Only a few longitudinal studies have addressed benzodiazepine use over time. We therefore conducted a 10-year follow-up study (1983-1992) on usage patterns of benzodiazepines in a Dutch community of 13500 people. Use decreased during the time of the study. Twelve (1983) to ten (1992) percent of the inhabitants was a recipient at least once a year of a benzodiazepine prescription. The use by gender showed more women using more prescriptions as men. Women were not prescribed more DDDs per prescription as men. Individual benzodiazepines showed differences in use by gender. Use increased with age among both women and men. Most of the users were 55 years or older. One out of three patients was either an incidental user (1-30 days use in one calendar year), a regular (31-180 days), or a long term user (more than 180 days). The use of long half-life hypnotics decreased, the use of the short half-life ones showed an increase. Behind a stable overall trend we found strong fluctuations in use of individual benzodiazepines.