Prescription opioids have made headlines for skyrocketing rates of deaths from overdoses, but a new report shows that overdose deaths from another group of medications — sedatives called benzodiazepines — are also increasing.
The researchers found that the death rate in the U.S. from overdoses on benzodiazepines has increased more than fivefold since 1996. Also known as “benzos,” the class includes drugs such as Valium and Xanax. The medicines are sometimes used in combination with opioids to treat people with chronic pain.
Overdoses involving benzodiazepines are “a public health problem that has gone under the radar,” Dr. Marcus Bachhuber, the study’s lead author and an assistant professor at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, said in a statement.