Mental Health | Benzodiazepines & Sleep Disorders

Mental Health

sleep disordersMental Health | Benzodiazepines Used to Treat Sleep Disorders Associated With Heightened Overdose Risk for Teens.

Teens and young adults who are treated for sleep disorders with benzodiazepines to treat anxiety and insomnia may be at a higher risk for overdose, according to new research from Rutgers University.

Benzodiazepines were involved in 12,290 overdose deaths in 2020, up from the 6872 reported in 2011 and 1135 in 1999, according to data from the National Institute on Drug Abuse. The risk of drug overdose in youth populations prescribed a benzodiazepine for insomnia was unclear, Rutgers researchers said.

The study looked at how often young people with sleep disorders had a drug overdose in the months after starting a prescription sleep medication. Using a commercial claims database covering privately insured individuals between the ages of 10 and 29, researchers identified 90,000 people who were newly receiving a benzodiazepine or an alternative prescription treatment for a sleep disorder.

The researchers found that young people using benzodiazepines for common sleep conditions had an increased risk of overdose in the 6 months following the start of treatment compared to other sleep medications, including trazodone, hydroxyzine, and z-hypnotics. Overdose risk was highest among young people who were starting a benzodiazepine and also had recently been prescribed an opioid.

Mental Health“Given the frequent co-use of benzodiazepines with other substances, it is important to discuss with young people the potential associated harms,” study author Greta Bushnell, an assistant professor at the Rutgers School of Public Health, said in a news release. “Because other substance use may be unknown to the prescriber, adolescents and young adults should be screened for substance use and a history of overdoses before treatment.”

Additional research is needed to determine how the risks of overdose could be altered by specific benzodiazepine treatment details, including dosage, the Rutgers researchers said.
Findings were published in JAMA Network Open.

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