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Prescription drug abuse rates are rapidly increasing in the United States. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the U.S. makes up only 5 percent of the world’s population, yet it is responsible for the consumption of 75 percent of the world’s prescription drugs. Abuse of prescription drugs occurs who the drug is taken in a manner other than its intended purpose such as to get high.

Prescription drug abuse can take over someone's life if help isn't found. It doesn’t have to be this way though. For those who are struggling with prescription drug abuse and addiction, help is only a phone call away.

04-20 Eliminating concurrent use of benzodiazepine and opioid may reduce opioid overdose risk

Posted in Drug abuse, Drug addiction, Opioid addiction by Rachael - 0 Comments
Eliminating concurrent use of benzodiazepine and opioid may reduce opioid overdose risk

Benzodiazepines, widely known by their brand names Xanax and Valium, are prescribed for the treatment of neurological and/or psychological conditions, including anxiety, insomnia and seizures. Opioids are used to treat moderate-to-severe pain, where over-the-counter painkillers like ibuprofen, does not help. Both the classes of drugs are central nervous system (CNS) depressants. However, each has a unique pharmacology, safety risks and labeling information related to its use.

A study, published in the British Medical Journal in March 2017, compared the risk of overdose due to the concurrent use of the above two drugs versus using only opioids. The results of this study are drawn from a huge sample of 315,428 patients who were continuously enrolled in private health insurance plans from 2001 to 2013. During the study, it was found that the concurrent use of these drugs more than doubled the risk of a drug overdose.

The study also suggests that while some of the incidents of overdose happen due to accidentally prescribing benzodiazepines and opioids to the same patient in dangerous quantities, some patients intentionally take more of these drugs to get “high.” Benzodiazepines enhance the effect of opioid painkillers and therefore these drugs when used in combination has a high potential for abuse.

Consequences of mixing opioid painkillers and benzodiazepines

There is an increased risk of overdosing on either opioid painkillers, such as Vicodin or oxycodone, or benzodiazepines, such as Xanax and Valium, alone. However, when both opioids and benzodiazepines are mixed, it becomes a lethal combination with fatal side effects. Two of the deadliest side effects of mixing are oversedation and depressed breathing.

Oversedation puts individuals at an increased risk of falling, as they are unable to wake up or respond to stimuli. Therefore, such people are at an increased risk of witnessing fatal accidents if they happen to be driving. They can also slip into a coma. Depressed breathing would lead to a lack of oxygen to the brain, eventually affecting the vital organs and leading to brain damage and death.

Efforts by FDA to eliminate combined use

According to a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) review, the number of patients who were prescribed both an opioid analgesic and benzodiazepine increased by 41 percent between 2002 and 2014. This means that there was an increase of more than 2.5 million patients taking opioid analgesics while also receiving benzodiazepines.

In an effort to help stem the tide of drug overdose, the FDA has mandated the use of “black box warnings” on nearly 400 products to warn the users about the dangers of using opioid painkillers concurrently with benzodiazepines. This is by far the highest level of warning system mandated by the FDA. In addition, patient-focused medication guides are to be provided by pharmacists for several related products with consumer-friendly language explaining the risks associated with the usage of the drugs.

Scope of recovery

If a person overdoses on benzodiazepines like Xanax or Valium, painkillers like Vicodin or oxycodone, or a combination of these medications, it is important to get emergency medical help as soon as possible. If you or your loved one is battling prescription drug addiction, contact the Colorado Prescription Abuse Helpline to get assistance in accessing the best prescription drug abuse treatment centers in Colorado that specialize in delivering evidence-based intervention plans. Call us at our 24/7 helpline number 866-922-5915 or chat online with our medical representatives to know more about the prescription abuse treatment centers in Colorado.