The opioid crisis has alerted health officials for the past years, but new research shows there’s something worse than that. An increased number of Americans are using both opioids and sedatives in dangerous combinations.
There are sedatives prescribed for pain, insomnia, and anxiety, called benzodiazepines and there are other similar drugs called Z-drugs. The latter has also been found to be taken with sedatives, said Canadian researchers.
Researchers looked at the data between 1999 to 2014 from eight U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey cycles. During this period, the use of opioids and benzodiazepines in combination grew 250%. The combination of benzodiazepines and Z-drugs grew 850%.
In 2014, the rate of combining benzodiazepines and opioids reached 1.36% (4.3 million people), and the usage of benzodiazepine and Z-drugs was 0.47% (1.5 million people).
These findings are worrying experts because the combinations are risky, leading to breathing problems and death. Nicholas Vozoris, the study author and associate scientist at Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute (St. Michael’s Hospital, Toronto) explains how critical this growth is:
While the proportions may seem small, these percentages at a population-level correspond to millions of people, and the growth of these numbers is alarming.
Doctors And Patients Confuse Benzodiazepines with Z-drugs
Vozoris added that this problem is so important that FDA “has gone as far as to issue its strongest form of safety warning about this suboptimal prescribing practice and mixing of opioids and benzodiazepines.”
The author added that both patients and health care provider confuse benzodiazepines with Z-drugs. For example, benzodiazepines include alprazolam, clonazepam, and lorazepam, while Z-drugs include zaleplon, zolpidem, and zopiclone. He added that the two types are usually confused, and that they have similar actions.
However, there are many doctors that do not know it – “sometimes patients get put on both a benzo and a Z-drug and think they’re two very different drugs.”
Rex Austinwas born and raised in Thunder Bay Ontario on the shores of Lake Superior. Apart from running his own podcast (Ice Fishing And Other “Cool” Things), he spends his time canoeing and backpacking in Northern Ontario.. As a journalist Rex has published stories for Global News (Thunder Bay) we well as Buzz Feed and Joystiq. As a contributor to Great Lakes Ledger, Rex most covers science and health stories. Contact Rexhere