The pharmaceutical industry has a long history of contributing to addiction in America. In fact, the list of drugs doctors prescribed for home use over the decades that are now banned is extensive, Quaalude (methaqualone) is one example. Today, doctors no longer prescribe Quaaludes, but not because they were habit-forming, instead due to the high risk of overdose. The banning of methaqualone drugs was no big deal for the prescription drug industry’s bottom line, companies like Pfizer had other sedatives in their quiver. Not surprisingly, sedative tranquilizers like Xanax and Valium carry a commensurate risk of overdose to that of Quaaludes; and yet, millions of Americans take such drugs every day.
While the nation continues to reel over the unprecedented opioid overdose rates, a disturbing trend is taking place in the shadows. And, once again, doctors are at the center of a troubling story of overprescribing benzodiazepines. The American Journal of Public Health reports that the prescribing of benzos to adults rose by 67 percent between 1996 and 2013. According to data from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, overdose deaths involving benzodiazepines increased from 1135 in 1999 to 8791 in 2015, a nearly eight-fold increase.
Opioids are deadly narcotics to be sure; but, they don’t need a hand in precipitating an overdose; however, when benzodiazepines like Xanax are brought into the picture, the risk of an “opioid” overdose death exponentially increases. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) states that more than 30 percent of overdoses involving opioids also involve benzodiazepines. The overdose may be accidental, but the mixture of benzos and opiates is anything but!
Poly Drug Abuse
Benzodiazepines work well at easing people’s troubled minds. They are commonly prescribed to people who struggle with anxiety disorders, sleep issues, and at times for muscular problems. Many people take drugs like Xanax as prescribed and still become dependent and can form a substance use disorder. Those who try to stop taking them [Xanax] without medical supervision can experience deadly side effects.
“[Benzodiazepines] work really well until they turn on you and then it’s just utter living hell,” Dr. Christy Huff, a cardiologist who graduated in the top of her class from the University of Texas Southwestern medical school, tells VICE.
Among those who have an opioid use disorder, benzos are highly coveted; when the two types of drugs are taken together you get what is called drug synergism. Drug synergy is an interaction between two or more drugs that cause the total effect of the drugs to be greater than the sum of the individual effects of each drug, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Those who take the two drugs together experience heightened euphoric effects unlikely to be achieved by taking each medication individually. Similar, but likely deadlier than what is known as “speedballing,” taking stimulant and opioid at the same time. What makes the former combination of drugs so deadly is that when admixed, benzodiazepine and opiates cause severe sedation and respiratory depression. The perfect recipe for disaster!
If you are addicted to opioids, sedatives, or both, please contact Hope by the Sea. Addiction recovery is possible, and we can help begin the life-saving process; please remember, you are not alone!