Alprazolam-Related ED Visits on the Rise

HealthDay News — There’s been a steep increase in the number of Americans being treated at emergency departments for abuse of the prescription medication alprazolam, federal officials reported.

The number of ED visits related to abuse of alprazolam (Xanax, Xanax XR, and Niravam) climbed from more than 57,000 to nearly 124,000 from 2005 to 2011, according to the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

Alprazolam-related ED visits accounted for 10% of all ED visits involving nonmedical use of pharmaceuticals during this time period. The greatest increase in nonmedical alprazolam use — approximately threefold from 2005 to 2011 — occurred among patients aged 25 to 34 years, who accounted for approximately one third (32%) of these visits in 2011.

Alprazolam was used in combination with another drug in 39% of visits. The medication was one of two drugs in 21% of visits, and one of three or more drugs in 21% of visits, SAMHSA officials reported.

In the United States, alprazolam was the most commonly prescribed psychiatric medication in 2011 and the 13th highest-selling medication in 2012, according to the report.

“This report highlights the need to educate people about the dangers of misusing or sharing prescription medications and the importance of properly disposing of unused medication,” Pamela S. Hyde, JD, a SAMHSA administrator, said in an agency news release.


  1. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality. (May 22, 2014). “The DAWN Report: Emergency Department Visits Involving Nonmedical Use of the Anti-anxiety Medication Alprazolam.” Rockville, MD. Available here: