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From three general practices, served by 11 principals, 205 long-term benzodiazepine users were identified and matched for age and sex with controls. Benzodiazepine users had significantly higher rates of previous physical illness, consultation and non-psychotropic drug consumption than controls. The characteristics of those receiving prescriptions for benzodiazepine hypnotics alone, anxiolytics alone and anxiolytics plus hypnotics were also investigated. Significant differences emerged between these three groups. Patients receiving hypnotics only were older, had a history of more physical illness and had received more non-psychotropic medication than patients receiving anxiolytics only. The anxiolytic plus hypnotic group had previously received more hypnotics and were currently receiving more medication than the group receiving anxiolytics alone. The results are discussed in relation to current concerns about benzodiazepine dependence and withdrawal.