The next overdose crisis? Benzo-related deaths on the rise in US
- The death rate from benzodiazapine-related drug overdoses has exploded in the last several years, according to research conducted by Dr. Joanna Starrels and reported by Stat.
- As attention focuses on the burgeoning opioid overdose crisis, thousands of Americans are dying from overdosing on benzodiazepines like Xanax or Valium. According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 7,000 people died from benzo overdoses in 2013—roughly a third of overall prescription drug overdose deaths.
- The increase in overdose-related deaths outpaced the rise in benzo prescriptions. Over the past 18 years, the number of prescriptions filled grew by 37%, while overdose deaths spiked fivefold.
The magnitude of the opioid crisis has become readily apparent. Yet, without as many noticing, the death rate from benzodiazepine overdoses has also increased dramatically.
There are numerous factors possibly in play. The researchers suggest people fail to appreciate how dangerous benzos can be and engage in risky use. This could include mixing benzos with opioids or alcohol. However, the researchers did find that fatal overdoses have plateaued overall since 2010, although no decrease had been detected.
Concern over opioid use has recently spilled over into the nomination process for Dr. Robert Califf to become the new FDA commissioner. A number of lawmakers placed procedural "holds" on his nomination in order to prompt FDA action. Califf and the FDA subsequently unveiled an overhaul of how the FDA approves opioids to address the issue. However, Senators Sanders (I-VT), Markey (D-MA), and Manchin (D-WV) are continuing their opposition to Califf's nomination.