Send to

Choose Destination
J Clin Psychiatry. 2018 Oct 23;79(6). pii: 17m12038. doi: 10.4088/JCP.17m12038.

Benzodiazepines, Health Care Utilization, and Suicidal Behavior in Veterans With Posttraumatic Stress Disorder.

Author information

Department of Radiation Medicine and Applied Sciences, University of California San Diego School of Medicine, 9500 Gilman Drive, La Jolla, CA 92093.
VA San Diego Health Care System, La Jolla, California, USA.
VA Salt Lake City Health Care System, Salt Lake City, Utah, USA.
Department of Radiation Medicine and Applied Sciences, University of California San Diego School of Medicine, La Jolla, California, USA.
Department of Pharmacotherapy, Pharmacotherapy Outcomes Research Center, University of Utah College of Pharmacy, Salt Lake City, Utah, USA.
National Center for Veterans Studies, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah, USA.
Department of Psychology, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah, USA.
Division of Epidemiology, University of Utah School of Medicine, Salt Lake City, Utah, USA.



To evaluate the relationships between benzodiazepine use and (1) health care utilization and (2) suicide risk in veterans diagnosed with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).


This propensity-matched retrospective cohort study included veterans diagnosed with 1 ICD-9 code for PTSD who were active users of the Veterans Affairs health care system between January 1, 2001, and December 31, 2014. Exposure included at least 1 thirty-day prescription of a benzodiazepine within 1 year following PTSD diagnosis among patients with no recent history of benzodiazepine use. The primary outcomes were health care utilization and suicidal behavior.


A total of 242,493 of 1,134,201 eligible veterans were included in the propensity-matched cohort, 80,831 (7.13%) of whom were prescribed benzodiazepines. Veterans with PTSD who received benzodiazepines had significantly more hospitalizations (incident rate ratio [IRR] = 1.27; 95% CI, 1.10-1.47) and emergency department (IRR = 1.16; 95% CI, 1.13-1.20), general outpatient (IRR = 1.19; 95% CI, 1.16-1.21), outpatient mental health (IRR = 1.49; 95% CI, 1.41-1.57), and total mental health (IRR = 1.37; 95% CI, 1.34-1.40) visits. Benzodiazepine users had a significantly greater risk of death due to suicide (hazard ratio [HR] = 2.74; 95% CI, 2.40-3.13) and were significantly more likely to have medically documented suicide attempts (HR = 1.85; 95% CI, 1.65-2.08) and suicidal ideation (HR = 1.57; 95% CI, 1.48-1.67).


Benzodiazepine users had higher rates of health care utilization and were more likely to attempt and complete suicide than patients without benzodiazepine exposure. This study strengthens the empirical evidence against the use of benzodiazepines in veterans with PTSD. Prescribers should weigh the benefits and risks-especially the almost 3-fold increase in suicide risk-when prescribing benzodiazepines in these patients.


Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Physicians Postgraduate Press, Inc.
Loading ...
Support Center