A new study shows that more and more people who check themselves into treatment with an opioid addiction are also been abusing benzos. Benzodiazepines are sedative drugs that are usually prescribed to treat symptoms of anxiety, and brand names include Ativan, Klonopin, Valium and Xanax. These drugs are also among the most abused prescriptions on the street.
According to the data gathered by researchers out of Boston, forty percent of the study subjects admitted to dual benzodiazepine and opioid use or had both drugs in their system at the time of admittance. As part of the study, which was published in the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, the researchers polled users on the reasons for their benzodiazepine use. Many of the users stated that they took the anti-anxiety medication because of increased feelings of anxiety. Only a small amount of users stated it was to get high. This information points to a dangerous spiral that often accompanies opioid addiction.
Many people who are addicted to heroin or prescription painkillers feel intense amounts of anxiety. This can come up for a number of reasons. Some people feel anxiety due to the emotional toll of lying to their families, shirking their responsibilities, or spending large amounts of money. Other people feel anxiety because of the physical side effects from the opioids. Despite the reasons, many opioid addicts seek out benzodiazepines on the black market or from doctors, ignoring the dangers in mixing the drug with opioids. Combining opioids and benzodiazepines can increase a person’s chance of developing a more serious dependency as well as increase risk of adverse health effects such as seizures, organ failure and overdose.
“Prescribers continue to need education on the risks of combining opioids and benzodiazepines, but another important target audience is drug users themselves. Some opioid users may never cross paths with a health care provider in their pursuit of opioids and benzodiazepines, and therefore may be missing out on the diagnosis of psychiatric symptoms and alternative treatments for anxiety or depression,” commented Michael Stein, lead researcher on the study and chair of the Boston University School of Public Health.
Researchers are eager to spread this information to the public, in the hopes that it will reach those who deal with addiction on a more personal level. Family members who are aware that their loved one is mixing the two drugs may be inspired to help push for treatment. The addicts themselves are likely to be unaware of the dangers of taking benzodiazepines and opioids. Lastly, doctors must continue to be more vigilant in their prescribing habits to avoid setting up their patients for troubling situations.