West Virginians are more likely than residents of other states to mix anti-anxiety medications with prescription pain pills — a potentially deadly combination — said the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and reported by Eric Eyre, staff writer for the Charleston Gazette-Mail.
For one of every five days West Virginians were taking a painkiller, the same people also were taking an anti-anxiety drug like Xanax, the CDC reported. West Virginia had the highest rate of overlapping prescriptions among the eight states taking part in the study.
“If you mix the two, that leads to most of the drug-related deaths,” said Mike Goff, administrator at the WV Board of Pharmacy. “The combination really slows down the respiratory system. You shouldn’t mix them, especially in high doses.”
West Virginia has the highest prescription-drug overdose death rate in the U. S.
The CDC also reported West Virginians are more likely to receive extra-strength prescription painkillers — long-acting oxycodone and hydrocodone — as new patients. “Giving out a big dose of opioids to someone who hasn’t had them is a problem,” Goff said. “It could potentially lead to an overdose if they prescribe too much all at once.”
Rogue pain killers have issued many of high-dose painkiller prescriptions in WV, according to Goff. State health regulators are shutting down some of the clinics as part of a crackdown on prescription drug abuse.
The CDC analyzed prescription data from eight states — West Virginia, Idaho, California, Louisiana, Maine, Ohio, Florida and Delaware — that agreed to take part in the study. The CDC said the study shows there’s an urgent need to overhaul doctor’s prescribing practices, particular for painkillers, which were prescribed twice as often as stimulants and sedatives in West Virginia and the other seven states.
Overall, the study found that a small percentage of doctors was responsible for most opioid prescriptions. “A comprehensive approach is needed to address the prescription-opioid overdose epidemic, including guidance to providers on the risks and benefits of these medications,” said Debra Houry, director of the CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control.