2019 to 2020 Saw Increase in Benzodiazepine Overdose ED Visits

Benzodiazepine deaths increased from April-June 2019 to April-June 2020, with larger increase for illicit benzodiazepine deaths

THURSDAY, Aug. 26, 2021 (HealthDay News) — From 2019 to 2020, there was an increase in benzodiazepine overdose emergency department visits and in benzodiazepine deaths, according to research published in the Aug. 27 issue of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Stephen Liu, Ph.D., from the CDC in Atlanta, and colleagues analyzed annual and quarterly trends in suspected benzodiazepine-involved nonfatal overdoses treated in emergency departments during January 2019 to December 2020 for 32 states and the District of Columbia and assessed benzodiazepine-involved overdose deaths during January 2019 to June 2020 for 23 states.

The researchers found that benzodiazepine overdose emergency department visits increased 23.7 percent per 100,000 emergency department visits from 2019 to 2020, with increases for those with and without opioid involvement (34.4 and 21.0 percent, respectively). Overall benzodiazepine deaths increased 42.9 percent from April-June 2019 to April-June 2020; prescription and illicit benzodiazepine deaths increased 21.9 and 519.6 percent, respectively. Most (92.7 percent) of the benzodiazepine deaths during January to June 2020 also involved opioids, mainly illicitly manufactured fentanyls (66.7 percent)

“Expansion of naloxone availability and rapid naloxone administration should be encouraged for overdoses involving benzodiazepines and opioids because naloxone reverses opioid overdoses irrespective of benzodiazepine presence,” the authors write. “However, educational efforts should emphasize the dangers of using illicit benzodiazepines, especially in combination with opioids, and the importance of calling 9-1-1 even after naloxone administration.”

One author was employed by Peers and Partners Inc., a management consulting firm.

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