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AIM. This study set out to assess the effect of a letter from the general practitioner, suggesting a reduction in the use of benzodiazepines, and whether the impact of the letter could be increased by the addition of information on how to tackle drug reduction. METHOD. Two hundred and nine long-term users of benzodiazepines in general practice were divided into three groups: two intervention groups and a control group. The first intervention group received a letter from their general practitioner asking that benzodiazepine use be gradually reduced and perhaps, in time, stopped. The second intervention group received the same letter plus four information sheets at monthly intervals, designed to assist drug reduction: The mean age of the 209 people was 69 years (age range 34-102 years). RESULTS. After six months, both intervention groups had reduced their consumption to approximately two thirds of the original intake of benzodiazepines and there was a statistically significant difference between the intervention groups and the control group. Eighteen per cent of those receiving the interventions received no prescriptions at all during the six month monitoring period. CONCLUSION. The results indicate that a simple intervention can have a considerable effect on the use of hypnotic and anxiolytic drugs, even with a sample of elderly users.