Fatal prescription-drug overdoses in the United States have increased sharply in recent years. But while most of the deaths have involved opioid painkillers like oxycodone, a study suggests that anti-anxiety medications now are playing an outsize role in overdose deaths. The number of Americans filling prescriptions for anti-anxiety drugs — benzodiazepines like Valium and Xanax that are used to treat anxiety, panic disorders and insomnia — increased 67 percent between 1996 and 2013, the study found. But the rate of overdose deaths involving these drugs — 3.07 per 100,000 adults in 2013 — increased more than fourfold.


Small weight loss can have big benefits

Obese individuals who lose as little as 5 percent of their body weight can improve their metabolic function and reduce the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes and heart disease, a new study has found. Many current guidelines urge patients to lose between 5 and 10 percent of their body weight in order to experience health benefits. The study, a clinical trial, found that insulin sensitivity improved significantly after participants lost just 5 percent of their body weight, as did triglyceride concentrations, blood pressure and heart rate.


Heartburn drugs tied to dementia risk

The popular heartburn drugs known as proton pump inhibitors have been linked to a range of ills: bone fractures, kidney problems, infections and more. Now a large new study has found that they are associated with an increased risk for dementia as well. Proton pump inhibitors, or PPIs, include Prevacid, Prilosec and Nexium. German researchers studied PPI use in 73,679 men and women older than 75. Over an average follow-up period of more than five years, about 29,000 developed Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias. They found that regular use of PPIs increased the risk for dementia in men by 52 percent and in women by 42 percent, compared with nonusers.

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