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Concept: Benzodiazepine overdose


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

Concepts: Benzodiazepine, U.S. state, Poverty in the United States, Benzodiazepine overdose, Barbiturate, United States


Objectives To identify trends in concurrent use of a benzodiazepine and an opioid and to identify the impact of these trends on admissions to hospital and emergency room visits for opioid overdose.Design Retrospective analysis of claims data, 2001-13.Setting Administrative health claims database.Participants 315 428 privately insured people aged 18-64 who were continuously enrolled in a health plan with medical and pharmacy benefits during the study period and who also filled at least one prescription for an opioid.Interventions Concurrent benzodiazepine/opioid use, defined as an overlap of at least one day in the time periods covered by prescriptions for each drug. Main outcome measures Annual percentage of opioid users with concurrent benzodiazepine use; annual incidence of visits to emergency room and inpatient admissions for opioid overdose.Results 9% of opioid users also used a benzodiazepine in 2001, increasing to 17% in 2013 (80% relative increase). This increase was driven mainly by increases among intermittent, as opposed to chronic, opioid users. Compared with opioid users who did not use benzodiazepines, concurrent use of both drugs was associated with an increased risk of an emergency room visit or inpatient admission for opioid overdose (adjusted odds ratio 2.14, 95% confidence interval 2.05 to 2.24; P<0.001) among all opioid users. The adjusted odds ratio for an emergency room visit or inpatient admission for opioid overdose was 1.42 (1.33 to 1.51; P<0.001) for intermittent opioid users and 1.81 (1.67 to 1.96; P<0.001) chronic opioid users. If this association is causal, elimination of concurrent benzodiazepine/opioid use could reduce the risk of emergency room visits related to opioid use and inpatient admissions for opioid overdose by an estimated 15% (95% confidence interval 14 to 16).Conclusions From 2001 to 2013, concurrent benzodiazepine/opioid use sharply increased in a large sample of privately insured patients in the US and significantly contributed to the overall population risk of opioid overdose.

Concepts: Pharmacology, Benzodiazepine overdose, Barbiturate, Alprazolam, Morphine, Odds ratio, Benzodiazepine, Opioid


To study the association between benzodiazepine prescribing patterns including dose, type, and dosing schedule and the risk of death from drug overdose among US veterans receiving opioid analgesics.

Concepts: Codeine, Benzodiazepine, Naloxone, Barbiturate, Benzodiazepine overdose, Opioid


Drug overdose deaths have risen precipitously over the last fifteen years. Substantial geographic variation, beyond a simple rural-urban dichotomy, exists in the concentration of overdose deaths, suggesting the existence of as-yet unidentified environmental variables that predict resilience (or vulnerability) to drug overdoses. Motivated by reports highlighting the role of community fragility in the opioid epidemic, we explore whether social capital attenuates overdose death rates.

Concepts: Barbiturate, Benzodiazepine overdose, Death, Life, Naloxone, Drug overdose


Drug overdose is a leading cause of injury death in the United States; 47,055 fatal drug overdoses were reported in 2014, a 6.5% increase from the previous year (1), driven by opioid use disorder (2,3). Methadone is an opioid prescribed for pain management and is also provided through opioid treatment programs to treat opioid use disorders. Because methadone might remain in a person’s system long after the pain-relieving benefits have been exhausted, it can cause slow or shallow breathing and dangerous changes in heartbeat that might not be perceived by the patient (4,5). In December 2006, the Food and Drug Administration issued a Public Health Advisory that alerted health care professionals to reports of death and life-threatening adverse events, such as respiratory depression and cardiac arrhythmias, in patients receiving methadone (4); in January 2008, a voluntary manufacturer restriction limited distribution of the 40 mg formulation of methadone.* CDC analyzed state mortality and health care data and preferred drug list (PDL) policies to 1) compare the percentage of deaths involving methadone with the rate of prescribing methadone for pain, 2) characterize variation in methadone prescribing among payers and states, and 3) assess whether an association existed between state Medicaid reimbursement PDL policies and methadone overdose rates. The analyses found that, from 2007 to 2014, large declines in methadone-related overdose deaths occurred. Prescriptions for methadone accounted for 0.85% of all opioid prescriptions for pain in the commercially insured population and 1.1% in the Medicaid population. In addition, an association was observed between Medicaid PDLs requiring prior authorization for methadone and lower rates of methadone overdose among Medicaid enrollees. PDL policies requiring prior authorization might help to reduce the number of methadone overdoses.

Concepts: Medical emergencies, Barbiturate, Benzodiazepine overdose, Drug overdose, Health care, Naloxone, Opioid


Over the past decade, patients admitted to addiction treatment programs have reported increasing rates of concurrent opioid and benzodiazepine (BZD) use. This drug combination places individuals at high risk for accidental overdose. Little is known about reasons for BZD use among individuals seeking treatment for opioid use disorders.

Concepts: Heroin, Drug addiction, Addiction, Naloxone, Barbiturate, Benzodiazepine overdose, Benzodiazepine, Opioid


To reduce fatal drug overdoses, two approaches many states have followed is to pass laws expanding naloxone access and Good Samaritan protections for lay persons with high likelihood to respond to an opioid overdose. Most prior research has examined attitudes and knowledge among lay responders in large metropolitan areas who actively use illicit substances. The present study addresses current gaps in knowledge related to this issue through an analysis of data collected from a broader group of lay responders who received naloxone kits from 20 local health departments across Indiana.

Concepts: Drugs, Opioid, Barbiturate, Benzodiazepine overdose, Opioid overdose, Naloxone, Drug overdose


Naloxone administration is an important component of resuscitation attempts by emergency medical services (EMS) for opioid drug overdoses. However, EMS providers must first recognize the possibility of opioid overdose in clinical encounters. As part of a public health response to an outbreak of opioid overdoses in Rhode Island, we examined missed opportunities for naloxone administration and factors potentially influencing EMS providers' decision to administer naloxone. We reviewed medical examiner files on all individuals who died of an opioid-related drug overdose in Rhode Island from January 1, 2012 through March 31, 2014, underwent attempted resuscitation by EMS providers, and had records available to assess for naloxone administration. We evaluated whether these individuals received naloxone as part of their resuscitation efforts and compared patient and scene characteristics of those who received naloxone to those who did not receive naloxone via chi-square, t-test, and logistic regression analyses. One hundred and twenty-four individuals who underwent attempted EMS resuscitation died due to opioid overdose. Naloxone was administered during EMS resuscitation attempts in 82 (66.1%) of cases. Females were nearly three-fold as likely not to receive naloxone as males (OR 2.9; 95% CI 1.2-7.0; p-value 0.02). Additionally, patients without signs of potential drug abuse also had a greater than three-fold odds of not receiving naloxone (OR 3.3; 95% CI 1.2-9.2; p-value 0.02). Older individuals, particularly those over age 50, were more likely not to receive naloxone than victims younger than age 30 (OR 4.8; 95% CI 1.3-17.4; p-value 0.02). Women, older individuals, and those patients without clear signs of illicit drug abuse, were less likely to receive naloxone in EMS resuscitation attempts. Heightened clinical suspicion for opioid overdose is important given the recent increase in overdoses among patients due to prescription opioids.

Concepts: Regression analysis, Benzodiazepine overdose, Heroin, Opioid, Opioid overdose, Emergency medical services, Naloxone, Drug overdose


Recently, more than 63% of the 52,404 drug overdose deaths in the United States involved heroin and opioid pain medications. More than 30% of opioid-related deaths also involved benzodiazepines. Previous studies examining the extent of concurrent opioid and benzodiazepine use have relied on prescription data. To gain fuller insight into the extent of the concurrent use problem, we analyzed opioid and benzodiazepine prescription patterns in the context of drug testing results.

Concepts: Heroin, Benzodiazepine overdose, Drugs, Naloxone, Barbiturate, Pharmacology, Benzodiazepine, Opioid


The naloxone investigation (N-ALIVE) randomized trial commenced in the UK in May 2012, with the preliminary phase involving 5,600 prisoners on release. The trial is investigating whether heroin overdose deaths post-prison release can be prevented by prior provision of a take-home emergency supply of naloxone. Heroin contributes disproportionately to drug deaths through opiate-induced respiratory depression. Take-home emergency naloxone is a novel preventive measure for which there have been encouraging preliminary reports from community schemes. Overdoses are usually witnessed, and drug users themselves and also family members are a vast intervention workforce who are willing to intervene, but whose responses are currently often inefficient or wrong. Approximately 10% of provided emergency naloxone is thought to be used in subsequent emergency resuscitation but, as yet, there have been no definitive studies. The period following release from prison is a time of extraordinarily high mortality, with heroin overdose deaths increased more than sevenfold in the first fortnight after release. Of prisoners with a previous history of heroin injecting who are released from prison, 1 in 200 will die of a heroin overdose within the first 4 weeks. There are major scientific and logistical challenges to assessing the impact of take-home naloxone. Even in recently released prisoners, heroin overdose death is a relatively rare event: hence, large numbers of prisoners need to enter the trial to assess whether take-home naloxone significantly reduces the overdose death rate. The commencement of pilot phase of the N-ALIVE trial is a significant step forward, with prisoners being randomly assigned either to treatment-as-usual or to treatment-as-usual plus a supply of take-home emergency naloxone. The subsequent full N-ALIVE trial (contingent on a successful pilot) will involve 56,000 prisoners on release, and will give a definitive conclusion on lives saved in real-world application. Advocates call for implementation, while naysayers raise concerns. The issue does not need more public debate; it needs good science.

Concepts: Benzodiazepine overdose, Morphine, Drug addiction, Cardiopulmonary resuscitation, Death, Heroin, Naloxone, Drug overdose