Opioids, Benzodiazepines, and Z-Drugs: Dangerous Mixing on the Rise

Opioids, Benzodiazepines, and Z-Drugs: Dangerous Mixing on the Rise

“While the proportions may seem small, these percentages at a population-level correspond to millions of people and the growth of these numbers is alarming.”

~ Dr. Nicholas Vozoris, Associate Scientist, Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute of St. Michael’s Hospital, Toronto

PillsAccording to a brand-new study just published in Sleep, the number of American patients who are taking the dangerous, potentially-deadly drug combination of opioid painkillers and benzodiazepine tranquilizers has increased by an alarming 250% over a 15-year period.

Just as concerning is the fact that the number of patients taking both benzodiazepines and similarly-acting Z-drugs  (David – Link to the Z-drug blog) has increased by an astounding 850% over the same period.

These findings were made after researchers analyzed the data from eight separate National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey cycles between 1999 and 2014.

In total, there are 4.3 million people are using both benzodiazepines and opioids, and another 1.5 million people using benzodiazepines and Z-drugs.

Why Are These Drug Combinations So Dangerous?

These separate classes of drugs are all Central Nervous System (CNS) depressants, affecting heart rate, blood pressure, and especially, respiration.  When used together, these effects are magnified to a dangerous degree.

In fact, patients who take both painkillers and tranquilizers have a risk of death that is 15 times higher than patients not taking those medications.

Significantly, while much of the nation’s attention is on the ongoing—and worsening—opioid epidemic, 31% of overdose fatalities involve tranquilizers such as Xanax or Valium. 

The Risk of Polydrug Abuse

While both opioids and tranquilizers are both popular drugs of abuse on their own, the combination is also frequently seen among addicts.  Supposedly, using them together prolongs the high.  According to one study, the use of tranquilizers is a more accurate predictor of future painkiller abuse than chronic pain.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has reported that painkiller/“benzo” combinations are the top cause of emergency room visits resulting from the non-medical use of prescription drugs.

  • 73% of heroin users admit to past-year tranquilizer use.
  • One-quarter reported daily use.
  • 1 in 3 heroin users had a tranquilizer prescription within the last month.
  • 40% of opioid maintenance treatment clients (suboxone or methadone)have had a tranquilizer prescription within the 12 months.
  • That rate is eight times that of the general population.
  • Up to half of new methadone therapy admissions also need to detoxify from tranquilizers.
  • Between 40% and 60% of chronic pain patients use benzos regularly.
  • Over 16% of painkiller patients test positive for benzos.

What Does This Mean for YOU?

In fact, 75% of all overdoses—and 98% of those that are fatal—involve multiple substances.  The best way to protect yourself is to get professional help that will help you overcome your simultaneous addictions.

And if you live in Southern California, your best, most-trusted local resource is Lasting Recovery, a premier outpatient drug rehab and mental health program in San Diego.

By providing treatment services that are backed by empirical, scientific evidence, Lasting Recovery gives you the education, counseling, support, fellowship, and if necessary, the medication you need to safely and soberly avoid the dangers of all drug use and abuse.

If you are ready to start your own sober journey, contact Lasting Recovery TODAY.