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Doctors Continue to Prescribe Sedatives too Often

Update Date: Mar 10, 2014 03:36 PM EDT

Even though prescription drugs are meant to help fight health conditions and alleviate symptoms, when they are not taken properly, they can lead to severe consequences. Over the past decades, prescription drug abuse has been the cause of many overdose cases and deaths. In a new study, researchers reported that despite the risks involved with certain drugs, such as sedatives (benzodiazepine), doctors continue to prescribe them too often.

For this study, the researchers focused primarily on prescription sedatives, such as Valium, Halcion, Xanax, Ativan and Librium. These drugs are most often prescribed for anxiety, mood disorders and insomnia. The team examined data on 3.1 billion doctor visits from 2002 to 2009. The doctor visits occurred in the office of a primary care physician.

The researchers calculated that in 12.6 percent of these visits, doctors had written some kind of prescription for sedatives or narcotic painkillers, also known as opioids. During the time frame, the researchers reported that the number of prescriptions for sedatives increased 12.5 percent a year.

The team reported that these prescriptions could lead to deadly outcomes. They estimated that patients who get opioids are 4.2 times more likely to get sedative prescriptions as well. The rate of people getting prescriptions for both types of drugs increased 12 percent a year. The use of both types of drugs can be very detrimental. The study's findings suggest that doctors might need to be extra careful when they write prescriptions for multiple conditions.

"More research is needed to [identify] the reason behind the increase in benzodiazepine prescription, and a national effort is needed to highlight the danger of co-prescription of benzodiazepines and opioids," study principal investigator Dr. Sean Mackey, director of the Stanford Systems Neuroscience and Pain Lab, said according to Medical Xpress.

The report's findings were presented at the American Academy of Pain Medicine annual meeting in Phoenix, AZ.

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