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January 15, 1982

Overdose of Benzodiazepines

Author Affiliations

USA Dwight David Eisenhower Army Medical Center Ft Gordon, Ga

JAMA. 1982;247(3):304. doi:10.1001/jama.1982.03320280026014

To the Editor.—  The survey by Carl Chambers, PhD, in the MEDICAL NEWS section concerning the prescribing of minor tranquilizers (1981;246:14) reports that 7% of 150 physicians polled had at least one patient die of overdose from benzodiazepines alone or in combination with alcohol. The proportion of these deaths attributed to benzodiazepines alone is not stated. This is an important distinction in that the preponderance of evidence suggests that deaths owing to benzodiazepines alone are uncommon.1In a survey of medical examiners done by Finkle and associates (1979; 429-434), they report on 1,239 overdose deaths involving diazepam. Only two of these were attributed to diazepam alone. Most cases involved two or more substances, and the other drugs found most frequently were alcohol, propoxyphene, and morphine.In a multiple-drug overdose, it has not been determined whether benzodiazepines potentiate, add, or have little contribution to fatal outcome. Certainly the other commonly