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Hospitalization Rate tied to Xanax is Still High, Study Finds

Update Date: May 22, 2014 10:56 AM EDT

According to a new report, misuse of the sedative, alprazolam, more widely known as Xanax continues to send many people straight to hospital emergency departments. The researchers reported that the 2011 hospitalization rates were over two times greater than the rates in 2005.

The report found that in 2011, there were over 123,000 reported cases of hospitalizations due to the abuse of Alprazolam, which is sold as Xanax XR and Niravam. In 2005, there were 57,419 cases of people misusing Xanax. This number increased by 118 percent in 2010, when there were 124,902 cases. The researchers reported that even thought the 2011 number is slightly lower than the number recorded in 2010, the overall trend suggests that Xanax abuse is still a growing problem within the U.S.

The team found that in 81 percent of the cases, people had taken Xanax with other prescription medications or with alcohol. 75 percent had used Xanax with one other prescription drug and around 66 percent had used it with a prescription painkiller, such as oxycodone. Around 52,000 people used Xanax in combination with two or more drugs. Out of this number, 85 percent had used it with other prescriptions, 46 percent used it with illicit drugs and 39 percent with alcohol. The researchers added that overall, in 2011, there were more than 1.2 million cases of emergency room visits due to prescription drug abuse.

"We're seeing growth in the number of people who are getting into trouble with these drugs," stated Pete Delany, director of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration's (SAMHSA) Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality. "Patients really need to be educated that if these drugs are misused, they can be really, really dangerous."

Xanax is one of the most popular prescribed medications. In 2011, it was the most commonly prescribed psychiatric drug. Xanax is used to treat anxiety, depression and insomnia.

The report was issued by SAMHSA.

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