The literature on benzodiazepine dependence is reviewed and analysed. Factors that lead to a higher risk of dependence include the duration of treatment, the dosage and dependence on other substances. The risk of dependence during therapeutic use of benzodiazepines is assessed, placed in clinical context and methods for reducing withdrawal manifestations described. Social aspects of benzodiazepine use are discussed. An overall conclusion is drawn that the benefits from the use of benzodiazepines within good medical practice far outweigh their problems.