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Daily Dose: Benzodiazepines for Sleep Disorders Linked to Increased Risk for Drug Overdose among Youth


Patient Care brings primary care clinicians a lot of medical news every day—it’s easy to miss an important study. The Daily Dose provides a concise summary of one of the website's leading stories you may not have seen.

On November 30, 2022, we reported on a study published in JAMA Network Open that evaluated whether benzodiazepine treatment for sleep disorders, compared with alternative pharmacologic treatments was associated with an increased risk of drug overdose for young people.

The study

Researchers included privately insured individuals aged 10 to 29 years identified from the MarketScan commercial claims database from January 2009 to December 2018. Young people with a sleep disorder diagnosis initiating benzodiazepine (n=23 084) or comparator pharmacologic treatments (n=66 706) were enrolled in the study.

Six months after the start of treatment, 9.7% of the benzodiazepine group and 12.3% of the comparator arm were still receiving treatment. The crude incidence of drug overdose at 6 months was 0.9% for benzodiazepine users and 0.8% for comparator treatment initiators. In adjusted analyses, an increased risk of drug overdose was associated with benzodiazepines vs comparator treatments.

Clinical implications

"With the lack of large, head-to-head trials of benzodiazepine and alternative sleep medications among young people, continued observational research on the comparative safety of pharmacologic treatments for sleep disorders is necessary to guide treatment decisions. By quantifying the 6-month risk of drug overdose after benzodiazepine treatment initiation for sleep disorders and providing comparative estimates on drug overdose among initiators of other pharmacologic interventions, we hope to inform prescribing decisions and encourage close monitoring for this young patient population."

Click here for more details.

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