Benzodiazepine dependence is a frequent complication of regular prescriptions for 4 weeks or longer, occurring in almost one-third of patients. Although it is also manifested by tolerance to drug effects and occasional drug seeking behaviour, particularly in those prone to drug abuse, most dependence is characterised by a withdrawal syndrome on stopping treatment. The withdrawal syndrome includes symptoms of anxiety and those of perceptual disturbance such as depersonalisation, hypersensitivity of all major senses, dysphoria and (rarely) epileptic seizures and psychotic episodes. Risk factors for dependence include high dosage, use of more potent and short acting benzodiazepines, long duration of therapy and dependent premorbid personality characteristics. If none of these apply, benzodiazepines can be prescribed with safety.