Benzodiazepines and zopiclone – much risk, little benefit

He Ako Hiringa
1 August 2023

Benzodiazepines and zopiclone are used frequently and for extended periods to aid sleep, despite well-recognised harms of dependency, cognitive decline and falls.1

What’s more, sedative-hypnotics are not very effective for managing insomnia in older adults – while 13 people need to be treated for one person to have improved sleep quality, only six people need to be treated for one of them to experience harm.2

In Aotearoa, approximately 347,000 people (9.1% of the enrolled population aged ≥18) were dispensed a benzodiazepine or zopiclone in the last year, and more than half of those aged ≥80 received 90 tablets or more.3

Go to to see how many patients are taking benzodiazepines or zopiclone.


  1. Brett J, Murnion B. Management of benzodiazepine misuse and dependence. Aust Prescr. 2015;38(5):152-155. doi:10.18773/austprescr.2015.055
  2. Glass J, Lanctôt KL, Herrmann N, Sproule BA, Busto UE. Sedative hypnotics in older people with insomnia: meta-analysis of risks and benefits. BMJ. 2005;331(7526):1169. doi:10.1136/bmj.38623.768588.47
  3. He Ako Hiringa. EPiC dashboard: Annual report. (accessed July 2023). Data sourced from Te Whatu Ora, Pharmaceutical claims collection, 2023.