A team of researchers from three medical facilities discovered via a cohort study that many of the cases of veterans drying from opioid overdose involved benzodiazepines as well.
Data from the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) from October 2004 to September 2009 were traced back to identify a link between painkiller abuse and use of benzos. The results were staggering, as reported by study co-author Tae Woo Park. “The risk of receiving both opioids and benzodiazepines during this six-year period was approximately four times higher than in those who received opioids alone,” Park said in a news release. Benzodiazepines are psychoactive drugs usually prescribed to patients who are taking opioid medication for their pain.
Results of the study revealed that close to half of veterans who died due to opioid overdose were also receiving benzos. “From a public health perspective, this is deeply troubling, because drug overdoses are a leading cause of death in the U.S. and prescribing benzodiazepines to patients taking opioids for pain is quite common. In 2010, 75 percent of pharmaceutical-related drug-overdose deaths involved opioids,” Park added.
The researchers hope that their study could pave the way for better methods of pain treatment. “As we learn more about pharmaceuticals and how they interact with each other, we can try to reduce the risk of harm to patients,” Park said.
The study was jointly conducted by Boston Medical Center, Rhode Island Hospital, and Veteran Affairs Ann Arbor Healthcare System.