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Soc Sci Med. 1998 Feb;46(3):381-95.

Analyses of use of tranquilizers and sleeping pills across five surveys of the same population (1985-1991): the relationship with gender, age and use of other substances.

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Addiction Research Foundation, London, Ont., Canada.


The present study used analyses of data from five surveys of the same population over a 6-year period to examine the relationship of use of tranquilizers/sleeping pills with gender, age and use of other psychoactive substances. Part of the study involved identifying methodological issues in using surveys to study tranquilizer/sleeping pill use. Across surveys and within all age groups, females were more likely to use tranquilizers and/or sleeping pills than males, with an average ratio overall of a little higher than three to two (varying across surveys from 1.4 to 2.1; mode of 1.6). Prevalence rates for both females and males were strongly affected by timeframe over which use was measured. Use of tranquilizers/sleeping pills increased with age; however, the relationship with age was different for tranquilizers than for sleeping pills. For tranquilizers, the high correlation between age and use was largely attributable to the low rate of use by those aged 34 and younger. For sleeping pills, on the other hand, the relationship is based more on the high rate of use by those aged 65 and older. In addition, age was a major factor in nonmedical use of tranquilizers/sleeping pills, with nonmedical use decreasing dramatically with age. Use of other types of psychoactive medications was significantly higher among tranquilizer/sleeping pill users than among non-users. The results pertaining to concurrent use of tranquilizers/sleeping pills and alcohol, marijuana, and tobacco, however, showed some trends, but findings were not consistent across all surveys. Further analyses suggested that this lack of consistent findings might be attributable to survey design issues, in particular, the extent that the format of the survey question tended to exclude nonmedical users. The implications of these results for future research on tranquilizer/sleeping pill use are discussed.

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