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J Psychopharmacol. 2015 Feb;29(2):212-23. doi: 10.1177/0269881114541013. Epub 2014 Jul 21.

Re-examining the role of benzodiazepines in the treatment of schizophrenia: a systematic review.

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Institute of Psychiatry, King's College London, London, UK.
Institute of Psychiatry, King's College London, London, UK



Benzodiazepine prescribing for schizophrenia occurs in clinical practice and antipsychotic trials. This review examined the clinical outcomes for benzodiazepines in schizophrenia.


A systematic search identified randomised controlled trials that evaluated benzodiazepines in comparison with placebo or antipsychotics, and also as adjuncts to antipsychotics. Relevant clinical outcome data was extracted.


Twenty six studies were included with some reporting multiple comparisons. Seven short-term studies compared benzodiazepines with placebo: benzodiazepine superiority was found in two out of five studies for global improvements and two out of four studies for psychiatric/behavioural outcomes. Eleven studies compared benzodiazepines with first-generation antipsychotics (FGAs): four out of nine studies (including two long-term studies) reported greater global improvements for antipsychotics; four out of five studies showed no treatment differences for psychiatric/behavioural outcomes. Fourteen studies compared benzodiazepines (as adjunct to antipsychotics) vs antipsychotics alone (mostly FGAs); benzodiazepine superiority was found for global improvement in one out of eight studies and inferiority in two out of eight short-term studies whereas superiority was found for psychiatric/behavioural outcomes in three out of 12 short-term studies and inferiority in three out of 12 studies.


Benzodiazepine superiority over placebo was found for global, psychiatric and behavioural outcomes, but inferiority to antipsychotics on longer-term global outcomes. Conflicting evidence exists regarding the addition of benzodiazepines to antipsychotics; thus the use of benzodiazepines in clinical practice and antipsychotic trials should be limited.


Schizophrenia; antipsychotics; benzodiazepines; clinical trials; placebo; systematic review

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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