Thursday, October 30, 2014

Triple Whammy: Anxiety, Benzos, and Opiates

Xanax and Valium, prescribed to treat anxiety, mood disorders and insomnia, can be deadly when mixed with other sedatives.

Triple Whammy: Anxiety, Benzos, and Opiates

by Gabriella Pinto-Coelho

It’s no secret that mental health issues increase your risk of substance abuse. In fact, estimates indicate that individuals diagnosed with mood or anxiety disorders are twice as likely as the general population to suffer from a substance abuse disorder! 

Statistics from the 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health showed that almost 8.4 million American adults have both a mental and substance use disorder. Unfortunately, only 7.9% receive treatment for both conditions and the vast majority (53.7%) do not receive any treatment at all. The case is even grimmer for those with more severe mental illnesses like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder (see NIDA Report for more).

This predisposition toward addiction puts individuals with mental health issues in a risky place when it comes to medications. A class of medications called benzodiazepines, commonly referred to as “benzos,” have been used since the 1950's and 60's to treat anxiety, mood disorders, and insomnia. 

While there are patients that safely manage mental illness with the help of these medications, there are also considerable risks. For one, benzo users often mix these drugs with opioids with potentially deadly consequences. Both benzos and opioids are sedatives that slow respiration - as a doctor interviewed by NPR has said, “they potentiate each other — they make each other stronger. And so one plus one doesn't equal two; it equals three or four." 

Data from the CDC show that the mixing of benzos and opioids contributes to 30% of all opioid related deaths. Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s untimely death in February 2014 was attributed to a mixing of benzos and other drugs.

This leaves people suffering with mental illness and substance abuse in a precarious position. A dependence on benzos often begins as the search to manage life-limiting anxiety or other mood disorders, and somewhere along the way opioids come into the mix.

 It is easy to see how things can quickly spiral out of control! Despite these startling facts and figures, there is always hope. Benzos are not the only option for treating anxiety and mood disorders. And, just as there are treatment options to overcome mood disorders, there are treatment options to overcome addiction.


Read more from NPR about benzos and opioids here: Risks of Popular Anxiety Drugs.....

If you or someone you love is in need of a detox off of opiates, benzos, Methadone, or Suboxone, please do not hesitate to call Jennifer Pius or Amy Stewart at 1-877-773-3869 to learn more about our treatment offerings.
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