The prevalence of alcohol or benzodiazepine co-involvement in opioid overdose deaths (OODs) has recently been scrutinized by researchers from Boston, seeking to understand the possible contribution of other respiratory depressants these deaths. Using data from the CDC Control and Prevention Wide-Ranging Online Data for Epidemiologic Research (WONDER) database of all opioid-involved poisoning deaths the researchers looked at State-level binge drinking prevalence rates for 2015 to 2017 and benzodiazepine prescribing rates.

399 230 poisoning deaths involved opioids, 66.0% were male, and 204 560 (51.2%) were aged 35 to 54 years. Alcohol co-involvement for all opioid overdose deaths increased from 12.4% in 1999 to 14.7% in 2017. Involvement of alcohol was highest for deaths related to heroin and synthetic opioids (fentanyl and others excluding methadone) – 15.5% and 14.9%, respectively. There was a benzodiazepine co-involvement in all OODs at 8.7% in 1999, increasing markedly to 21.0% in 2017. Benzodiazepines were present in 33.1% of prescription OODs and 17.1% of synthetic OODs in 2017. State-level rates of binge drinking were significantly correlated with alcohol co-involvement in all OODs. This data points to the need for focused policy strategies in harm reduction and overdose prevention. The original research can be viewed here.