HealthDay News — Benzodiazepines are associated with an increased risk for drug overdose among young people vs alternative pharmacologic treatments for common sleep disorders, according to a study published online November 22 in JAMA Network Open.

Greta A. Bushnell, PhD, from Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey, and colleagues evaluated whether benzodiazepine treatment for sleep disorders is associated with an increased risk for drug overdose for young people (2009 through 2018) compared to alternative pharmacologic treatments (trazodone, hydroxyzine, zolpidem, zaleplon, and eszopiclone). The analysis included 23,084 young people (10 to 29 years of age) with a sleep disorder diagnosis initiating a benzodiazepine and 66,706 initiating a comparator pharmacologic treatment.

The researchers found that the crude incidence of drug overdose at 6 months was 0.9% for benzodiazepine initiators and 0.8% for comparator treatment initiators, yielding an increased risk for drug overdose with benzodiazepines vs comparator treatments in an adjusted analysis (intention-to-treat analysis: hazard ratio, 1.25; 95% CI, 1.03 to 1.51; as-treated analysis: hazard ratio, 1.44; 95% CI, 1.14 to 1.80). This association was even stronger among young people with a recent prescription opioid fill vs those without a recent prescription fill (as-treated analysis: adjusted hazard ratios [95 percent confidence intervals], 2.01 [1.24 to 3.25] vs 1.31 [1.00 to 1.70]).

“The findings of this study suggest that the elevated risk of drug overdose with benzodiazepine treatment compared with alternative pharmacologic treatments for sleep disorders is an important safety consideration when treating young people,” the authors write.

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