More and more Americans are ingesting a deadly combination of both sedatives and opioids. Canadian researchers analyzed data from eight U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey cycles between 1999 and 2014 and discovered the combined use of both opioids and benzodiazepines increased 250 percent during this period, while the combined use of benzodiazepines and Z-drugs rose a shocking 850 percent.
The opioid epidemic is crippling our nation. Numerous cities and states have filed lawsuits against drug manufacturers, individual family members behind them, physicians, and others who they hope to hold responsible for the financial burden of this deadly addiction. Many efforts to counter the crisis have emerged, including families who are fostering children of opioid-addicted parents and advocacy groups distributing Narcan and offering clean needles to addicts. It would be enough for opioids, by themselves, to destroy those who are addicted. However, the issue doesn’t end there. New research has emerged that suggests there has been a sharp increase in the number of Americans who are taking dangerous combinations of both opioids and sedatives, and this practice is an especially deadly one.
Benzodiazepines are addictive sedatives that are often prescribed for pain, insomnia, and anxiety. They have also long been prescribed by physicians and in-patient treatment teams to combat the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal. Another class of similar medications, called Z-drugs, are also being taken with sedatives at alarming rates. Benzodiazepines include alprazolam (Xanax), clonazepam (Klonopin) and lorazepam (Ativan), while Z-drugs include zaleplon (Sonata), zolpidem (Ambien) and zopiclone (Imovane).
Canadian researchers analyzed data from eight U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey cycles between 1999 and 2014 and discovered the combined use of both opioids and benzodiazepines increased 250 percent during this period, while the combined use of benzodiazepines and Z-drugs rose a shocking 850 percent.
In 2014, the rate of combined benzodiazepine and opioid usage reached 1.36 percent, and the rate of benzodiazepine and Z-drug co-usage was 0.47 percent, according to the study. The findings are especially concerning because combining these drugs can lead to breathing problems and ecen death, said study author Nicholas Vozoris who is an associate scientist at Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto and a sleep doctor.
“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,” Vozoris said.
According to the study, “the 1.36 percent rate of benzodiazepine and opioid co-usage amounts to about 4.3 million people, while the 0.47 percent rate of benzodiazepine and Z-drug co-usage amounts to about 1.5 million people.”
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration “has gone as far as to issue its strongest form of safety warning about this suboptimal prescribing practice and mixing of opioids and benzodiazepines,” he added.
Vozoris said there’s lot of confusion about benzodiazepines and Z-drugs among both patients and health care providers. This is partly because these drugs are frequently given to combat the effects of addiction while a patient is detoxing, and both classes produce similar results for patients who use them.
“I wanted to understand the trends in use of such worrisome drug combinations and which types of individuals were more likely to receive such drug combinations,” the doctor explained. “There are doctors and members of the public often not realizing that Z-drugs are very similar in action to benzodiazepine drugs – sometimes patients get put on both a benzo and a Z-drug and think they’re two very different drugs. “
The combination can be especially deadly.