Prescription Benzodiazepine Use in Privately Insured U.S. Children and Adolescents


      Benzodiazepines are commonly prescribed in the U.S. but entail safety concerns, including dependency. In pediatrics, many indications lack trial data. Authors aimed to describe youth initiating prescription benzodiazepine treatment, identify potential indications and prescribing concerns, estimate the duration of treatment by potential indication, and identify factors that predict long-term use.


      The study cohort included children (aged 3–12 years) and adolescents (aged 13–17 years) initiating prescription benzodiazepine treatment (≥3 days’ supply) from January 2010 to September 2015 in a U.S. commercial claims database. Potential indications included selected ICD-9-CM diagnoses (≤30 days prior). Long-term (≥6 months) benzodiazepine treatment was estimated with Kaplan–Meier estimation and modified Poisson regression identified independent predictors of long-term benzodiazepine treatment (analysis completed in 2018).


      Of 24,504 children and 61,046 adolescents initiating benzodiazepines, 62% of the children and 68% of the adolescents had a potential indication. Anxiety disorders were the most common indication, with mental health indications more common among adolescents (45%) than children (23%) and epilepsy and movement disorders higher in children. Recent opioid prescriptions were common before benzodiazepine initiation (children, 22%; adolescents, 21%). Six percent of the initiators became long-term benzodiazepine users. Potential indication, provider contact, psychotropic medication, and chronic conditions independently predicted long-term benzodiazepine treatment in adolescents and children.


      U.S. children and adolescents are prescribed benzodiazepines for various mental health and other medical conditions, many lacking evidence of pediatric efficacy. Long-term benzodiazepine treatment, concurrent opioid prescriptions, psychotropic use, and prior substance use disorder diagnoses suggest safety risks among some youth prescribed benzodiazepines.
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