The benzodiazepine consumption has declined over many years, and this development continues in 2003. During the 8-year study period, the consumption of benzodiazepines as sleeping medicine and sedatives halved from 30.8 to 15.4 DDD/1,000 inhabitants/day, whereas the consumption of anxiety-relieving medicinal products declined by 21 per cent from 31.2 to 24.7 DDD/1,000 inhabitants/day.
The primary reason for the decline is that fewer people have started treatment with benzodiazepines. In 2003, approximately 355,000 people – of these almost twice as many women as men – were treated with a benzodiazepine.
Among people using benzodiazepines as sleeping medicine and sedatives, 12 per cent are large-scale consumers, which corresponds to 11,200 people. Among people using benzodiazepines as an anxiety-relieving medicinal product only 4 per cent are large-scale consumers, which corresponds to approximately 11,960 people. Thus, the number of large-scale consumers in 2003 is almost the same for the two types of benzodiazepines. The number of large-scale consumers of benzodiazepines as sleeping medicine and sedatives has declined by 50 per cent, and the number of large-scale consumers of anxiety-relieving products has declined by 13 per cent from 1996 to 2003.
In 2003, approximately 0.3 per cent of all women and 0.2 per cent of all men over the age of 15 were large-scale consumers of any type of benzodiazepine
Of the large-scale consumers of benzodiazepines as sleeping medicine and sedatives, old people have the largest consumption, whereas the consumption among large-scale consumers of benzodiazepines as anxiety-relieving products peaks for people aged 45-64 years.
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Female large-scale consumers have a slightly higher consumption compared to male large-scale consumers. This is true for both types of benzodiazepines and is most frequent for large-scale consumers over the age of 54.
Large-scale consumers of sleeping medicine and sedatives undergo treatment for a longer period of time than what is recommended. For this reason they are prescribed a larger dose than large-scale consumers of anxiety-relieving medicinal products.
Large-scale consumers of benzodiazepines as sleeping medicine and sedatives change to another psychoactive drug, typically cyclopyrrolones, more frequently than large-scale consumers of benzodiazepines as anxiety-relieving medicinal product.
The prescribing of benzodiazepines for large-scale consumers is unevenly distributed among general practitioners. Between 55 and 60 per cent of the total amount prescribed was prescribed by 20 per cent of the general practitioners.