute psychiatric inpatient discharge to long-term care in the community

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Chris F. Johnson
Ola Ali Nassr
Catherine Harpur
David Kenicer
Alex Thom
Gazala Akram



Background: Benzodiazepine and z-hypnotic prescribing has slowly decreased over the past 20 years, however long-term chronic prescribing still occurs and is at odds with prescribing guidance.

Objectives: To identify the pattern of benzodiazepine and z-hypnotic prescribing in psychiatric inpatients at discharge and 12 months post-discharge.

Methods: Retrospective observational longitudinal cohort study of patients admitted to two adult psychiatric wards between June and November 2012 (inclusive) who were discharged with a prescription for a benzodiazepine or z-hypnotic drug. Routinely collected prescription data available from NHS Scotland Prescribing Information System was used to identify and follow community prescribing of benzodiazepine and z-hypnotics for a 12 month period post-discharge. Data were entered in Excel® and further analysed using SPSS 23. Ethical approval was not required for this service evaluation however Caldicott Guardian approval was sought and granted.

Results: Eighty patients were admitted during the study period however only those patients with a single admission were included for analysis (n=74). Thirty per cent (22/74) of patients were prescribed a benzodiazepine or z-hypnotics at discharge; 14 of whom received ‘long-term’ benzodiazepine and z-hypnotics i.e. continued use over the 12 month period. Seven patients received a combination of anxiolytics and hypnotics (e.g., diazepam plus temazepam or zopiclone). Long-term use was associated with a non-significant increase in median benzodiazepine or z-hypnotic dose, expressed as diazepam equivalents.

Conclusions: One in three patients were prescribed a benzodiazepine or z-hypnotics at discharge with 1 in 5 receiving continuous long-term treatment (prescriptions) for 12 months post-discharge. As chronic long-term B-Z prescribing and use still remains an issue, future strategies using routine patient-level prescribing data may support prescribers to review and minimise inappropriate long-term prescribing.


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