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Research warns about risk of taking opioids with benzodiazepines

Taking opioids together with benzodiazepines is associated with greater risk of opioid overdose, study results suggest.
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Taking opioids together with benzodiazepines is associated with greater risk of opioid overdose, study results suggest.

Researchers from California studied more than 300,000 privately insured people aged 18-64, who were prescribed an opioid between 2001-13.

The study, published in the British Medical Journal, is a retrospective analysis of data from an administrative health claims database set out to identify trends in concurrent use of a benzodiazepine and an opioid.

Researchers found that 9% of opioid users also received a prescription for benzodiazepine in 2001, increasing to 17% in 2013.

Reducing risk

Nearly 30% of fatal opioid overdoses in the US also involve benzodiazepines.

Concurrent use of both drugs was associated with a substantially higher risk of an

...

Taking opioids together with benzodiazepines is associated with greater risk of opioid overdose, study results suggest.


Use of opioids in conjunction with benzodiazepines was associated with a substantially higher risk of an
emergency room visit.   Picture: Science Photo Library

Researchers from California studied more than 300,000 privately insured people aged 18-64, who were prescribed an opioid between 2001-13.

The study, published in the British Medical Journal, is a retrospective analysis of data from an administrative health claims database set out to identify trends in concurrent use of a benzodiazepine and an opioid.

Researchers found that 9% of opioid users also received a prescription for benzodiazepine in 2001, increasing to 17% in 2013.

Reducing risk 

Nearly 30% of fatal opioid overdoses in the US also involve benzodiazepines.

Concurrent use of both drugs was associated with a substantially higher risk of an emergency room visit or inpatient admission for opioid overdose, and the authors warn about prescribing and patients taking the drugs concurrently.

If the association is found to be causal, the authors argue, the elimination of the concurrent use of both drugs could reduce the risk of an emergency room visit or inpatient admission for opioid overdose by 15%.


Sun E et al (2017) Association between concurrent use of prescription opioids and benzodiazepines and overdose: retrospective analysis. BMJ. http://www.bmj.com/content/356/bmj.j760

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