The abuse of prescription drugs has led to a significant increase in emergency department (ED) visits and drug-related deaths over the past decade. Opioid pain relievers (OPRs) and benzodiazepines are the prescription drugs most commonly involved in these events. Excessive alcohol consumption also accounts for a significant health burden and is common among groups that report high rates of prescription drug abuse. When taken with OPRs or benzodiazepines, alcohol increases central nervous system depression and the risk for overdose. Data describing alcohol involvement in OPR or benzodiazepine abuse are limited. To quantify alcohol involvement in OPR and benzodiazepine abuse and drug-related deaths and to inform prevention efforts, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and CDC analyzed 2010 data for drug abuse-related ED visits in the United States and drug-related deaths that involved OPRs and alcohol or benzodiazepines and alcohol in 13 states. The analyses showed alcohol was involved in 18.5% of OPR and 27.2% of benzodiazepine drug abuse-related ED visits and 22.1% of OPR and 21.4% of benzodiazepine drug-related deaths. These findings indicate that alcohol plays a significant role in OPR and benzodiazepine abuse. Interventions to reduce the abuse of alcohol and these drugs alone and in combination are needed.
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