Health Secretary warns of high risk in taking both opioids and benzos

Written by Ben Allen, General Assignment Reporter | Feb 26, 2016 5:33 PM

(Harrisburg) -- Heroin may be getting the bulk of the public's attention during the current overdose crisis, but it's far from the only drug that's killing Pennsylvanians.

The state's top health official wants federal authorities to require a warning label on another group of legal drugs.

State Health Secretary Dr. Karen Murphy has signed a letter to the Food and Drug Administration along with more than 40 health officials - to call for a "black box" warning label for drugs like Xanax and Klonopin.

The drugs help reduce anxiety and are known as benzodiazepines, or benzos.

Murphy says the label should warn of the increased risk of taking benzos along with opoids like Oxycontin.

"These are highly addictive, high toxicity and very dangerous when mixed with alcohol or other drugs," she says.

Murphy says doctors should be using them as a last resort.

"Look for more holistic ways to approach the issue, whether that be anxiety or whether that be insomnia, to look for more holistic ways to approach the medical problems because these drugs, they carry a considerable risk."

According to the latest federal numbers, 31 percent of the 22,000 people who died from a prescription drug overdose in 2013 had benzos in their system.

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