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Quarantining with Benzos [60 Sec Psych]

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Benzo prescriptions have risen 34% during COVID-19, particularly in women. People are also getting benzos outside of prescriptions. Drs. Islam and Choudhry discussed the emerging trend in a commentary in Clinical Psychiatry News. Specifically, they are concerned that people will obtain benzos over the internet, and that this casual use can raise the risk of overdose deaths.

Published On: 10/14/20

Duration: 5 minutes, 36 seconds

Transcript:

Benzo prescriptions have risen 34% during COVID-19, particularly in women. People are also getting benzos outside of prescriptions

Drs. Islam and Choudhry discussed the emerging trend in a commentary in Clinical Psychiatry News. Specifically, they are concerned that people will obtain benzos over the internet, and that this casual use can raise the risk of overdose deaths. Although media attention has focused on the opioid crisis, it’s important to understand that the majority of opioid-related fatalities involved benzodiazepines in the mix. Both drugs suppress breathing, but they do so in different ways, such that the two together a  re much more dangerous than either alone. Throw in alcohol, and the chance of fatal respiratory suppression is even higher.

If you’re prescribing benzos to patients on opiates – check out our Sept 2018 issue, which has a chart that will help you figure out whether the benzo is safe or not and which benzos have the lowest overdose risk. Also the May 2020 issue of the Carlat Addiction Report has a good interview on benzos and opioids with Ken Morford from Yale.

While complete respiratory suppression is a fatal result of benzo and opioid toxicity, we also need to pay attention to the partial respiratory suppression that occurs with everyday benzodiazepine use. When the lungs slow down, infections find it easier to gain entrance. Benzos increase the risk of pneumonia by 25% – according to a 2019 meta-analysis of 10 studies involving 120,000 cases of pneumonia.

References:

  • Islam FA, Choudhry ZU, Choudhry Z. Revisiting Xanax amid the coronavirus crisis. Clinical Psychiatry News, July 15, 2020. [Link]
  • Sun GQ, Zhang L, Zhang LN, Wu Z, Hu DF. Benzodiazepines or related drugs and risk of pneumonia: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Int J Geriatr Psychiatry. 2019;34(4):513-521. [Link]

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