Benzodiazepines are prescription sedatives that are usually associated with the 1960s. Back then, these drugs were commonly referred to as “mother’s little helpers.” But, according to Scientific American, benzo prescriptions increased by 67 percent since 1996 to 13.5 million. Today, physicians write more than 37.6 million prescriptions for benzodiazepines such as Xanax, Klonopin, Valium, and Ativan. With these numbers in mind, it should not come as a surprise that we are facing a benzo addiction crisis in the US today.
Benzos and Opioids: A Deadly Combination
Currently, about 30 percent of overdoses involving opioids also involve benzos. Combining the two drugs is dangerous because they each work to sedate a person, with suppressed breathing as one of the side effects. Surprisingly, many people are prescribed both drugs simultaneously by their physician.
In a study of over 300,000 people who are prescribed opioids, 17 percent of them also received prescriptions for benzodiazepines. Another study shows that the overdose death rates were 10 times higher among people who were using both drugs. Each of these drugs now contains the FDA “black box” warnings on the label.
Symptoms and Dangers of Benzo and Opioid Combinations
Many opioid addicts use benzos to enhance the effects of their opioid. They crush the pills or chew them to disable the time-release mechanism. When this is done, it delivers a 24-hour dose into their system all at once, which can be deadly.
Some individuals use benzos and opioids along with alcohol. This is another combination that can prove to be deadly. Alcohol is also a depressant and can contribute to respiratory failure.
If you suspect someone is abusing opioids and benzos, here are a few warning signs to look for:
- Pinpoint pupils
- Slow, shallow, irregular breathing
While we are busy fighting the opioid epidemic, the benzo addiction crisis has rapidly created a national health concern. Many of these addictions come as a result of the pharmaceutical industry spending $278 million lobbying Congress. Since 1999, the number of benzo overdose deaths increased from 1,135 to 8,791. That is a sevenfold increase that will only continue to grow.
It’s important to note that both benzos and opioids are central nervous system depressants. This means that when the drugs are taken concurrently, the effects are dangerously increased and can lead to over-sedation. The individual will be unable to awaken or respond to stimuli. In many cases, the person slips into a coma.
What Can be Done About the Benzo Addiction Crisis?
Thousands of advocates for drug education and prevention are working daily to spread awareness about the dangers of combining prescription drugs. Federal guidelines have become stricter when it comes to the prescribing practices of physicians. When those efforts fail, another statistic is added to the benzo addiction crisis as one more life is lost.
At Behavioral Rehabilitation Services, we strive to save lives by providing the most effective addiction treatment programs available today. Our evidence-based, individualized curriculum has helped hundreds of people leave addiction behind and live extraordinary lives.
If you or a loved one is struggling with the powerful grip of benzo and opioid addiction, contact us today. Don’t continue being just another statistic in the benzo addiction crisis. We will show you how you can live without those substances.