Prescription Monitoring Program (PMP) Overlap Data
In 2019, over 70 percent of prescription and illicit drug overdose deaths in the United States involved an opioid, with over 15 percent of these opioid related overdose deaths also involving benzodiazepines.
Benzodiazepines, sometimes called "benzos," are a type of prescription sedatives commonly used to treat anxiety, insomnia or other conditions. Benzodiazepines work to calm or sedate a person by raising levels of a neurotransmitter in the brain known as gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). Combining opioids and benzodiazepines can be potentially unsafe, because both types of drug sedate users and suppress breathing, the primary cause of overdose fatality in addition to impairing cognitive functions. Studies have estimated that overdose death rates for patients receiving both benzodiazepine and opioids may be 10 times higher relative to patients receiving only opioids. Common benzodiazepines include diazepam (Valium®), alprazolam (Xanax®), and clonazepam (Klonopin®) and lorazepam (Ativan®).
In 2016, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued new guidelines for the prescribing of opioids. CDC recommends clinicians avoid prescribing benzodiazepines concurrently with opioids whenever possible. Both prescription opioids and benzodiazepines now carry FDA "black box" warnings on the label, highlighting the dangers of using these drugs together. Many patients continue to be prescribed both drugs at the same time. These prescriptions may not always come from the same prescriber or pharmacy.
The number of Iowa residents who filled a prescription for benzodiazepines and opioids per 10,000 population, with at least one day of prescription overlap submitted to the PMP (prescription Monitoring Program).