Opioids and Sedatives — A Fatal Mix

The surge in opioid-related overdose cases over the years in the United States has raised an alarm among law enforcement agencies. The number of patients prescribed opioids and sedatives both between 2002 and 2011 increased by 41 percent to touch roughly 2.5 million, says the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). It states that overdose deaths associated with non-medical use of the drug combination tripled between 2004 and 2011.

To combat the problem, the FDA warned in August 2016 that mixing opioids and sedatives can be a deadly proposition. Experts have been harping on the potentially fatal consequences of mixing prescription painkillers and sedatives like Xanax, pointing out that such a combination can lead to breathing problems, coma and even death.

Tightening the noose

The FDA has announced that it will include a stringent boxed warning for nearly 400 medications about their reactions. These will include opioid painkillers, cough medicines that contain opioid painkillers and benzodiazepines, which are used for treating insomnia, anxiety and seizure disorders.

Sedatives and painkillers form part of the most commonly prescribed medications in the U.S. Both these drugs slow down a user’s heart rate and breathing. The federal announcement is the result of a petition filed in February 2016 by health directors in 16 states and 12 cities.

Baltimore City Health Commissioner Dr. Leana Wen said, “We said, we cannot wait and called upon the FDA to save lives now.” Wen, an emergency medicine specialist, added that one in three accidental opioid overdose deaths in the U.S. also involves sedatives.

The problem is that despite the current drug labels and medical guidelines cautioning against mixing of drugs, doctors still rampantly prescribe them in combination. For example, someone injured in a car accident might be prescribed an opioid for the pain as well as a benzodiazepine to control muscle spasms.

Hence, the FDA officials are expecting such doctors to pay attention to the warning and to think twice before prescribing such a dreaded combination. Apart from the new drug labels, the FDA also said that drug manufacturers will have to hand out pharmacy pamphlets to patients that will highlight and elaborate the risk factors associated with the combination of opioids and sedatives.

The FDA has been blamed in the past for not taking stern steps in curbing the problem of fatal overdoses tied to prescription opioids and potentially addictive medications, including OxyContin, Vicodin, Percocet and numerous generic equivalents. There has been a fourfold increase in the number of deaths linked to these medications over the last 15 years.

As per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2014 alone, over 17,000 people succumbed to overdoses involving opioid pain medications, including drugs like oxycodone, hydrocodone and fentanyl. FDA Commissioner Dr. Robert Califf is serious about taking stern measures to check opioid abuse and has pledged to adopt adequate steps in this direction.

Recovery from opioid addiction

Addiction is a scourge, whether it is to opioids, illicit street drugs or alcohol. The epidemic of prescription drug abuse in the U.S. has imperiled the lives of millions. The only solution is to seek treatment at a renowned drug rehab at the earliest as timely intervention can prevent the situation from going out of control.

If a loved one is struggling with any addiction, contact the Arizona Prescription Abuse Helpline. Call at our 24/7 Arizona drug addiction helpline number 866–692–3563 to know about one of the best drug addiction treatment centers in Arizona. Connect with our Arizona drug abuse helpline now and avail comprehensive treatment for a long-term recovery from addiction.