Nocturnal benzodiazepines have a significant negative health impact on the elderly, yet they continue to be used.
The aim of this study was to assess elderly patients’ use and knowledge of nocturnal benzodiazepines, and their attitudes to cessation.
Semi-structured telephone interviews were conducted with elderly patients (n = 17) from four general practices in Australia.
Our study found that the initiation of benzodiazepine use was often at a time of stress for the patient. Long-term use was not in-tended, and patients conveyed poor awareness of the side effects and addictive potential of benzodiazepines. Patients’ perceived attitudes of their general practitioner (GP) to prescribing benzodiazepines and lack of awareness of alternative therapies were key to continuation. Confounding factors such as pain often contributed to sleep disturbance. Many patients expressed a willingness to cease nocturnal benzodiazepine use.
These data assist in raising GPs’ awareness of patients’ attitudes to cessation of nocturnal benzodiazepine use. More time spent with patients presenting for repeat prescriptions, explaining side effects, discussing alternative options and investigating reasons for not sleeping could reduce benzodiazepine use among the elderly.