Study Spotlight

Study Spotlight

Anxiety Medications and Fatal Overdose


The increasing popularity of prescription anxiety medications has led to a massive spike in overdose deaths. A recently-published study in the American Journal of Public Health showed that while benzodiazepine prescriptions (a popular class of anti-anxiety drugs) have become more widespread, so have abuses and ultimately, deaths. Unfortunately, some of the most vulnerable – those age 65 and older – were also those who used these drugs long term. Overall, the deaths have risen more than 5 times since the beginning of the tracking period in 1996.

Anxiety is a very real and potentially debilitating condition. This study illustrates the urgent need for safe, and effective alternatives for anxiety relief. And they are available. For example, there is a clinicnally-studied, specialized extract of Echinacea angustifolia that has shown remarkable results. Additionally, omega-3s, and herbs including lemon balm and holy basil can go a long way to alleviating the stress that can ultimately lead to serious anxiety.

The study: Increasing Benzodiazepine Prescriptions and Overdose Mortality in the United States, 1996–2013

Bachhuber MA, Hennessy S, Cunningham CO, Starrels JL. Increasing Benzodiazepine Prescriptions and Overdose Mortality in the United States, 1996-2013. Am J Public Health. 2016 Apr;106(4):686-8. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2016.303061. Epub 2016 Feb 18.

OBJECTIVES: To describe trends in benzodiazepine prescriptions and overdose mortality involving benzodiazepines among US adults.

METHODS: We examined data from the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey and multiple-cause-of-death data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

RESULTS: Between 1996 and 2013, the percentage of adults filling a benzodiazepine prescription increased from 4.1% (95% confidence interval [CI] = 3.8%, 4.5%) to 5.6% (95% CI = 5.2%, 6.1%), with an annual percent change of 2.5% (95% CI = 2.1%, 3.0%). The quantity of benzodiazepines filled increased from 1.1 (95% CI = 0.9, 1.2) to 3.6 (95% CI = 3.0, 4.2) kilogram lorazepam equivalents per 100 000 adults (annual percent change = 9.0%; 95% CI = 7.6%, 10.3%). The overdose death rate increased from 0.58 (95% CI = 0.55, 0.62) to 3.07 (95% CI = 2.99, 3.14) per 100 000 adults, with a plateau seen after 2010.

CONCLUSIONS: Benzodiazepine prescriptions and overdose mortality have increased considerably. Fatal overdoses involving benzodiazepines have plateaued overall; however, no evidence of decreases was found in any group. Interventions to reduce the use of benzodiazepines or improve their safety are needed.

 

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