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Professional News
Federal Health Officials Troubled by Benzodiazepine-Abuse Data
Psychiatric News
Volume 46 Number 14 page 13-21

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) released study results in June showing that substance abuse treatment admissions related to abuse of benzodiazepines rose from 1.3 percent of all substance abuse treatment admissions in 1998 to 3.2 percent of substance abuse treatment admissions in 2008, the most recent year from which data are available.

When extrapolated to population estimates, this increase represents a jump from 22,400 benzodiazepine-related substance abuse treatment admissions in 1998 to 60,200 in 2008. Currently, there are approximately 15 drugs classified as benzodiazepines.

According to the Treatment Episode Data Set, which contains the substance abuse treatment admissions data, the vast majority of the benzodiazepine-related admissions (95 percent) included abuse of another substance as well—€”of these, 82.1 percent reported primary abuse of another substance with secondary use of benzodiazepines, and 12.9 percent reported primary abuse of benzodiazepines with secondary abuse of another substance.

In admissions data that reported a primary abuse of another substance, opiates were involved in 54.2 percent of the admissions. However, for adolescent admissions, marijuana accounted for the majority of primary drugs of abuse.

"The misuse of benzodiazepines along with other prescription drugs is fueling the rise of treatment admissions," said SAMHSA Administrator Pamela Hyde, J.D., in a press release announcing the findings. "Simple steps such as locking up medications and proper disposal of unused medications are easy ways people can contribute to reducing the problem."

Of admissions in which there was another drug of abuse, 86.4 percent involved earlier use of the other substance, and 13.6 percent involved use of benzodiazepines before initiation of the other substance.

The majority of benzodiazepine-related admissions were male (56 percent), non-Hispanic whites (84.8 percent), and with ages ranging from 18 to 34 (55.3 percent).

According to the report, since benzodiazepines are most often a secondary substance of abuse, "prescribing physicians may wish to screen for alcohol and other drugs of abuse and monitor patients more closely."

The report, "The TEDS Report: Substance Abuse Treatment Admissions for Abuse of Benzodiazepines" is posted at <http://oas.samhsa.gov/2k11/028/TEDS028BenzoAdmissions.htm>.13_2.inline-graphic-1.gif

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