Emergency Department Visits and Overdose Deaths From Combined Use of Opioids and Benzodiazepines


      Opioid analgesics and benzodiazepines are the prescription drugs most commonly associated with drug overdose deaths. This study was conducted to assess trends in nonmedical use−related emergency department (ED) visits and drug overdose deaths that involved both opioid analgesics and benzodiazepines in the U.S. from 2004 to 2011.


      Opioid analgesic and benzodiazepine nonmedical use−related ED visits from the Drug Abuse Warning Network and drug overdose deaths from the National Vital Statistics System were analyzed for 2004−2011 to determine trends and demographic-specific rates. Data were analyzed from March 2014 to June 2014.


      From 2004 to 2011, the rate of nonmedical use–related ED visits involving both opioid analgesics and benzodiazepines increased from 11.0 to 34.2 per 100,000 population (p-trend<0.0001). During the same period, drug overdose deaths involving both drugs increased from 0.6 to 1.7 per 100,000 (p-trend<0.0001). Statistically significant increases in ED visits occurred among males and females, non-Hispanic whites, non-Hispanic blacks, and Hispanics, and all age groups except 12- to 17-year-olds. For overdose deaths, statistically significant increases were seen in males and females, all three race/ethnicity groups, and all age groups except 12- to 17-year-olds. Benzodiazepine involvement in opioid analgesic overdose deaths increased each year, increasing from 18% of opioid analgesic overdose deaths in 2004 to 31% in 2011 (p-trend<0.0001).


      ED visits and drug overdose deaths involving both opioid analgesics and benzodiazepines increased significantly between 2004 and 2011. Interventions to improve the appropriate prescribing and use of these medications are needed.
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