Which Misused Prescription Meds Send Americans to the ER? – By Dennis Thompson – Mar 2019
Most folks treated in a U.S. emergency room for misuse of prescription medications get into trouble because they mix different substances, a new study reports.
Benzodiazepines like Xanax (alprazolam) and Ativan (lorazepam) are most commonly implicated in health crises that lead to an ER visit, followed by prescription opioids, researchers found.
But in most cases, the patients fell ill because these drugs were taken with other substances and created a dangerous interaction, said lead researcher Dr. Andrew Geller.
We’ve known from the start that overdoses weren’t caused by patients taking their prescribed medicine as directed and nothing else.
“Most of the time there may have been only one pharmaceutical involved, but there were other non-pharmaceutical substances or psychoactive drugs or alcohol involved as well,”
“When people get into trouble with misusing medicines, they’re usually taking more than one substance.”
Misuse could involve
- taking someone else’s medication,
- taking a larger dose than prescribed, or
- trying to use prescription drugs to get high,
“Misuse” means doing anything other than what the prescription label specifies, and that means even taking *less* than prescribed is considered “misuse” (probably because “hoarding” spares is also “misuse”).
The researchers identified nearly 360,000 ER visits related to misuse of pharmaceuticals, the findings show.
Benzodiazepines were the primary prescription drug in 47 percent of cases, and prescription opioids like OxyContin (oxycodone) were cited in 36 percent of cases.
I don’t know if it’s good news or bad when a different drug climbs into the lead for causing overdoses.
From recent experience, I know this will be completely ignored by the politicians competing to create the most restrictive opioid policies.
“These results are consistent with other studies showing the potentially severe effects of misusing multiple pharmaceutical medications, especially opioids in combination with benzodiazepines,” said Linda Richter, director of policy research and analysis with the Center on Addiction.
Prior studies have also shown that most people who misuse or depend on an addictive substance do not use that substance in isolation, she added.
Half of the ER visits involved patients younger than 35. Despite concerns over opioid abuse among older adults, only 1 in 20 cases involved someone 65 or older.
“Before deciding to prescribe a commonly misused medication like a prescription opioid or benzodiazepine, physicians should ask a few questions to help determine if the patient currently is misusing substances,”
The study appears in the March 6 American Journal of Preventive Medicine.