Emergency departments see increased visits involving the nonmedical use of sedative alprazolam

Thursday, May 22, 2014

The number of emergency department visits involving non-medical use of the sedative alprazolam doubled from 57,419 to 124,902 during the years 2005 to 2010, and then remained stable at 123,744 in 2011, according to a new report issued today by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

The non-medical use of alprazolam can lead to physical dependence, causing withdrawal symptoms such as tremors and seizures. If alprazolam is combined with alcohol or other drugs that depress the central nervous system — such as narcotic pain relievers — the effects of these drugs on the body can be dangerously enhanced.

In 2011, there were over 1,200,000 emergency department visits overall related to the nonmedical use of prescription drugs.

Alprazolam, otherwise known as Xanax, Xanax XR, and Niravam, was the 13th most commonly sold medication in 2012, and was the psychiatric medication most commonly prescribed in 2011.

"When used as directed, alprazolam is safe and effective, but misuse can result in serious health consequences," said SAMHSA Administrator Pamela S. Hyde. "This report highlights the need to educate people about the dangers of misusing or sharing prescription medications and the importance of properly disposing of unused medication."

SAMHSA supports the Drug Enforcement Administration's National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day Initiative. This initiative provides a safe, convenient, and responsible means of disposing prescription and over-the-counter drugs at various designated locations, and provides education to the general public on prescription drug misuse and abuse. For more information about Take-Back Day and proper drug disposal methods, visit: http://www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/drug_disposal/takeback/.

The report entitled, Emergency Department Visits Involving Nonmedical Use of the Anti-anxiety Medication Alprazolam, is based on data from SAMHSA's 2011 Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN) – a public health surveillance system that monitors drug-related emergency department visits in the United States.

The complete report findings are available on the following SAMHSA Web site: http://www.samhsa.gov/data/2K14/DAWN153/sr153-alprazolam-2014.pdf.

For more information about SAMHSA, visit our Web site: http://www.samhsa.gov/.

For more information, contact the SAMHSA Press Office at 240-276-2130.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) is the agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) that leads public health efforts to advance the behavioral health of the nation. SAMHSA's mission is to reduce the impact of substance abuse and mental illness on America's communities.

Last Updated: 08/19/2015