Pennsylvania Physician General Dr Rachel Levine and Secretary of Drug and Alcohol Programs Gary Tennis released safe prescribing guidelines for anxiety and insomnia medications, known as benzodiazepines, developed with the help of a task force.

“Benzodiazepines are medications that are frequently prescribed for anxiety or insomnia,” says Levine in a release. “However, when they are used with opioid pain medications, benzodiazepines pose a significant risk for overdose and death. These guidelines will provide health care providers with the necessary information that they need to use these medications carefully and judiciously.”

“These new guidelines mark another step in the fight against the opioid epidemic,” says Tennis. “Any combination of medications—but particularly benzodiazepines—is particularly dangerous when used with opioids. We must take responsible steps, such as providing these guidelines, to prevent more overdoses.”

The Wolf Administration has been working with the Safe and Effective Prescribing Practices Task Force since 2015 to develop recommendations on prescribing opioids and benzodiazepines for healthcare providers like dentists, emergency room doctors, and family practitioners. The task force includes members from various state agencies, representatives from medical associations, provider advocates, and community members.

Prescriptions for benzodiazepines increased nationally 320% from 1996 to 2013. Pennsylvania ranks 13th in the nation as having the highest prescribing frequency.

The guidelines provide recommendations on when to initiate benzodiazepine treatment, how to monitor, and the length of time a patient should be treated with them in combination with opioids.