(HealthDay News) — Benzodiazepines are increasingly prescribed in primary care, frequently with opioids, according to research presented at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Pain Medicine, held from March 6–9 in Phoenix.

Sean Mackey, MD, from the Stanford Systems Neuroscience and Pain Lab in Palo Alto, CA, and colleagues examined trends in benzodiazepine prescriptions in primary care. Data were included from the National Ambulatory Medical Center Survey for 3.1 billion primary care visits between 2002–2009.

The researchers found that 12.6% of primary care visits involved prescriptions for benzodiazepines or opioids. There was a 12.5% increase seen in the prescriptions of benzodiazepines each year. Patient visits involving an opioid prescription were 4.2-fold more likely to also have simultaneous benzodiazepine prescriptions, after adjustment for patient demographics, including race, ethnicity, gender, and insurance status. There was a 12 percent increase in joint prescriptions of both benzodiazepines and opioids.

“More research is needed to elucidate the reason behind the increase in benzodiazepine prescription, and a national effort is needed to highlight the danger of co-prescription of benzodiazepines and opioids,” Mackey said in a statement.

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