Use of Opioids, Benzodiazepines at Same Time is Skyrocketing. Here’s Why That Matters

January 18, 2019, 11:47 PM UTC
Researchers writing in the journal Sleep found an increase in people taking dangerous combinations of opioid, benzodiazepines (pictured).
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More than ever, individuals are taking a dangerous combination of opioids and benzodiazepines, according to new research published in the journal Sleep. And that’s a serious problem, as combining these two types of painkillers can be fatal.

Using data collected between 1999 and 2014, researchers found that a combined use of opioids and benzodiazepines increased 250%. While opioids are typically prescribed for pain management, benzodiazepines are sedatives prescribed to help patients with pain, as well as conditions such as anxiety and insomnia. “The progressive increases in these two forms of psychoactive medication polypharmacy is concerning, given that these drug use patterns are associated with increased risk for serious adverse outcomes,” the study authors wrote.

Even if taking both painkillers at once does not cause death, it can cause many other serious health issues, such as breathing problems. Taking both types of medications has also previously been shown to be a serious issue, with an overdose rate among patients prescribed both types of medications 10 times higher than among those only receiving opioids, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Drug overdose rates in the U.S. continue to rise in pretty much every corner of the country. And already, more than 100 people every day from opioids, totaling over 370,000 deaths a year. As the opioid crisis continues, it is now the case that deaths due to accidental opioid overdoses now outpace fatalities from auto accidents.