More OD Deaths from Anxiety Drugs
Prescription drug overdoses are at an all-time high in America. The majority of deaths have involved opioid painkillers like oxycodone, but the problem is more widespread than that according to a report published online last week in The American Journal of Public Health.
That new study suggests that anti-anxiety medications – benzodiazepines, like Valium and Xanax -- are now playing a large role in overdose deaths.
The number of prescriptions written for anti-anxiety drugs increased by 67% between 1996 and 2013. Yet the rate of overdose deaths involving these drugs was more than four times larger. The analysis found that 5.6% of American adults filled a benzodiazepine prescription in 2013, up from 4.1% in 1996. (The actual numbers rose to 13.5 million in 2013, from 8.1 million in 1996.)
At the same time, the rate of overdose deaths involving anti-anxiety drugs reached 3.07 per 100,000 adults in 2013 -- up very significantly from 0.58 per 100,000 adults in 1996.
When benzodiazepines are abused or combined with other drugs or alcohol, they contribute to depressing the respiratory system, which can be deadly. Benzodiazepines were involved in 6,973 overdose deaths in 2013, or about 30% of the 22,767 prescription drug overdoses that year. The other 16,235 prescription drug deaths involved opioids.