Tag Archives: benzodiazepines

Study Identifies Three Ways to Reduce Risk of Opioid Overdose in Addition to Treatment

reduce risk of opioid overdoseThere are three new helpful recommendations for doctors to follow in order to reduce deaths associated with prescription painkiller overdoses. While some of it is common sense, other parts are simple measures that can save lives. Researchers at the RAND Corporation have found that not prescribing opioids or anti-anxiety medication to patients with opioid dependence problems, ensuring that patients received psychosocial counseling and keeping up with quarterly doctor visits greatly reduced the chances of opioid-related deaths.

Researchers were able to come to these conclusions after observing the care that over 30,000 Veterans received through the VA health system. This at-risk population often sees a large amount of opioid abuse, and researchers were anxious to see what was effective within this vulnerable group. This is also the first study that has looked at developing quality measures to assure against potential opioid overdose deaths. This was important because another group of researchers have recently released data that shows the number of people dying from opioid overdoses is likely not going to reduce for several years unless some drastic changes are enacted.

These changes would be different from, or in addition to changing other prescribing habits, physician education programs about opioid abuse and prescription drug monitoring programs. It also presents another set of guidelines that can be easily checked.

“This is a very large drop in mortality and we need to conduct more research to see if these findings hold up in other patient care settings. But our initial findings suggest that these quality measures could go a long way toward improving patient outcomes among those who suffer from opioid addiction,” commented Dr. Katherine Watkins, lead author of the study.

These three recommendations have been published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence, but researchers are hopeful that the information is more broadly dispensed because of the potential life-saving information to physicians everywhere.

Study Cites Benzo Use as Cause for Brain Changes

benzo useA new research study has shown that benzodiazepines, such as Xanax, Valium, Ativan and Klonopin, actually change the structure of the brain. This discovery could lead to further research regarding benzodiazepine addiction that can be explained by altered brain chemistry.

The study, which will be published in the August edition of Psychiatry Neuroimaging, shows that long term use of benzodiazepines can change the caudate in the brain. The caudate is responsible for the reward system, a function of the brain that is often linked to addiction.

The study, which was conducted in Finland, gathered data from MRI scans of 38 people diagnosed with schizophrenia. The MRIs were taken when the subjects were 34-years-old and then again when they were 43-years-old. Comparing the MRIs showed distinct changes in the brains of those that were using benzodiazepines. In order for a study to be valid, researchers have to take into account age, illness, and medication dose, yet even with these adjustments, benzodiazepines still seem to have a major effect on the brain.

Because this is the first study that has analyzed the potential of benzodiazepines to change the structure of the brain, researchers are anxious to further their understanding of this new development.

“There is a need for understanding the mechanisms behind antipsychotic – and benzodiazepine – related structural and functional changes in the brain. Further studies should also focus on how medication-related structural alterations correspond to cognition and functioning,” explained the authors of the study. They also understand that there will need to be a more large-scale population to gather enough data to back up their initial findings more thoroughly.

However, the study is interesting because it may answer questions about the potential for benzodiazepine addiction. Medications like Xanax or Valium are highly addictive and oftentimes abused by people who do not have their own prescription for the drug. Traditionally prescribed to those that suffer from anxiety disorders, these drugs are oftentimes sold on the street to people looking for the high that benzodiazepines can provide.

It can also garner further insight into how to treat benzo addictions in terms of helping to rehabilitate the brain and repair lost function from the drugs.

Continued Dangers of Combining Alcohol and Medications

medications and alcoholMany Americans know that mixing alcohol with certain medications is dangerous, but a growing number of people seem to be ignoring the warnings. In fact, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), millions of lives have been lost because they consumed alcohol while taking a medication that caused adverse reactions. In an effort to increase awareness of the dangers of mixing alcohol with certain prescription drugs, Medical Daily has put together a list of the six most deadly combinations.

  • Stimulants and alcohol. – This is a dangerous combination because the mixture of alcohol and stimulants creates an entirely new substance in the body, called cocaethylene. Cocaethylene increases the level of stress on the heart and could increase the chances of a heart attack. Long term use of alcohol and stimulants can poison the heart as well.
  • Antidepressants and alcohol. – For every drink that someone consumes while also taking antidepressants, it will feel like they have had two drinks. This is because antidepressants increase the potency of alcohol. The two chemicals also reduce a person’s ability to make good decisions and increases their risk for coma, seizures and confusion.
  • Benzodiazepines and alcohol. – This is perhaps the deadliest of all the combinations. Benzos are one of the most commonly prescribed drugs in the United States and include medications like Xanax, Valium, Ativan and Klonopin. These drugs are typically prescribed for anxiety disorders, but the combination of alcohol and benzodiazepines are so deadly that nearly 20% of all alcohol-related deaths are due to this mixture. Oftentimes people who consume alcohol with benzos end up in the hospital due to respiratory failure. Both drugs are depressants and when taken together cause the body to slow down so much so that breathing can cease.
  • Birth control and alcohol. – This is probably one of the most common combinations among female drinkers. It is dangerous because while the body is metabolizing the birth control pill, it is unable to process the alcohol regularly. This delay in processing causes many women to get drunk much quicker than they intended, paving the way for risky decision making, alcohol poisoning, and drunk driving.
  • OTC medications and alcohol. – On the back of every single over-the-counter pain medication it states not to consume alcohol while taking these medications. This is because the combination can lead to liver failure. One study reports that 38% of people who suffer from acute liver failure first consumed too much OTC pain reliever while drinking.
  • Opiates and alcohol. – This combination becomes more deadly as the amount of people who abuse heroin or prescription painkillers rises. Similar to benzodiazepines, opiates are depressants and people who take both alcohol and opiates can suffer from respiratory failure and other organ malfunctions.

Take the time to educate your friends, relatives and acquaintances about the dangers of mixing their prescriptions with alcohol, you might just help save someone’s life.

Benzodiazepine Overdoses Also on the Rise

prescription drug overdoseThe main focus of lawmakers, medical professionals and educators regarding substance abuse has been on the opiate epidemic in the United States lately. For good reason too, because every day 44 people die from an overdose of prescription painkillers, and the rising number of heroin-related deaths is equally as alarming.

However, because all the attention has been on preventing these from occurring, people have ignored another silent killer. Benzodiazepines like Xanax or Klonopin have been killing people at a rate increase that is beginning to surpass even prescription painkillers, according to a recent study published in the American Journal of Public Health.

“We found that the death rate from overdoses involving benzodiazepines, also known as ‘benzos’, has increased more than four-fold since 1996 – a public health problem that has gone under the radar,” commented Dr. Marcus Bachhuber of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York.

Dr. Bachhuber led a team of researchers in investigating the rising amount of benzodiazepine overdoses by compiling several large surveys that were conducted on prescription trends and overdose fatalities. They quickly found that the amount of benzos that were being prescribed had increased significantly over the years. This was an important discovery because it shows that doctors are relying on the drugs to handle their patients’ symptoms despite the very real possibility of addiction and subsequent overdose.

Typically, benzodiazepines are prescribed to address anxiety disorders and other serious problems. However, the pills are extremely addictive and can cause an even more intense level of anxiety or bring on seizures if the person has a sudden cessation of use. These dangerous symptoms often cause people to continue using more and more of the pills, and a growing number are experiencing benzodiazepine overdoses. Their level of danger increases when combined with one or more additional substances, such as alcohol or other prescription drugs.

Physicians are being pressed to review their prescribing practices given the number of prescription drug problems in the country, and it would be extremely helpful if the U.S. followed suit of other modern nations and disallowed drug companies to market prescriptions directly to consumers. Understanding the trends of abuse and overdoses is vital when it comes to saving lives and preventing undo harm to patients and their families.

Dangers of Easing Travel and Stress with Anxiety with Drugs

travel stressAs the holidays have come to a close and the new year begun, many people are finally easing back into the routine of their daily lives. Oftentimes the holidays are filled with work parties, family parties, frantically running around to different stores collecting presents, cooking, cleaning and traveling. Experiencing varying levels of anxiety is normal, however some people rely heavily on prescription drugs to ease some of this anxiety. The danger of doing this is that anti-anxiety drugs like Xanax and Klonopin can also be very addictive.

In addition to the potential of abuse, there are other side effects of the drugs to watch out for. Even though the holidays are over, there are many people who now are doing a lot of traveling for work again and still find themselves in stressful situations.

“Travel and holiday stress have a lot to do with expectations. So keeping your expectations realistic is important. It is ok to say no to people when you think you have taken on too much to make sure you don’t go crazy trying to make sure all the decorations are perfect or all the presents you bought are perfect, that everything in your home looks perfect. It is really a time to slow everything down and try to remember that most people don’t really care about that stuff,” explained John Tsilimparis, MFT.

Experts also warn that people who rely on anxiety medication like Xanax may be using too much and once the holidays are over they develop a tendency to keep taking more often, resulting in a dependency. Addiction to these types of drugs, called benzodiazepinnes, oftentimes requires severe medical intervention because the medication is so harmful to the body, especially when there is an abrupt cessation of the drug. People going through benzo withdrawal can experience hallucinations, insomnia, extreme anxiety, cravings, mood swings and seizures.

Those who take benzodiazepines to travel may accidently take too much and suffer from lapse in consciousness and/or judgment, experts warn. The drugs have the potential to cause people to act in ways that they never would otherwise, and any type of behavior or mood swings while traveling can be dangerous for the individual as well as others around them.

These drugs should be reserved for people who have more severe problems, and many advocates recommend other ways to reduce stress from things such as the holidays, travel, work and family obligations. These can include practicing mindfulness techniques, breathing exercises, meditation and other calming activities.

If you have a loved one who is in need of help for abusing anti-anxiety medications or any other types of drugs, contact us today to find out more about successful treatment options.

Benzo Use More Common Among Older Generations, Women

benzouseBenzodiazepines are a class of drug targeted to treat anxiety. These drugs are powerful medications, which include Xanax, Valium, Ativan, Librium and others, and they have a high potential for abuse. Researchers have found that as people get older they rely more on drugs like Xanax to get them through the day. Unfortunately, because the drugs are so potent, they carry with them extreme side effects and after a person has become dependent on the drugs they are likely to experience intense withdrawal symptoms that could even lead to death.

The healthcare community has long been wary of these drugs, stating numerous time that the high risk for taking pills like Xanax need to be heavily weighed before issuing prescriptions. However, those warnings haven’t curbed the over-prescribing of the drugs enough.

In an attempt to figure out what population was demanding these drugs, a study was conducted by researchers at the National Institutes of Health that was published in JAMA Psychiatry. Data was collected dating back to 2008 and it included information from people aged 18 to people aged 80. It was discovered that of the people who were 18 to 35, 2.6% of them were issued long term prescriptions for benzodiazepines. However, those that fell into the 65 to 80 year old category saw a marked increase in prescriptions, 8.7% of these people were given long term prescriptions for benzos. It was also found that women were twice as likely to be taking the drug than men.

“These new data reveal worrisome patterns in the prescribing of benzodiazepines for older adults, and women in particular. This analysis suggests that prescriptions for benzodiazepines in older Americans exceed what research suggests is appropriate and safe,” explained Dr. Thomas Insel, director of the National Institute of Mental Health.

Potent drugs like Xanax can be extremely dangerous because they are highly addictive and cause intense, sometime life threatening withdrawal symptoms. High levels of anxiety, insomnia, inability to eat, tremors, suicidal thoughts and depression and seizures are all potential withdrawal symptoms when coming off of drugs like Xanax.

Hopefully more medical professionals and treatment practitioners will be more cautious of prescribing drugs like these in the future, and perhaps seek other ways for patients to successfully deal with anxiety-related issues.