Fentanyl and benzodiazepines slow vital signals from the brain such as breathing and heart rate. There is a very high risk of drug overdose when combining opioids and benzodiazepines. Doing your research into these drugs is important.
Drug Overdose Death
Illegally produced fentanyl entered the illicit market back in 1979 and was immediately seen as beneficial to dealers. Synthetic fentanyl is cheap to produce, and was immediately recognized by dealers as a way to cut their heroin and still create the same effect in users. This created an unprecedented drug overdose epidemic that led to more deaths involving an opioid overdose.
Canadian Drug Seizure Data
According to Jama Psychiatry, a research article was written titled “Insights Into Mixing Fentanyl and Benzodiazepines From Canadian Drug Seizures”. According to this article on combining opioids with benzodiazepines, Canada offers better and more current data than the United States, given its similar experience with illegally manufactured synthetic opioids.
Overdose deaths from synthetic opioids reached 60,000 in 2020. Once illegal fentanyl mixed with the heroin supply, increasing reports of mixtures containing stimulants or co-ingestion of opioids, especially highly potent fentanyl with benzodiazepines, showed increasing reports of overdose deaths.
In the 12 month time period of May 2020 to April 2021, nearly 100,000 Americans died from an overdose involving illicit opioids and other drugs, such as benzodiazepines.
Research shows that nearly 65 percent of these fatalities were due to some form of synthetic opioid. There is, at this point in time, a higher risk of overdose from taking illicit opioids than ever before.
Patients receiving opioids and benzodiazepines together should be aware of the risks due to the especially highly potent fentanyls . Prescription benzodiazepines along with a synthetic opioid for pain has an increased risk. The main issue with patients prescribed opioids for pain is that, due to the body’s increasing tolerance for them, it takes more and more to achieve the same pain relief that was originally received at the onset of use of the medication.
Health Risks of Benzodiazepine Use
Because of the similarities in chemical structure, both opioid medications and benzodiazepines slow the messages between the brain and the body. Respiratory depression, or slowed breathing, is the main reason that co-use of these medications is a potential substance hazard. Anyone prescribed these drugs for use together, or anyone using these drugs recreationally, should be aware of the health risks involved and do more research.
In addition adding alcohol, xanax, valium or other drugs is dangerous and can cause death. Many who are prescribed medications like these are hoping for the prevention of or to combat anxiety. Unfortunately, it is easy to develop a substance use disorder by abusing these medications, searching for feelings of calm.
Benzodiazepine Medications Brand Names
- Alprazolam/brand name Xanax
The Synergistic Effect
The term Synergistic Effect refers to the condition that occurs when the effect of two separate medications, or drugs, taken together is multiplied instead of added. In other words, the total effect is greater than the sum of each drug taken separately.
This effect can be seen when opioids are combined with benzodiazepines. When this occurs, there can be an increased risk for an overdose death. As already mentioned, both opioid and benzodiazepine substances slow messages from the brain to the body, and also dull the senses, making it difficult for users to monitor whether a possible overdose is imminent.
Cases of overdose are generally seen in the Emergency Room or by paramedics on the scene. Some states report that in recent years, drug poisoning involving opioids and benzodiazepines totaled nearly 90% of the cases seen in an emergency department.
Of course there is always the medicine known as Naloxone, which works to reverse the effects of overdose on opioids and has saved many lives. Most overdose cases seen in an emergency department are given naloxone. Even though naloxone is readily available, nearly 100,000 people died in 2021 from opioid overdose. Anyone can purchase or obtain naloxone as no prescription is required and many non profit organizations, treatment programs and other groups offer free naloxone in their communities. In many states there is also funding available to law enforcement agencies for Naloxone.
Naloxone does not work with benzodiazepines or other drugs.
Flumazenil is used to reverse a benzodiazepine overdose.
However, too many people still died last year from the combination of benzodiazepines and opioids. This is possibly due to people being literally unable to report to emergency personnel that they had taken a combination of drugs; or were unaware they had.
The National Center for Disease Control
Although funding has been cut from many government programs in recent years, the National Center for Disease Control is still a valuable resource for accurate information about this topic. Besides being a dangerous combination for reasons already stated, their website lists some additional issues with this combination of substances to be aware of.
Impaired Movement and Coordination
Of course almost everyone who has had occasion to use opioids for pain, or to need benzodiazepines for anxiety, knows the use of these substances is connected with a lessening of both physical and cognitive ability.
Strength and Posture
Opioids and benzodiazepines can also weaken an individual’s control of their posture, which can then result in a fall. For elderly patients, this can effect their health by an unscheduled hip surgery and other broken bones.
Drowsiness and being less alert can also contribute to injury at home or at work. Also being sedated can cause you to be less responsive, as well as have a decreased ability to make decisions.
One of the most unsettling outcomes when using some types of benzodiazepine drugs is damage to short and long term memory. This damage can also occur with long-term prescription opioid use.
Addiction Treatment at Turning Point of Tampa
As a joint commission accredited facility in Tampa, Florida, Turning Point of Tampa has been helping addicts and alcoholics find recovery for over 35 years. We have the pleasure of working with both veterans and civilians seeking a life of recovery from the devastation of alcoholism and addiction.
Treatment for fentanyl and benzodiazepine addiction [at Turning Point of Tampa can be successful. We understand how prescription medication can turn into misuse of the substance that was suppose to offer relief not add to hurting your health.
We instill the promise of hope for recovery within each client. If you are a loved one are seeking treatment please contact us.
Fentanyl and Alcohol
Fentanyl and alcohol together create a very real hazard to the body’s systems; it doesn’t matter what the method of delivery of the fentanyl is- whether patch, nasal spray or pills – the danger is still there.
Fentanyl and Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors
Combining fentanyl and monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOI) antidepressants is dangerous for your health and the drug overdose risk is high.
Int J Drug Policy – International Journal of Drug Policy Volume 93, July 2021,103169
Insights Into Mixing Fentanyl and Benzodiazepines From Canadian Drug Seizures