Mental Illness and Psychotropic Drug Use Among Prescription Drug Overdose Deaths: A Medical Examiner Chart Review

Office of Research and Evaluation, Federal Bureau of Prisons, 320 First St. N.W., Washington, D.C. 20534.
The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry (Impact Factor: 5.5). 04/2010; 71(4):491-6. DOI: 10.4088/JCP.09m05567blu
Source: PubMed


Between 1999 and 2006, there was a 120% increase in the rate of unintentional drug overdose deaths in the United States. This study identifies the prevalence of mental illness, a risk factor for substance abuse, and chronic pain among prescription drug overdose deaths in West Virginia and ascertains whether psychotropic drugs contributing to the deaths were used to treat mental illness or for nonmedical purposes.
In 2007, we abstracted data on mental illness, pain, and drugs contributing to death from all unintentional prescription drug overdose deaths in 2006 recorded by the West Virginia Office of the Chief Medical Examiner. Decedent prescription records were obtained from the state prescription drug monitoring program.
Histories of mental illness and pain were documented in 42.7% and 56.6% of 295 decedents, respectively. Psychotropic drugs contributed to 48.8% of the deaths, with benzodiazepines involved in 36.6%. Benzodiazepines contributing to death were not associated with mental illness (adjusted odds ratio [AOR] = 1.1; 95% CI, 0.6-1.8), while all other psychotropic drugs were (AOR = 3.9; 95% CI, 2.0-7.6). Of decedents with contributory benzodiazepines, 46.3% had no prescription for the drug.
Mental illness may have contributed to substance abuse associated with deaths. Clinicians should screen for mental illness when prescribing opioids and recommend psychotherapy as an adjunct or an alternate to pharmacotherapy. Benzodiazepines may have been used nonmedically rather than as a psychotropic drug, reflecting drug diversion. Restricting benzodiazepine prescriptions to a 30-day supply with no refills might be considered.

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Available from: Joseph E Logan, Sep 01, 2015
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    • "For the purposes of this paper, the term 'nonmedical use' is advocated (Lessenger & Feinberg, 2008) and used to refer to use outside of accepted medical guidelines or product labelling, by taking doses above prescribed levels, or where use occurs by an individual for whom they have not been prescribed or when over the counter products are purchased and used in a manner not in accordance with the label and product leaflet. Deregulation of certain pharmaceutical opioids to OTC status compounds issues relating to diversion and non-medical use (Francis, Barnett, & Denham, 2005; Toblin et al., 2010). Codeine (3-methylmorphine) is a prescribed and OTC available weak opiate, commonly administered for analgesic, anti-tussive and antidiarrhoeal purposes (Arora & Herbert, 2001; Derry et al., 2013). "
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