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Opiate+Benzodiazepine Rx – OD Risk Skyrockets

April 20, 2017

Short Attention Span Summary

Don’t Rx the opiate/benzo combo meal
From 2001 to 2013 the authors found that in a cohort of privately insured patients, concurrent prescriptions for a benzodiazepine and opiate were written more frequently over the years.  And the risk of overdose from opiates rose over the same time period.  Odds of inpatient admission or an ED visit in benzo/opiate combo users was 114% higher.

Spoon Feed
Writing combined prescriptions for both opiates and benzodiazepines was associated with increased risk of opiate overdose.  Stay away from this dangerous combination.


BMJ. 2017 Mar 14;356:j760. doi: 10.1136/bmj.j760.

Association between concurrent use of prescription opioids and benzodiazepines and overdose: retrospective analysis.

Sun EC1, Dixit A2, Humphreys K3, Darnall BD1, Baker LC4, Mackey S1.

Author information:

1 Department of Anesthesiology, Perioperative and Pain Medicine, Stanford University School of Medicine, 300 Pasteur Dr, H3580, Stanford, CA 94305, USA.

2 Department of Anesthesiology and Perioperative Care, University of California, San Francisco, 521 Parnassus Ave, San Francisco, CA 94131, USA.

3 Center for Innovation to Implementation, VA Palo Alto Health Care System and Department of Psychiatry, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford University, 401 N Quarry Road, MC:5717, Stanford, CA 94305, USA.

4 Department of Health Research and Policy, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford University and National Bureau of Economic Research, 150 Governor’s Lane, HRP Redwood Building, Stanford, CA 94305, USA.


Objectives To identify trends in concurrent use of a benzodiazepine and an opioid and to identify the impact of these trends on admissions to hospital and emergency room visits for opioid overdose.

Design Retrospective analysis of claims data, 2001-13.

Setting Administrative health claims database.

Participants 315‚ÄČ428 privately insured people aged 18-64 who were continuously enrolled in a health plan with medical and pharmacy benefits during the study period and who also filled at least one prescription for an opioid.

Interventions Concurrent benzodiazepine/opioid use, defined as an overlap of at least one day in the time periods covered by prescriptions for each drug.

Main outcome measures Annual percentage of opioid users with concurrent benzodiazepine use; annual incidence of visits to emergency room and inpatient admissions for opioid overdose.

Results 9% of opioid users also used a benzodiazepine in 2001, increasing to 17% in 2013 (80% relative increase). This increase was driven mainly by increases among intermittent, as opposed to chronic, opioid users. Compared with opioid users who did not use benzodiazepines, concurrent use of both drugs was associated with an increased risk of an emergency room visit or inpatient admission for opioid overdose (adjusted odds ratio 2.14, 95% confidence interval 2.05 to 2.24; P<0.001) among all opioid users. The adjusted odds ratio for an emergency room visit or inpatient admission for opioid overdose was 1.42 (1.33 to 1.51; P<0.001) for intermittent opioid users and 1.81 (1.67 to 1.96; P<0.001) chronic opioid users. If this association is causal, elimination of concurrent benzodiazepine/opioid use could reduce the risk of emergency room visits related to opioid use and inpatient admissions for opioid overdose by an estimated 15% (95% confidence interval 14 to 16).

Conclusions From 2001 to 2013, concurrent benzodiazepine/opioid use sharply increased in a large sample of privately insured patients in the US and significantly contributed to the overall population risk of opioid overdose.

Published by the BMJ Publishing Group Limited. For permission to use (where not already granted under a licence) please go to http://group.bmj.com/group/rights-licensing/permissions.

PMID: 28292769

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