Half of veterans who died from opioid overdoses also received benzos


In a recent study, nearly half of all veterans who died from drug overdoses while prescribed opioids for pain were also receiving benzodiazepines, or benzos, which are common medications for the treatment of anxiety, insomnia and alcohol withdrawal. Veterans prescribed higher doses of benzodiazepines while concurrently receiving opioids were at greater risk of overdose death than those on lower doses of benzodiazepines…

I think it’s odd that this study doesn’t include information about any of the other drugs these patients were taking.  The study didn’t include antidepressants, anti-psychotics, mood stabilizers, muscle relaxers, alcohol, or illegal drugs, even though it’s obvious that this group includes veterans who suffer from different mental illnesses. It also includes all opioids, from codeine to fentynal, as if these drugs worked in the same way.

The VA has been using opioids to treat PTSD, combining them with antidepressants, benzos and mood stabilizers, so it looks like not all of these veterans were strictly chronic pain patients. But with studies like this, I’d say the VA was coming for veterans’ benzos.

And isn’t it odd that the media and politicians rarely mention benzos when talking about the opioid “epidemic”?  No, only pain medications are criminalized.


We limited methadone prescriptions in this study to those prescribed to treat pain by excluding prescriptions in which dosing instructions indicated the methadone was prescribed for maintenance, oral or effervescent methadone formulations unless the dosing schedule indicated more than once a day dosing, or the dosing schedule was once a day unless the instructions indicated the methadone was prescribed for pain. Buprenorphine is not currently indicated for pain treatment in the VHA and was not included in this analysis…

Of the 422,786 veterans in the study population, 112,069 (27%) had filled at least one prescription for benzodiazepine during the study period. Those who received benzodiazepines were more likely to be women (33% of women v 26% of men received benzodiazepines), middle aged, white, and live in wealthier areas. Additionally, they were more likely to have had a recent hospital admission for mental health or substance use disorder, to have a diagnosis of a substance use disorder or several psychiatric disorders, including post-traumatic stress disorder, other anxiety disorders, depression, and bipolar or psychotic disorders, and to use other drugs...

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