Trends in Prescribed Central Nervous System Depressant Medications Among Adults Who Regularly Consume Alcohol: United States 1999 to 2014

Jacob T. Borodovsky, Melissa J. Krauss, Tingying Chi, Laura J. Bierut, Richard A. Grucza

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Background: Although the risks of using central nervous system depressant (CNS-D) medications with alcohol are well documented, little is known about trends in prescribed use of these medications among individuals who regularly consume alcohol (i.e., trends in “concurrent use”). We examined changes in the prevalence of prescribed CNS-D medications among individuals who drank alcohol on 52 or more occasions in the past year (“regular drinking”). CNS-D medications included sedative-hypnotics (subclassified as anxiolytics or sleep medications) and opioids. Methods: We used 8 cross-sectional cycles of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (1999–2000 to 2013–2014) from participants aged 20 and older (n = 37,709). We used log-binomial regression to examine (i) prevalence trends of prescribed CNS-D medication use, (ii) trend differences by drinking status, and (iii) correlates of CNS-D medication use. Results: Among those who drink regularly, the relative annual increase in prevalence of sedative-hypnotic use was 5.3% (95% CI: 2.7 to 7.9): Anxiolytic and sleep medication use increased annually by 3.7% (95% CI: 0.8 to 6.7) and 11.2% (95% CI: 6.5 to 16.0), respectively. Opioid use trends among those who drink regularly were not statistically significant but were nonlinear. Differences in CNS-D medication trends between those who drink regularly and those who drink infrequently/abstain were not statistically significant. Those who drink regularly were less likely than those who drink infrequently/abstain to use opioids (adjusted relative risk [ARR]: 0.69, 95% CI: 0.60 to 0.78) and anxiolytics (ARR: 0.71, 95% CI: 0.61 to 0.81), but not sleep medications (ARR: 1.04, 95% CI: 0.80 to 1.35). Those aged 40 and older were 2 to 5 times as likely as those aged 20 to 29 to use sedative-hypnotics. Conclusions: Among those who drink regularly, the prevalence of prescribed sedative-hypnotic use increased and prescribed opioid use remained common. These trends indicate that a substantial portion of the population is at risk of alcohol-related adverse drug reactions—particularly those aged 40 and older.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1510-1518
Number of pages9
JournalAlcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2019


  • Alcohol
  • Benzodiazepine
  • Opioid
  • Sleep Medication
  • Trends


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