HealthDay News — Prescriptions for benzodiazepine and overdose deaths increased considerably from 1996 to 2013, according to a study published in the American Journal of Public Health.

Marcus A. Bachhuber, MD, MSHP, from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in Bronx, N.Y., and colleagues examined data from the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey and multiple-cause-of-death data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to describe trends in benzodiazepine prescriptions and overdose deaths among adults.

The researchers found that from 1996 to 2013, the percentage of adults filling a benzodiazepine prescription increased from 4.1% to 5.6% (with an annual percent change of 2.5%). There was also an increase in the quantity of benzodiazepines filled (from 1.1 to 3.6 kilogram lorazepam equivalents per 100,000 adults; annual percent change, 9%). The overdose death rate increased from 0.58 to 3.07 per 100,000 adults but plateaued after 2010.

“Interventions to reduce the use of benzodiazepines or improve their safety are needed,” the authors write.

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Bachhuber MA, Hennessy S, Cunningham CO, Starrels JL. Increasing Benzodiazepine Prescriptions and Overdose Mortality in the United States, 1996-2013. Am J Public Health. 2016;:e1-e3.