Benzodiazepines: Dangerous Drugs
On February 25, Kristina Fiore published an article on MedPage today. It’s titled Killing Pain: Xanax Tops Charts.
The article is based on a study conducted by Jann M et al, and published in the February 2014 issue of the Journal of Pharmacy Practice. The study is titled Benzodiazepines: a major component in unintentional prescription drug overdoses with opioid analgesics. Here’s a quote:
“During 2003 to 2009, the 2 prescriptions drugs with the highest increase in death rates were oxycodone 264.6% and alprazolam 233.8%. Therefore, benzodiazepines have a significant impact on prescription drug unintentional overdoses second only to the opioid analgesics. The combination prescribing of benzodiazepines and opioid analgesics commonly takes place. The pharmacokinetic drug interactions between benzodiazepines and opioid analgesics are complex. The pharmacodynamic actions of these agents differ as their combined effects produce significant respiratory depression.”
Alprazolam is a benzodiazepine. It was marketed as Xanax in 1981, and has been available in generic form since 1993. It is used by psychiatrists as an anti-anxiety agent.
When the benzodiazepines were first introduced, it was widely claimed, both by psychiatrists and by pharma, that they were non-addictive. This claim was subsequently abandoned in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, and the addictive potential of these products is now recognized and generally accepted.
Incidentally, you can find some interesting history on the promotion of tranquilizers, including benzos, on a Medpage timeline published last month. The timeline presents ads gathered from the New England Journal of Medicine and from the Journal of the American Medical Association. It’s tawdry stuff. Thanks to Laura Delano for the link.