epidemic

Benzodiazepines and Opioids: A Deadly Mixture

benzodiazepinesIf you are misusing opioids or have an opioid use disorder, we cannot stress enough the importance of seeking addiction treatment. The prospects for people struggling with any form of use disorder are not promising without treatment and a program of recovery; however, for those in the grips of an opioid use disorder, the risks are arguably much higher due to the potential for overdose.

It’s nearly impossible to have a discussion about the American opioid addiction epidemic and not bring up overdose death(s). In the last two decades, researchers have seen a disturbingly exponential rise in premature deaths related to prescription painkillers, heroin and synthetic opioids like fentanyl.

Merely saying that the situation is dire could easily be described as an understatement. While some reports show that prescription opioid overdose deaths are decreasing, heroin and fentanyl-related fatalities are anything but and there is little evidence indicating that that will change. What’s more, there is new evidence of another deadly trend, that of polysubstance use involving the simultaneous use of opiates and benzodiazepine medications.

Mixing Opioids and Benzodiazepines is Deadly

Benzodiazepines or “benzos” are sedatives that people take to address anxiety. Common brand-name medications that doctors prescribe to treat anxiety include Valium, Xanax, Ativan, and Klonopin. All benzos carry the risk of dependence and subsequent addiction; and, those who become hooked typically require medical supervision when they stop taking the drugs for reasons owing to harmful withdrawal side effects. Some of the symptoms of withdrawal, such as seizures, can be fatal.

While both opioids and benzodiazepines carry inherent risks individually, when they are taken together it is often a recipe for tragedy. Unfortunately, it is a risk that many Americans are, or were, willing to take! A new study published in JAMA Network Open shows that people combining opioids and benzos are five times more likely to overdose. Thirty-percent of all opioid overdose deaths involve benzodiazepines, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

It is worth pointing out that when doctors began prescribing opioids with less discretion, ultimately resulting in an epidemic, they also adopted a more blasé attitude about benzos. Between 1996 and 2013, the number of prescriptions for drugs like Xanax increased 67 percent, according to AJPH. The New England Journal of Medicine reports that in the first decade and a half of the 21st Century, overdose deaths involving benzos increase nearly eight-fold.

Opioid Use Disorder and Benzodiazepine Treatment

When opioids and benzos are used in conjunction with each other, the result is drug synergism. When the side effects of two drugs individually are similar, when used together they work together to produce even stronger feelings of euphoria which is something that many addicts welcome. However, both the drugs in question also cause respiratory depression on their own, when taken together their effects in slowing breathing are exponentially greater or synergistic.

If you are struggling with an opioid use disorder, abuse benzodiazepine, or use both types of drugs at the same time, Synergy Group Services can assist you in your recovery. Please contact Synergy today to learn more about our programs.

Heroin Epidemic Cost In Florida

heroinLast December we covered a serious topic relevant to South Florida regarding opioid abuse, specifically heroin. Like most states which made valiant efforts to curb prescription opioid consumption, an unintended consequence was an exponential increase in a demand for heroin. A drug that can be bought easily on the streets, inexpensively. What’s more, the drug is often far more potent than most prescription opioids and is often laced (unbeknownst to the user) with fentanyl—a drug that is 100 times stronger than morphine and 50 times more potent than heroin. As a result of greater heroin use, Florida had more overdose deaths in 2015 than any year in the previous decade.

Human Cost of Heroin Use

When discussing the American opioid addiction epidemic with regards to costs, the conversation is usually directed towards the death toll associated with using drugs in that family of narcotics. In 2015, there were 332 fatal drug overdoses in Palm Beach County, Florida alone, The Palm Beach Post reports. A figure that rose in 2016, significantly.

While opioids like heroin are highly addictive and can easily result in premature deaths, such drugs can wreak havoc on those who do not have a choice—specifically babies. Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS) has been on the rise in the wake of more expectant mothers using heroin. NAS occurs when a fetus is exposed to opioids during the course of the pregnancy. When the baby is born, his or her supply to the drug is cut off resulting in acute opioid withdrawal. The condition requires close medical supervision for several weeks. And there is no way of knowing the impact that drugs will have on the baby later in life.

Providing the necessary resources for deterring opioid use, expanding access to addiction treatment and reversing opioid overdoses with the drug naloxone is not an easy task. And such resources cost state taxpayers a lot money. But they are necessary for saving lives. The human costs of the opioid addiction epidemic are, without question, the most important when shaping policy. However, it is important that we try and get a grasp on the financial burden that the epidemic has brought upon the state.

A Price Tag On Opioid Abuse

The Palm Beach Post tasked themselves with figuring out that total cost of the heroin epidemic in Florida. The researchers came to their findings by reviewing 58 million Florida Agency for Health Care Administration hospital diagnostic and billing records covering patients from all 67 counties. They compared the overall costs of the epidemic in the first nine months of 2010, a year when heroin deaths in Florida were approaching a 10-year low, to the first nine months of 2015. You can see a breakdown of the Post’s findings below:

  • Florida hospitals charged $460.6 million related to the heroin epidemic for the first nine months of 2010, compared to $1.1 billion in 2015.
  • $5.7 billion: All Florida hospital charges tied to the heroin epidemic between 2010 and late 2015.
  • $2.1 billion: Amount of all Florida hospital charges tied to the heroin epidemic in which Medicaid was the primary payer.
  • $967 million: Florida hospital charges for babies born addicted between 2010 and 2015.
  • $826 million: Amount where Florida Medicaid was the primary payer for babies born addicted between 2010 and 2015.
  • One every two days: Average number of Florida patients treated for heroin-only overdoses in 2011.
  • One every 90 minutes: Average number of Florida patients treated for heroin-only overdoses July through September 2015.

Opioid Addiction Treatment

If you are battling with opioid addiction, whether it be prescription painkillers or heroin, please contact Synergy Group Services. Our Palm Beach County Florida opiate addiction rehab program combines traditional counseling with Alternative Medicine to achieve a synergistic outcome with unparalleled success. With each day that passes where opioid addiction is left untreated, the risks become exponentially greater.

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