When taken in excess or simultaneously, opioids and benzodiazepines can be fatal. Polysubstance addiction is a pattern of drug abuse where an individual consumes two or more types of drugs together. This mixture poses serious risks to the user, as it can lead to overdose and death. Users that are either dependent on or prone to addiction tend to have a higher risk of combining these drugs. Although they are used for different purposes, both opioids and benzodiazepines have addictive properties and may cause physical dependence if used excessively or for prolonged periods of time under medical supervision. Let’s take a look at the dangers of polysubstance addiction and these two drugs in particular.
What Are Opioids?
Opioids are substances that interact with the opioid receptors in the brain. This leads to a decrease in pain sensation and euphoria. Some of the most common opioids are heroin, codeine, morphine, oxycodone, hydrocodone, fentanyl, and methadone. The opioid epidemic is linked to the misuse of prescription opioids. There are more than 80 opioid medications available in the United States, either through prescriptions or in the form of over-the-counter pain relievers. The CDC estimates that 115 Americans die each day from an opioid overdose. The high rates of opioid abuse, misuse, and overdose are driven in large part by the misconception that opioids are not addictive and can be used safely. Opioids are highly addictive and can be abused for their euphoric effects.
What Are Benzodiazepines?
Benzodiazepines are psychoactive drugs that interact with the GABA receptors in the brain. GABA is the neurotransmitter responsible for regulating anxiety. With GABA receptors, benzodiazepines work to suppress excessive anxiety, restlessness, and insomnia. Benzodiazepines are commonly prescribed for anxiety, panic attacks, insomnia, and seizures.
Benzodiazepines are also misused for recreational use for their euphoric effects. Some of the most common benzodiazepines include Xanax, Valium, Ativan, and Klonopin. The high rates of benzodiazepine abuse, misuse, and overdose are driven, in part, by the misconception that benzodiazepines are not addictive and can be used safely. Benzodiazepines are highly addictive and can be abused for their euphoric effects.
Dangers Of Polysubstance Abuse With Opioids And Benzos
Both opioids and benzodiazepines have the potential to cause fatal overdose when taken in combination with other drugs or alcohol. At high doses, opioids can slow down breathing and heartbeat to the point where it stops completely, leading to death from overdose. When taken in excess simultaneously with opioids, benzodiazepines can cause severe drowsiness, confusion, and loss of muscle coordination. One of the most dangerous combinations is the mixture of opioids and benzodiazepines, which can lead to a fatal overdose.
Overdose is far more likely when these substances are abused together because they both are central nervous system depressants. When they are taken in high doses, they slow down the body’s automatic functions, including breathing. When respiratory depression occurs during an overdose, the organs stop receiving oxygen, which can lead to permanent damage and even death.
Polysubstance abuse can also lead to withdrawal syndromes and an increased risk of infectious diseases. Opioid withdrawal is usually seen as a series of psychological and physical symptoms that occur when an individual who is physically dependent on opioids tries to stop using them. Benzodiazepine withdrawal symptoms include insomnia, anxiety, nausea, seizures, and hallucinations. When a person experiences withdrawal symptoms from both drugs, their suffering is immense. Moreover, benzodiazepine withdrawal is one of the few withdrawal experiences aside from alcohol that can lead to death.
Why Is Polysubstance Abuse So Dangerous?
Polysubstance abuse can lead to overdose, which can result in death. When two or more drugs are taken simultaneously, the user is often unaware of the quantity of each drug they are taking. Misjudging the quantity of drugs taken can lead to a fatal overdose. The risk of overdose is increased if the opioid is taken along with an alcohol-containing beverage, such as wine or beer, as alcohol can enhance the sedative effects of opioids.
Polysubstance abuse can also lead to withdrawal syndromes and an increased risk of infectious diseases. This is especially true for substances that are injected, such as heroin or cocaine. When two or more drugs are injected into the body, this increases the risk of contracting blood-borne diseases, such as hepatitis C, hepatitis B, and HIV.
Factors That That Make Polysubstance Abuse More Likely
- Psychological Factors: Individuals who lack self-control, have poor impulse control, or have a history of drug abuse or mental illness are at a higher risk of polysubstance abuse. Polysubstance abuse is often a result of a psychological need to self-medicate and manage distressing emotions and/or mental health disorders.
- Biochemical Factors: Individuals with a genetic predisposition to mental illness or addiction may be more likely to engage in polysubstance abuse. Genetic factors may make certain individuals more likely to respond to drugs in a particular way by triggering biochemical reactions in the brain.
- Social Factors: People who associate with drug-using peers or participate in activities such as clubbing or raves, where drugs like opioids and benzodiazepines are often used, are at a higher risk of polysubstance abuse.
- Environmental Factors: Individuals who live in an environment where drugs are easily accessible may be at a higher risk of polysubstance abuse.
Finding Help For Polysubstance Addiction in a Sober Living House
Polysubstance abuse is dangerous and can lead to death. The best way to avoid the dangers of polysubstance abuse is by seeking help for any existing substance abuse issues. If you or someone you love is struggling with polysubstance addiction, consider seeking help from a sober living house. These facilities provide a safe, drug-free environment for individuals to work towards recovery from polysubstance addiction. Sober living homes not only help people stay sober in the present, but research shows they also increase the likelihood that a person will remain sober over the long term – even years after they have graduated from their sober living house.
Sober Living East is located in Los Angeles, California. Our structured sober living home for men is designed to help people in recovery pick up new tools and strategies for living their lives without needing drugs or alcohol. In the process, residents build new social support systems, find jobs, reconnect with their families, and discover new values and sources of meaning. If you are ready to make a change, reach out to our staff at Sober Living East today!