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Number of emergency room visits has doubled due to this prescription drug

Emergency room, Emergency Department

Alprazolam, the prescription sedative more commonly known by its brand name, Xanax, is being implicated in a spiraling number of emergency room visits, according to a new report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Over the past few years, the number of ER visits associated with misuse of the drug more than doubled.

In 2005, the number of patient cases involving Xanax was 57,419, and by 2011 (the last year for which there is data), there were 123,744.

“We have been clamping down on opiates (prescription painkillers) but Xanax is becoming a fast-riser in the game,” said Dr. Howard Mell, an emergency room physician based in Cleveland, Ohio.

In 81 percent of those cases Alprazolam was mixed with another drug or alcohol.

Doctors warn the sedating effect of those combinations can be deadly – worst case scenario for a person to stop breathing. 

Between 2005 and 2011, according to the SAMHSA report, the age group most likely to show up in the ER as a result of alprazolam was 25 to 34 year olds. In 2005, about 12,731 visits were among that age group, but by 2011 that number had risen to 39,651.