Teens and young adults overdosing on drugs for common mental health issues

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Newswise – A high number of teens and young adults are having an overdose involving a benzodiazepine (BZD), such as Xanax, or a psychostimulant, such as Adderall – drugs commonly used to treat mental health conditions like brain deficit disorder caution with hyperactivity and anxiety disorders – have a recent medical prescription for a BZD or a stimulant, according to Rutgers researchers who say doctors need to weigh the risks and benefits of these drugs more carefully.

the studyPosted in Pediatrics, examined how often young people who overdosed on BZD or a stimulant had a recent medical prescription for the drug. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2019, 4,777 young people died from drug overdoses in the United States – 727 from BZD overdoses and 902 from psychostimulant overdoses.

They found that 29% of young people who overdosed on BZD had received a prescription written by a doctor in the previous month and 42% in the previous six months, while 25% of young people who overdosed on stimulants had received a prescription for stimulants in the previous month and 39% in the previous six months.

“Given that a substantial proportion of young people with BZD or stimulant overdoses have received prescriptions for these drugs in the past few months, encounters with a physician when these drugs are prescribed may provide an opportunity to identify young at high risk of overdose,” said corresponding author Greta Bushnell. , senior member of the Center for Pharmacoepidemiology and Treatment Sciences at the Rutgers Institute for Health, Health Care Policy and Aging Research (IFH).

Using a large administrative database of claims in the United States covering privately insured young people between 2016 and 2018, researchers identified young people aged 15 to 24 who were hospitalized or in the emergency room for an overdose. of BZD or stimulants. The researchers then used the prescription records to determine if these young people had been prescribed these drugs in the months before their overdose.

The researchers also found that youth with intentional overdoses of BZDs and stimulants were more likely to have recently received prescriptions for these drugs than youth with unintentional overdoses.

“These results underscore the need for physicians to assess the risk of self-harm in youth who are prescribed BZDs and stimulants, as well as the need for various efforts to prevent intentional and unintentional overdoses,” Bushnell said. , who is also an assistant professor at Rutgers. School of Public Health. “Furthermore, since the potential for harm with BZDs and stimulants increases with other substances such as alcohol, illicit drugs, and opioids, discussions about limiting concurrent substance use are warranted. “

Future research quantifying the risk of BZD overdose and stimulant treatment will inform treatment decisions in this young population, the researchers said.

Co-authors include Tobias Gerhard of the Rutgers IFH Center for Pharmacoepidemiology and Treatment Sciences, Rutgers University School of Public Health and Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy, Hillary Samples of the School of Health Rutgers and the Rutgers IFH Center for Health Services Research, Diane Calello of Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, and Mark Olfson of Columbia University Irving Medical Center, New York State Psychiatric Institute. This study was supported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse under award number 1K01DA050769-01A1.

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