Benzodiazepine overdose rates have increased in the US, largely from concomitant use of other drugs such as opioids. Studies are needed to examine trends in prescription tranquilizer (e.g., benzodiazepine) use-with a particular focus on use of other drugs such as opioids-to continue to inform prevention efforts.
We conducted a secondary analysis of the 2005-2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, a repeated cross-sectional, nationally representative probability sample. Trends in past-year nonmedical tranquilizer use and trends in demographic and other past-year substance use characteristics among nonmedical users were examined (N = 560,099).
Prevalence of nonmedical tranquilizer use remained stable from 2005/06 through 2013/14 at 2%. Prevalence of past-year heroin use and heroin use disorder both more than doubled among nonmedical tranquilizer users between 2005/06 and 2013/14 (Ps<.001). Nonmedical opioid use decreased between 2005/06 and 2013/14 (P < .001); however, opioid use disorder increased from 13.4% to 16.7% (P = .019). Prevalence doubled among those age >50 between 2005/06 and 2013/14 from 7.9% to 16.5% (P < .001), and nonmedical tranquilizer use among racial minorities also increased (Ps<.01). Prevalence of nonmedical use also increased among those with health insurance (P = .031), and this increase appeared to be driven by a 190.6% increase in nonmedical use among those with Medicare (from 2.6% to 7.4%; P = .002).
Characteristics of nonmedical tranquilizer users are shifting, and many shifts are related to past-year nonmedical prescription opioid use and heroin use. Prevention needs to be geared in particular towards older individuals and to those who use opioids nonmedically.