Polydrug use is the combination of more than one drug—which is usually riskier than using a single drug. Mixing opioids with benzodiazepines (benzos) is a common, but deadly, combination. More than 30% of opioid overdoses in the United States include benzos (National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2018).
Benzos may sound unfamiliar; the brands are more well-known. The most common include alprazolam (Xanax®), clonazepam (Klonopin®), diazepam (Valium®) and lorazepam. These drugs have many uses--treating anxiety, insomnia, panic disorders and seizures. They also come with many risks. They slow down breathing and can cause fainting. Benzos should only be used with a prescription from your doctor.
You probably already know opioids can be dangerous. Some of the most common prescription opioids are hydrocodone (Vicodin®), morphine (MS Contin®), oxycodone (Oxycontin®, Percocet®), codeine, fentanyl and methadone. Opioids are prescribed for pain. Talk to your doctor about your pain and other options before using an opioid.
Long-term opioid use is typically not recommended. However, methadone is slightly different. This opioid is often used to treat opioid addictions, and may be taken for a year or longer. This could make you think it is safe. It still has risks, particularly when used with another drug. Methadone and benzos are an especially dangerous mix. Both can slow breathing and lower blood pressure, and the effect is greater when combined. You could stop breathing, or your heart could stop beating.
Any opioid/benzo combination could cause an overdose. Avoid a polydrug accident. Check with your doctor and pharmacist before mixing any medications.
If you or someone you know is struggling and needs help getting into treatment, or if you have questions, visit: http://www.healthvermont.gov/alcohol-drug-abuse/how-get-help/find-treatment
Not sure where to start? Get free, confidential help 24/7 by calling 2-1-1 or visiting vermont211.org. Information and referral specialists are also available by texting your zip code to 898211, Monday through Friday from 8 AM to 8 PM.
Partners for Prevention is a community network dedicated to sustainable substance abuse prevention efforts for Rutland County youth and young adults. Stay connected by liking Partners for Prevention on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/partnersforprevention
Written by Rachel Newton, Regional Prevention Partnerships Coordinator, Rutland Regional Medical Center