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Researchers at RI Hospital Discover Trend Among Veterans Fatally Overdosing

Thursday, June 11, 2015


Rhode Island Hospital

Researchers at Rhode Island Hospital examined 2,400 post mortem records from VA hospitals and uncovered a common trend with fatal overdoses of many Rhode Island veterans.

Researchers discovered that nearly half of RI veterans who died from drug overdoses while being prescribed opioids for pain were being prescribed benzodiazepines, or benzos, simultaneously.

These drugs are commonly prescribed to help with anxiety, insomnia, and alcohol withdrawal.  

“The risk of receiving both opioids and benzodiazepines during this six-year period was approximately four times higher than in those who received opioids alone,” said Tae Woo Park, M.D. attending physician at Rhode Island Hospital.

The Veterans Health Administration (VHA) serves nearly nine million veterans across 150 hospitals and 800 outpatient centers.

This study opened the medical records of veterans who passed due to drug overdoses while receiving medical services as outpatients at the VHA during the period of October 2004 to September 2009 to investigate the relationship between the opioids and benzodiazepines when prescribed concurrently.


Related Slideshow: Breakdown of Overdose Deaths in RI - 2009 to 2014

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Total overdose deaths: 137

Both illicit and pharmaceutical drugs: 22

Pharmaceutical drugs only: 84

Illicit drugs only: 31

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Total overdose deaths: 152

Both illicit and pharmaceutical drugs: 36

Pharmaceutical drugs only: 82

Illicit drugs only: 24

Prev Next


Total overdose deaths: 175

Both illicit and pharmaceutical drugs: 41

Pharmaceutical drugs only: 93

Illicit drugs only: 41

Prev Next


Total overdose deaths: 182

Both illicit and pharmaceutical drugs: 34

Pharmaceutical drugs only: 85

Illicit drugs only: 63

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2013 (First Half)

Total overdose deaths: 118*

Both illicit and pharmaceutical drugs: 23

Pharmaceutical drugs only: 40

Illicit drugs only: 55

*Data only available for first half of 2013

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Total overdose deaths: 

Both illicit and pharmaceutical drugs: 

Pharmaceutical drugs only: 

Illicit drugs only: 


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