Dangerous Drug Combo Contributing to Opioid Overdose Risk

Providers urged to exercise caution in prescribing opioids for patients already using benzodiazepines
Providers urged to exercise caution in prescribing opioids for patients already using benzodiazepines

HealthDay News — From 2001 to 2013, concurrent benzodiazepine/opioid use significantly increased in privately-insured patients in the United States, according to a report published online March 14 in The BMJ.

Eric Sun, MD, PhD, an assistant professor of anesthesiology, perioperative, and pain medicine at Stanford University in California, and colleagues collected data on 315,428 privately-insured patients, aged 18 to 64, who were prescribed an opioid between 2001 and 2013. 

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The researchers found that in 2001, 9% of those patients also had prescriptions for benzodiazepines. By 2013, that had increased to 17%. Compared with patients only prescribed opioids, use of both opioids and benzodiazepines was associated with an increased risk of an emergency department visit or inpatient admission for opioid overdose among all opioid users (adjusted odds ratio, 2.14). For intermittent opioid users and chronic opioid users, the adjusted odds ratios for emergency department visit or inpatient admission for opioid overdose were 1.42 and 1.81, respectively.

"Elimination of the concurrent use of benzodiazepines and opioids could reduce the population risk of an emergency room visit or inpatient admission for opioid overdose by 15 percent," the authors write. "From a clinical perspective, providers should exercise caution in prescribing opioids for patients who are already using benzodiazepines (or vice versa), even in a non-chronic setting."

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