CDC: Benzodiazepine, Opioid Prescriptions from Physician Visits Remain High

January 23, 2020

A new CDC report found that benzodiazepines were prescribed at 27 annual physician visits per 100 adults from 2014 to 2016.

From 2014 to 2016, benzodiazepines were prescribed at 27 annual physician visits per 100 adults, according to a new CDC report published in the National Health Statistics Reports.

Despite concerns regarding the long-term use of benzodiazepines and co-prescribing benzodiazepines and opioids, prescriptions have increased over the years. Problems associated with chronic conditions accounted for most of the visits resulting in benzodiazepine prescriptions, as well benzodiazepine co-prescriptions with opioids, the report found.

To analyze the rate of physician office visits at which benzodiazepines were prescribed, the study authors used data from the 2014-2016 National Ambulatory Care Medical Survey. Population-based visit rates were examined by select patient characteristics and visit characteristics were also presented.

According to the analysis, over the 2-year study period, benzodiazepines were prescribed at approximately 65.9 million office-based physician visits annually. The rates of prescriptions were higher among women (34 visits per 100 women) than men (20 visits per 100 men) across all age groups. Additionally, the rate at which benzodiazepines were prescribed increased with age, especially among women, for whom prescriptions were highest for those aged 65 and older.

The data showed that, at more than one-third of visits where benzodiazepines were prescribed (35%), an opioid co-prescription was also identified, corresponding to a rate of 10 annual visits per 100 adults.

Other findings demonstrate:

  • Approximately one-half of visits at which benzodiazepines were prescribed were with a primary care provider (48%)  and one-half were with a different type of provider (50%).

  • A problem related to a chronic condition was the most frequent reason for visits where benzodiazepines were prescribed (59%), followed by a new problem (23%).

  • At 11% of visits at which benzodiazepines were prescribed, benzodiazepine was a new prescription.

Overall, mental health disorders constituted the primary diagnosis category for visits where benzodiazepines were prescribed, accounting for 22% of visits. Of these, episodic mood disorder (40%) and anxiety (34%) accounted for the majority. Diseases of the musculoskeletal system and connective tissue was the most frequent primary diagnosis category for visits at which benzodiazepines were co-prescribed with opioids, according to the report.

“Analysis of office-based physician visits may help monitor benzodiazepine prescriptions and co-prescriptions of benzodiazepines and opioids,” the authors concluded.

References:

1. Santo L, Rui P, Ashman JJ. Physician office visits at Which Benzodiazepines Were Prescribed: Findings From 2014-2016 National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey. National Health Statistics Reports. 2020. https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nhsr/nhsr137-508.pdf