April Flowers for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has released a report showing that the abuse of Xanax, also known as Alprazolam, is rising in the US — as is the number of emergency room visits associated with the drug.
“We’re seeing growth in the number of people who are getting into trouble with these drugs,” says Pete Delany, director of SAMHSA’s Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality, according to USA Today. “Patients really need to be educated that if these drugs are misused, they can be really, really dangerous.”
Between the years of 2005 and 2010, emergency department visits following non-medical use of Xanax more than doubled from 57,419 to 124,902 patients. In 2011, this number remained stable at 129,744 patients.
Xanax is a Schedule IV drug, according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), putting it low on what the government considers to be “potential for abuse.” The numbers on the SAMHSA report, which are based on data from SAMHSA’s 2011 Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN), seem to disagree.
According to the researchers, using alprazolam in a non-medical manner can result in physical dependence, causing withdrawal symptoms such as tremors and seizures. Combining it with central nervous system depressants such as alcohol or narcotic pain relievers can dangerously enhance the effects of those drugs and result in depressed breathing and heart rate. At worst, the combination can result in unconsciousness and death.
A massive 81 percent of those abusing Xanax used it in combination with some other prescription drug or alcohol. Close to two-thirds of this group used alprazolam with another prescription drug, and one-third of these used it with a prescription pain killer such as oxycodone.
For comparison, in 2011 emergency departments saw 1,200,000 visits related to the non-medical use of prescriptions drugs. Around 10 percent of that number was for Xanax alone.
In 2011 as well, Xanax was the single most commonly prescribed psychiatric medicine. In 2012, the drug was the 13th most commonly sold medication over long. Alprazolam is also known as Xanax XR and Niravam.
“When used as directed, alprazolam is safe and effective, but misuse can result in serious health consequences,” said SAMHSA Administrator Pamela S. Hyde in a recent statement. “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.”
The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) has created a National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day Initiative. SAMHSA supports this program, which provides a safe, convenient, and responsible way for people to dispose of both prescription and over the counter drugs at designated locations. The program also provides education to the public on drug misuse and abuse.