Psychological Medicine

Original Articles

Lack of cognitive recovery following withdrawal from long-term benzodiazepine use

P. R. Tataa1 c1, J. Rollingsa1, M. Collinsa1, A. Pickeringa1 and R. R. Jacobsona1

a1 Departments of Psychology and Psychiatry, St George's Hospital Medical School, University of London; and Springfield University Hospital, London


Twenty-one patients with significant long-term therapeutic benzodiazepine (BZ) use, who remained abstinent at 6 months follow-up after successfully completing a standardized inpatient BZ withdrawal regime, and 21 normal controls matched for age and IQ but not for anxiety, were repeatedly tested on a simple battery of routine psychometric tests of cognitive function, pre- and post-withdrawal and at 6 months follow-up. The results demonstrated significant impairment in patients in verbal learning and memory, psychomotor, visuo-motor and visuo-conceptual abilities, compared with controls, at all three time points. Despite practice effects, no evidence of immediate recovery of cognitive function following BZ withdrawal was found. Modest recovery of certain deficits emerged at 6 months follow-up in the BZ group, but this remained significantly below the equivalent control performance. The implications of persisting cognitive deficits after withdrawal from long-term BZ use are discussed.


c1 Address for correspondence: Philip R. Tata, Department of Psychology, St George's Medical School, Cranmer Terrace, London SW17 0RE.