Friday, February 26, 2016

Sedative-Related Overdoses on the Rise

Fatal overdoses from benzodiazepines—sedatives sold under brand names such as Xanax, Valium and Ativan—are on the rise, a new study finds. Overdoses from benzodiazepines accounted for 31 percent of the almost 23,000 deaths from prescription drug overdoses in the United States in 2013, according to HealthDay. “As more benzodiazepines were prescribed, more people have died from overdoses involving these drugs,” said study author Dr. Joanna Starrels of Albert Einstein College of Medicine. “In 2013, more than 5 percent of American adults filled prescriptions for benzodiazepines. And the overdose death rate increased more than four times from 1996 to 2013.” She noted while there has been a large public health response to the epidemic of prescription opioid use, addiction and overdose, there has not been much response to the increase in prescription benzodiazepine deaths. Dr. Starrels said the rate of deaths from benzodiazepines is still lower than deaths from opioid overdoses, but noted benzodiazepine deaths also involve opioids in about 75 percent of cases. She said benzodiazepines can slow breathing, “particularly when taken with alcohol or narcotics such as OxyContin or heroin.” Starrels and colleagues used data that tracks drug prescriptions and drug overdoses. They found the number of adults who used benzodiazepines rose from 8.1 million prescriptions in 1996, to 13.5 million in 2013—a 67 percent increase. The quantity of filled prescriptions more than doubled during that period. The overdose death rate for benzodiazepines rose from 0.58 deaths per 100,000 in 1996 to more than 3 deaths per 100,000 in 2013—a more than fivefold increase. While the overall number of overdose deaths has leveled off since 2010, the rate continues to increase among adults over 65, as well as among blacks and Hispanics. The study appears in the American Journal of Public Health.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

President Obama Asks for More Than $1 Billion in New Funding for Opioid Addiction Treatment

President Obama is asking for more than $1 billion in new funding to address the opioid epidemic, USA Today reports. The funding would expand access to treatment for prescription drug abuse and heroin use. Under the proposal, the new funds would be used to help people with an opioid use disorder to seek and successfully complete treatment and sustain recovery. It would expand access to substance use treatment providers and to medication-assisted treatment for opioid use disorders. The funds will be included in the fiscal year 2017 budget request, the article notes. They include $920 million to support agreements with states to expand access to medication-assisted treatment for opioid use disorders. States can use these funds to expand treatment and lower the cost of services. Fifty million dollars would be used to expand access to 700 substance use treatment providers in areas that need mental health treatment the most, while $30 million would be used to evaluate the effectiveness of treatment programs using medication-assisted treatment. Those funds would also help identify opportunities to improve treatment for patients with opioid use disorders. The proposal also includes about $500 million to build on current efforts by the Departments of Justice and Health and Human Services to expand state-level prescription drug overdose prevention strategies. These funds would increase the availability of medication-assisted treatment programs, improve access to the opioid overdose antidote naloxone, and support targeted enforcement activities. In a statement, the White House said the proposal “will not only expand access to help people start treatment, but help them successfully complete it and sustain their recovery. It will increase education, prevention, drug monitoring programs, and law enforcement efforts to keep illegal drugs out of our communities.”