The number of teens taking, and overdosing from benzodiazepines, commonly prescribed anxiety medications, has risen dramatically over the past decade, according to a national study from Rutgers University-New Brunswick coauthored by Rutgers researchers.
54% increase in cases involving children ages 12 to 18 reported to U.S. Poison Control from 2000 to 2015
The study, published in the journal Clinical Toxicology, found a 54 percent increase in cases involving children ages 12 to 18 that were reported to U.S. Poison Control Centers from 2000 to 2015.
Researchers analyzed 296,838 benzodiazepine exposure cases involving children under the age of 18
The researchers, from several institutions including MedStar Health, analyzed 296,838 benzodiazepine exposure cases involving children under the age of 18 obtained from the National Poison Data System. While the rate of exposure in children under the age of 6 decreased, the rate for adolescents rose from 17.7 exposures per 100,000 children in 2000 to 27.3 exposures per 100,000 children in 2015. The study also found a rise in intentional abuse, with nearly half of all reported exposures in 2015 documented as intentional abuse, misuse or attempted suicide.
Findings of this study
“While benzodiazepine overdose by itself is typically not life-threatening, the findings of this study show an increase in teens taking one or more additional substances, which increases the severity of the effects, including death or life-threatening symptoms that can affect future health,” said Diane Calello, executive and medical director of the New Jersey Poison Control Center at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School’s Department of Emergency Medicine, one of the authors.
70,000 children receive care in an emergency department annually due to medication overdoses
Approximately 70,000 children receive care in an emergency department annually due to medication overdoses, with nearly 12 percent of these visits resulting in hospitalization. Calello said the increased availability of prescription medications is a likely cause of both adult and pediatric poisonings.
Increasing rate of reported benzodiazepine exposures appear to reflect the increasing rate of benzodiazepine prescriptions
“Our study group found that the increasing rate of reported benzodiazepine exposures appear to reflect the increasing rate of benzodiazepine prescriptions that have been reported across the United States over the past decade,” she said. “Medical providers should be aware of the increased prevalence of benzodiazepine exposures to help limit unnecessary prescribing. Parents and caregivers must be counseled on the proper use, storage and disposal of these high-risk medications.”
- Friedrich, J.M., et al. (2019) Child and adolescent benzodiazepine exposure and overdose in the United States: 16 years of poison center data. Clinical Toxicology. doi.org/10.1080/15563650.2019.1674321.
Razi Berry is the founder and publisher of the journal Naturopathic Doctor News & Review, which has been in print since 2005, and the premier consumer-faced website of naturopathic medicine, NaturalPath. She is the host of The Love is Medicine Project docuseries, The Natural Cancer Prevention Summit, The Heart Revolution-Heal, Empower and Follow Your Heart, and the popular 10-week Sugar Free Summer program. From a near death experience as a young girl that healed her failing heart, to later overcoming infertility and chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia through naturopathic medicine, Razi has lived the mind/body healing paradigm. Her projects uniquely capture the tradition and philosophy of naturopathy: The healing power of nature, the vital life force in every living thing and the undeniable role that science and mind/body medicine have in creating health and overcoming dis-ease. You can follow Razi on social media: Facebook at Razi Berry, Instagram at Razi.Berry and join the Love is Medicine group to explore the convergence of love and health. Look for more, and listen to more Love is Medicine podcast episodes here.