Use of Benzodiazepines and Z-Drugs in Nursing Home Residents with Dementia: Prevalence and Appropriateness

Dirk O.C. Rijksen, Sytse U. Zuidema, Esther C. De Haas*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
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Background: Guidelines worldwide recommend restricted prescription of benzodiazepine receptor agonists (BZRAs), i.e., benzodiazepines and Z-drugs, for the treatment of dementia-associated behavioral and psychological symptoms and insomnia.

Objective: To assess the prevalence and appropriateness of BZRA use among nursing home residents with dementia.

Methods: This is a post-hoc analysis of BZRA prescriptions from two intervention studies on psychotropic drug use, conducted from 2016 to 2018. It includes 1,111 residents of dementia special care units from 24 Dutch long-term care organizations. We assessed the prevalence of use of continuous and as-needed BZRA prescriptions and their association with registered symptoms. Continuous BZRA prescriptions were evaluated for appropriateness, i.e., whether indication, dosage, duration, and evaluation accorded with guidelines for the treatment of challenging behavior in dementia and sleep disorders.

Results: The prevalence of BZRA use is 39.2% (95% CI: 36.3%-42.0%): continuous 22.9%; only as-needed 16.3%. Combinations of preferred BZRAs and appropriate indications occur in 19.0% of continuous anxiolytic prescriptions and 44.8% of hypnotic prescriptions. Frequently registered inappropriate indications are aggression/agitation for anxiolytics (continuous: 75.7%; as-needed: 75.2%) and nighttime agitation for hypnotics (continuous: 40.3%; as-needed: 26.7%). None of the continuous prescriptions with appropriate indications were appropriate for all other items. For most of the prescriptions, duration and time to evaluation exceeded 4 weeks.

Conclusion: BZRA use in nursing home residents with dementia is highly frequent. A large proportion of prescriptions do not follow the guidelines with regard to indication, exceed the recommended duration and are not evaluated in a timely manner. The discrepancy between evidence-based guidelines and daily practice calls for an exploration of factors maintaining inappropriate use.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)871-879
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Alzheimer's Disease Reports
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 9-Dec-2021


  • Behavioral and psychological symptoms of dementia
  • benzodiazepines
  • dementia
  • inappropriate prescribing
  • insomnia
  • nursing homes
  • Z-drugs

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