-- Robert Preidt
FRIDAY, March 7, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Doctors in the United
States are writing more prescriptions for sedatives than ever
before, and the frequent use of these powerful drugs in combination
with narcotic painkillers may be causing medication-related deaths,
a new study suggests.
Sedatives are used to treat problems such as anxiety, mood
disorders and insomnia, and include drugs such as Valium, Halcion,
Xanax, Ativan and Librium.
For the study, researchers looked at 3.1 billion primary care
visits made by Americans between 2002 and 2009, and found that 12.6
percent of those visits involved prescriptions for sedatives
(benzodiazepines) or narcotic (opioid) painkillers. They also found
that the number of prescriptions for sedatives increased 12.5
percent a year.
Patients who received narcotic painkiller prescriptions were 4.2
times more likely to also have sedative prescriptions, and the
number of joint prescriptions of opioids and benzodiazepines rose
12 percent a year, the Stanford University researchers said.
Their findings were presented March 6 at the annual meeting of
the American Academy of Pain Medicine, in Phoenix, Ariz. Research
presented at medical meetings should be viewed as preliminary until
published in a peer-reviewed journal.
"More research is needed to [identify] 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," study principal investigator Dr. Sean Mackey, director of the Stanford Systems Neuroscience and Pain Lab, said in a pain academy news release.
The study showed that the use of sedatives and narcotic
painkillers contribute to at least 30 percent of narcotic
painkiller-related deaths, according to the investigators. They
also noted there are a number of risks associated with sedative
use, including falls in older people, emergency department visits
and drug dependence.
Doctors need to be better educated about the risks of combining
the two medications, and there needs to be better coordination
between those who prescribe narcotic painkillers (often primary
care doctors or pain specialists) and those who prescribe sedatives
(often primary care doctors or psychiatrists), said study co-author
Dr. Ming-Chih Kao, a clinical assistant professor at Stanford
University Medical Center, in California.
The Center for Substance Abuse Research at the University of
Maryland has more about
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