Emergency Departments See Increased Visits Involving Abuse of Sedative Alprazolam (Xanax)
The number of emergency department visits involving non-medical use of the sedative alprazolam – otherwise known as Xanax, Xanax XR and Niravam – doubled from 57,419 to 124,902 during the years 2005 to 2010, and then remained stable at 123,744 in 2011, according to a new report issued this week by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).
The non-medical use of alprazolam can lead to physical dependence, causing withdrawal symptoms such as tremors and seizures. If alprazolam is combined with alcohol or other drugs that depress the central nervous system — such as narcotic pain relievers — the effects of these drugs on the body can be dangerously enhanced.
In 2011, there were over 1,200,000 emergency department visits overall related to the nonmedical use of prescription drugs.
Alprazolam was the 13th most commonly sold medication in 2012, and was the psychiatric medication most commonly prescribed in 2011.
“When used as directed, alprazolam is safe and effective, but misuse can result in serious health consequences,” said SAMHSA Administrator Pamela S. Hyde. “This report highlights the need to educate people about the dangers of misusing or sharing prescription medications and the importance of properly disposing of unused medication.”
The report entitled, Emergency Department Visits Involving Nonmedical Use of the Anti-anxiety Medication Alprazolam, is based on data from SAMHSA’s 2011 Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN) – a public health surveillance system that monitors drug-related emergency department visits in the United States.
The complete report findings are available on the following SAMHSA Web site: http://www.samhsa.gov/data/2K14/DAWN153/sr153-alprazolam-2014.pdf