This is a drop from 2010, when those taking benzodiazepines were nearly four times as likely to be prescribed opioids, according to the study.
“People need to be aware that if they’re taking a benzodiazepine — and a lot of patients are taking benzodiazepines — and they’re also prescribed an opioid, their risk of overdosing is much higher,” Ladapo said.
“Our work shows that these patients [taking benzodiazepines], not only are they at higher risk of accidentally overdosing, but they are also more likely to be prescribed opioids. So they’re higher risk and they’re more likely to be exposed to the opioids in the first place.”
In the study, the researchers used data from the 2005-2015 National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey (NAMCS) and National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey to identify 13,146 new opioid prescriptions among adults 20 years and older. For those taking benzodiazepines, the rate of new opioid prescriptions nearly doubled between 2005 and 2010 but then dropped to 2005 levels by 2015.
This suggests that the peak of co-prescribing occured around 2010. The reason for the subsequent drop in co-prescribing is unclear, but increased coverage of the opioid epidemic due in part to celebrity overdoses may have played a role, according to Ladapo.
“Overall, there was a decline in opioid prescribing around that time. I think it was around the time that Michael Jackson overdosed … and celebrity-related events can sometimes cause these more rapid changes in what patients are doing,” Ladapo said.
The results of the study were also stratified by ethnicity, gender, age and pain diagnosis. Those patients taking benzodiazepines who were at highest risk for a new opioid prescription included African-Americans, Hispanics, those diagnosed with headaches or musculoskeletal pain, and those between 20 and 39 years of age, according to Ladapo.
“It’s a shocking number and it’s been repeated in other studies, too,” Dasgupta said. “It’s a fairly common practice and I think that makes this question so interesting.”
“We know that benzodiazepines and opioids can suppress your breathing,” Dasgupta said. “On the other hand, we have all these physicians who have been prescribing opioids and benzos together for years to tens of millions of patients … [and] maybe don’t perceive this to be as big a risk.”
The researchers of the study were not able to look at specific medication dosages, one of the study’s main limitations, according to Ladapo.
But the study still suggests that co-prescription patterns in the US may be moving in the right direction, Ladapo said.
“I think as a nation we’re all becoming more aware of the risks associated with opioids,” he added. “And just general awareness is important, because I still think that this is a risk that’s underrecognized.”
News credit : Cnn