One-third of all deaths from prescription opioid painkiller also involve complications from benzodiazapines

One-third of all deaths from prescription opioid painkiller also involve complications from benzodiazapines

If you’re taking a prescription opioid painkiller or using heroin or any other illicit opioid, you might want to think twice before also taking a benzodiazapine tranquilizer like Xanax or Valium along with your opioid. Combining benzodiazapines with opioids has become more and more popular with opioid users in recent years. Day after day we read in the news about drug busts, emergency hospital admissions and overdose deaths in which opioids and benzos have been combined. Oxycodone or hydrocodone with Xanax seems to be a very popular mix. It’s been well known for years that combining opioids with benzos is a dicey idea because it increases the risk of suppressing the central nervous system to dangerously low levels. But a new study from the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) not only confirms that the practice is increasing, it clearly shows that opioid-benzodiazapine combinations increase the risk of death – and by a fairly wide margin. Benzodiazepines were involved in nearly a third – 31 percent – of all prescription opioid painkiller deaths in 2011, and only 13 percent in 1999. You can see the significant increase of opioids-plus-benzodiazapine deaths on the green line in the graph.

‘Death rate’ – what it means and why it’s an important statistic

Statistics people always measure what’s called the ‘death rate’ – the number of people dying from some cause from year to year based on the changing US population. They do this to see if the numbers are getting worse or getting better. It’s different from just the total number of people dying, which could easily be increasing just because the population is increasing. The new CDC study compared how many Americans died from prescription painkillers per 100,000 population each year from 1999 to 2011. The results were stunning. The death rate quadrupled, from 1.4 deaths per 100,000 population, to 5.4 per 100,000 population. The death rate slowed a little bit after 2006, which is good news. But it still increased year over year. What was even more disturbing, however, was the increase in the death rate from mixing benzos with opioids. This death rate nearly tripled from 1999 to 2011, while the death rate from opioids alone remained the same (number of deaths per 100,000 people). In other words, not only is the total number of Americans dying from prescription painkillers and benzos higher than ever before, the rate of deaths from that cause is soaring. Mixing benzos with prescription opioid painkillers is not only a soaring statistic, it clearly poses an additional threat to drug users and abusers who aren’t getting the message, who aren’t paying attention to what’s happening around them. Keep in mind that victims include lots of “weekend” or occasional users and abusers – not just hard-core addicts. Over 30 Americans die needlessly every day of the year – nearly 12,000 in 2011 alone – by overdosing on what are called ‘natural and semi-synthetic opioid analgesics’. These include such opioid painkillers as hydrocodone, oxycodone, morphine, methadone, codeine and others. This tragic statistic is quadruple the 2,700 deaths in 1999.

So what’s the bottom line for all these numbers?

To sum it all up, the total number of deaths from use and abuse of prescription drugs has quadrupled since 1999, while opioids combined with benzos total deaths has also quadrupled. Also, the death rate has tripled for opioid-benzos combined, while it remained the same for opioids alone. That tells us that the combination is a definite and serious risk and should be avoided. Here at Novus, we believe even one death is too many. That’s why we’re dedicated to helping our patients climb off the slippery slope of dependence and addiction and get started on a smooth new road to recovery – a life free from substance use and abuse, forever. We are experts at detoxifying our patients from multiple drugs, too. If you or someone you care about is in trouble with prescription drugs, either alone or in combination such as opioids and benzodiazapines, don’t hesitate to give us a call. We are here to help, and we can help.

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