Do benzodiazepines have a role in the prevention or treatment of coronary heart disease and other major medical disorders?
Increased coronary disease rates, as well as increased all-cause mortality, in persons with high levels of hostility/anger and in persons suffering from panic disorder or phobic anxiety suggest that biological concomitants of these traits/conditions lead to major medical illnesses. Benzodiazepines have effects, e.g. blunting of stress hormone responses, that could prevent disease in persons so predisposed. It will be necessary to identify subgroups with sufficiently high absolute rates of disease risk to justify pharmacological interventions, and then to carry out controlled prevention trials to document the benefits, before such approaches can be recommended for the general population. This approach (use of drugs when other measures fail) is now standard for more traditional risk factors, such as hyperlipidemia and hypertension. In contrast to primary prevention, a stronger case can be made for the use of benzodiazepines in secondary prevention. Research has shown benzodiazepine treatment to improve control of angina and to reduce "silent ischemia", directly suggesting clinical benefits to be gained from the effects of benzodiazepines to reduce stress hormone responses. While benzodiazepines have long been prescribed for the postmyocardial infarction patient, there are no controlled clinical trials documenting such benefits. These are now clearly in order so that the use of benzodiazepines in coronary patients can be advised on a rational basis.
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