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A new national study shows that from 1998 to 2008 (the most recent year with available figures) substance abuse treatment admissions among those 12 and older related to the abuse of benzodiazepine drugs rose from 22,400 in 1998 to approximately 60,200 in 2008. The report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) shows that while benzodiazepine related admissions represented only 3.2- percent of all substance abuse admissions among this population in 2008, it had grown from the 1.3- percent it represented in 1998.

Benzodiazepines are a class of drugs introduced in the late 1950?s to replace barbiturates in treating anxiety, insomnia and seizure disorders. Although they can provide effective treatment for these conditions benzodiazepines can be abused and this abuse can lead to dependency, injury and even death.

The study shows that the majority of benzodiazepine-related admissions involved White, non-Hispanics (84.8-percent). Most admissions also involved males (56-percent) and those between the ages of 18 and 34 (55.3-percent).

The vast majority of benzodiazepine related admissions involved the abuse of another substance (95-percent) and in 82.1-percent of these cases, benzodiazepines were the secondary drug of abuse. Overall opiates were the primary substance in most of thesecases (54.2-percent) – a pattern which roughly held true for nearly every age group except adolescents and those aged 45 and older. Among adolescents, marijuana was by far the most frequently reported primary substance of abuse used with benzodiazepines, while among those age 45 and older alcohol as a primary substance of abuse rivaled opiates (42.1-percent for alcohol versus 47.1-percent for opiates).

“The misuse of benzodiazepines along with other prescription drugs is fueling the rise of treatment admissions,” said SAMHSA Administrator Pamela S. Hyde, J.D. “Prescription drug misuse is dangerous and can even be deadly. Everyone has a role to play in helping to prevent prescription drug misuse. Simple steps such as locking up medications and proper disposal of unused medications are easy ways people can contribute to reducing the problem.”

Substance Abuse Treatment Admissions for the Abuse of Benzodiazepines was developed as part of SAMHSA’s strategic initiative on data, outcomes, and quality – an effort to inform policy makers and service providers on the nature and scope of behavioral health issues. The report is based on data from the 1998 to 2008 Treatment Episode Data Set (TEDS). TEDS is a reporting system involving treatment facilities from across the country.

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAMHSA)

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