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Mixing opioids and benzodiazepines causes high risk of overdose



Photo: Cleveland Clinic

Consuming opioids, powerful painkillers, and benzodiazepines, anti-anxiety drugs — both of which require a prescription — can increase the risk of overdose, a new study finds.

According to researchers, as published in the BMJ, people taking benzodiazepines in combination with opioids has increased to 17 percent in 2013, from 9 percent in 2001.

As a result, emergency room visits and inpatient admission for opioid overdose is becoming more prominent; eliminating the use of both drugs at the same time may reduce incidents of overdose.

“Although benzodiazepines have received less public safety attention than opioids, the combination of the two drugs is dangerous because benzodiazepines potentiate the respiratory depressant effects of opioids,” the study reads.

In the study, medically-insured participants were aged 18-64, taking place between January 2001 to December 2013, with cancer patients being removed.

The results confirmed what health professionals have been saying for many years now: the combination of opioids and benzodiazepines may dramatically bump the chances of overdose.

However, despite the findings, the authors stressed the following: “This is an observational study, so no firm conclusions can be drawn about cause and effect. However, if this association is found to be causal, elimination of the concurrent use of benzodiazepines and opioids “could reduce the population risk of an emergency room visit or inpatient admission for opioid overdose by 15%.”

Starting in 2016, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) began publicizing what is known today at the opioid epidemic. Up to 91 Americans die each day due to opioid overdose, the CDC warned.


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