Abstract

Despite the widespread prescribing of benzodiazepines, uncertainty still surrounds the potential for cognitive impairment following their long-term use. Furthermore, the degree of recovery that may take place after withdrawal or the level of residual impairment, if any, that is maintained in long-term benzodiazepine users is also unclear. The current paper employed meta-analytic techniques to address two questions: (1) Does the cognitive function of long-term benzodiazepine users improve following withdrawal? (2) Are previous long-term benzodiazepine users still impaired at follow-up compared to controls or normative data? Results of the meta-analyses indicated that long-term benzodiazepine users do show recovery of function in many areas after withdrawal. However, there remains a significant impairment in most areas of cognition in comparison to controls or normative data. The findings of this study highlight the problems associated with long-term benzodiazepine therapy and suggest that previous benzodiazepine users would be likely to experience the benefit of improved cognitive functioning after withdrawal. However, the reviewed data did not support full restitution of function, at least in the first 6 months following cessation and suggest that there may be some permanent deficits or deficits that take longer than 6 months to completely recover.