The growing problem of co-treatment with opioids and benzodiazepines.

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BMJ (Clinical research ed.), ISSN: 1756-1833, Vol: 356, Page: j1224

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Karaca-Mandic, Pinar, Meara, Ellen, Morden, Nancy E
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Since 1999, the US has witnessed a fourfold increase in deaths from overdose involving prescription opioids, 1 a fact widely known by US residents. That benzodiazepines are present in over 30% of overdoses involving prescription opioids is less well known. 2 Using claims based data from 315 428 privately insured individuals in the US with at least one filled prescription for an opioid in 2001-13, Sun and colleagues (doi:10.1136/bmj.j760) examined the prevalence of a hazardous prescription combination. 3 The risk of combining opioids and benzodiazepines has long been understood; both drug classes can be sedating, suppress respiratory efforts, impair thought, slow response time, and increase falls. 2 Sun and colleagues found an alarming rise in this prescribing practice in their study population, from 9% in 2001 to 17% in 2013. They report a significantly increased risk of overdose among patients receiving both drug types concurrently, documenting one type of harm associated with this unsound and growing clinical practice.

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