Combining benzos and opioids can be extremely dangerous. Both types of drugs sedate users and suppress breathing, which is the most common cause of overdose. Not to mention, both drugs carry an incredibly high risk for abuse and dependence. Despite the known dangers of benzodiazepines, in 2020, doctors issued roughly 60 million prescriptions for benzos in the US. Opioid prescriptions have finally declined in the country but remain at 43.3 prescriptions per 100 persons; that’s close to 142 million opioid prescriptions.
What are Benzos and Opioids?
Benzodiazepines, also known as Benzos, are a class of drugs used to treat anxiety, but they have some off-label uses. Benzodiazepines include diazepam, alprazolam, and clonazepam.
Opioids, also referred to as opiates, are among the most commonly prescribed pain killers in the United States. They are derived from poppy plants and can help patients with chronic pain diseases. Since the body can quickly develop resistance to opioids, people often become addicted to them and overdose.
Both types of drugs carry a high risk for dependence and addiction. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued guidelines about prescribing these medications. They recommend that clinicians avoid prescribing benzodiazepines and opioids together whenever possible. And both prescriptions now carry the FDA’s “black box” warning labels to inform users about the dangers of taking these medications.
Opioids vs. Benzos
Opioids are prescribed and used as painkillers. Naturally derived opiates come from poppy plants, which have the component that relieves pain, reduces pain signals, and communicates directly with the brain. Many modern opioids are synthesized to create substances that act similar to opiates but are more powerful, potent, and faster acting. Tolerance for opioids can be developed quickly, making them highly dangerous, especially for patients with a history of abuse.
On the flip side, benzos are tranquilizers prescribed to treat mental disorders like anxiety, insomnia, panic attacks, or seizures. Benzos can also be used as muscle relaxants for sedation, anesthesia, or fighting withdrawal symptoms. Like opioids, benzos can also be deadly. They are also addictive and can even lead to overdoses.
Consequences of Mixing Benzos and Opioids
Mixing opiates like hydrocodone (derived from codeine) and benzos like Xanax can have dangerous consequences on the central nervous system.
Ironically enough, mixing these medications that are often intended for therapeutic purposes can create lasting damages to brain activity like drowsiness, confusion, or lethargy. The more a person uses both medicines simultaneously, their tolerance will increase, and their addiction will extend.
Benzodiazepines can even enhance the effects of opiates, creating a euphoric effect that, with prolonged use, can affect blood flow to the brain and a drop in respiratory rates.
Mixing opioids and benzos can lead to overdose. These are the most common signs of opioid overdose:
- Severe dizziness
- Slow breathing
- Blue lips or fingers
- Pinpoint pupils
Common Questions About Benzos and Opioids
Despite being highly popular prescription drugs, most people still have questions about benzodiazepines and opioids. Mostly, people don’t know that certain medications like Valium or Xanax fall under these broader categories. So, let’s explore some of the most frequently asked questions.
Is Xanax an Opioid?
Xanax is the pharmaceutical brand name of one of the most commonly prescribed benzodiazepines in the United States.
Other benzodiazepines commonly found available in the market are:
On the other hand, some of the pharmaceuticals opioids derived from poppy plants are:
Do You Take Both Opioids and Benzodiazepines?
Benzos and opioids are delicate medications; doctors can prescribe Ambien (a benzodiazepine) with oxycodone (an opioid), depending on the patient’s previous diagnosis. However, the CDC strongly suggests otherwise. You may want to discuss alternatives to benzos with your doctor.
What are the Side Effects of Benzodiazepines?
People who misuse and abuse benzodiazepines are likely to experience side effects, including:
- Slurred speech
- Muscle weakness
- Memory problems
- Cognitive impairment
What are the Dangers of Abusing Opioids?
Abusing opioids can lead to drowsiness, mental fog, and nausea. However, abusing opioids can also lead to overdose deaths, particularly when combining the substance with other drugs or alcohol.
There are ways to overcome potential opioid or benzos addiction, although some side effects can lead to withdrawal. Opioid withdrawal is not usually fatal; however, users can suffer from convulsions or seizures if medication is suddenly stopped.
Rehab for addictive drugs like benzos or opioids and stopping their use is not easy, but it can be achieved with professional help. Through therapy, medication-assisted treatment, and ongoing support, patients can find long-lasting recovery from addiction.