Profile of use of benzodiazepines and mental distress in patients cared in a public health unit

Livia de Oliveira Kawano, Edimar Cristiano Pereira, Glaucia Luciano da Veiga, Beatriz da Costa Aguiar Alves, Ligia Ajaime Azzalis, Fernando Adami, Luiz Vinicius de Alcantara Sousa, Fernando Luiz Affonso Fonseca


Background: Benzodiazepines are a class of drugs especially used in the treatment of insomnia and anxiety. The short-term use is considered safe, but the long-term treatment is associated with drug dependence and loss of efficacy due to the development of tolerance. Given the lack of mental health management services in primary healthcare, benzodiazepines have been prescribed to be used for undetermined periods of time, resulting in distress for patients and representing an important issue in the public health context.

Methods: This is a transversal study with a descriptive quantitative approach, which aimed to characterize the profile of patients served by the Basic Health Unit Pharmacy Taboão in São Bernardo do Campo, São Paulo, Brazil, and correlate the different studied variables with the mental distress of these patients. A questionnaire including demographic, socioeconomic and physical and mental health variables was applied to the pharmacy customers.

Results: It was revealed that among female patients (p=0.042, β=0.61, 95% CI: 0.38-0.98), suicidal ideation (p<0.001, β=1.53, 95% CI: 1.22-1.92), perceptions regarding their own health condition (p<0.001, β=0.48, 95% CI: 0.34-0.67), occurrences of polypharmacy (p=0.137, β=1.19, 95% CI: 0.94-1.50), knowledge on the risks associated with the use of benzodiazepines (p=0.176, β=0.85, 95%CI: 0.067-1.07) and engagement in physical activities (p=0.685, β=0.93, 95% CI: 0.68-1.27) are significantly associated with mental distress.

Conclusions: Therefore, after these findings were obtained, errors that contribute to the occurrence of this scenario were identified and possible strategies to deal with the issue were suggested.


Benzodiazepines, Misuse, Public healthcare, Mental distress, Brazil

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