America's ERs Have a Xanax Problem

Number has of alprazolam-related visits doubled between 2005 and 2011
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted May 23, 2014 7:20 AM CDT
Number has of alprazolam-related visits doubled between 2005 and 2011.   (Flickr/Dean)

(Newser) – As if Xanax users didn't have enough to worry about, the number of people visiting the emergency room due to complications related to alprazolam—the generic name for Xanax—has more than doubled in recent years, according to a new report. Alprazolam accounted for 10% of all ER visits involving prescription drug use in 2011, the last year for which data is available, with 123,744 admissions. That's actually down slightly from 2010, USA Today points out, but it's up drastically from the 57,419 seen in 2005.

The anxiety and depression drug was the most widely prescribed psychiatric medicine in 2011. But it can be dangerous if a patient takes too much—intentionally or otherwise—or mixes it with alcohol or other drugs, as 81% of the ER patients did. Alcohol and other depressants can amplify alprazolam's sedative effects. "To use a math analogy, instead of 1+1 equaling 2, 1+1 equals 5," CNN explains. Among the worst outcomes of doing so: The patient stops breathing.

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