Sleep Apnea, Drugs, and Alcohol—the Real Danger

Did you know that your alcohol and drug use can worsen – or even CAUSE your sleep apnea?

Sleep apnea– the involuntary cessation of breathing during sleep – affects at least 18 MILLION Americans. “At least”, because many people don’t even know they have this dangerous, potentially deadly sleeping disorder.

What’s worse, personal habits like drinking and drug consumption can deepen that danger.

Opioids – One of the Causes of Sleep Apnea?

Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common type. It is typically caused by obesity or some other unhealthy condition. However, one of these “conditions” seems to be being under the effects of opioids – whether prescription pain medication or illicit street heroin.

As evidence:

  • Roughly 5% of the general population has some form of sleep apnea.
  • 75% of patients on opioid therapy for chronic pain have obstructive or central sleep apnea.

Alcohol and Prescription Medications Can Worsen Sleep Apnea

Alcohol and hypnotic sedatives are a dangerous combination for anyone with sleep apnea. Benzodiazepines are typically prescribed for antianxiety (Xanax or Valium), or as a sleep aid (Ativan or Restoril).

However, when they are mixed with alcohol, and/or opioids, a combination of these three central nervous system depressants can suppress breathing to a dangerous degree. For example, taking just one pain pill while having a few drinks can reduce respiration by up to 47%.

Even worse, these combinations can lead to involuntary stoppages of breathing – very similar to sleep apnea. The result can be deadly.

In fact, 95% of fatal drug overdoses involve multiple substances.

If you have sleep apnea, you should refrain from drinking, taking opioids, or using benzodiazepines.

But if you are finding it hard to quit using any of those substances, you may need professional help. Call Lasting Recovery today for a confidential assessment.

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