A group of UC Davis Well being researchers led by Joshua Fenton obtained a 3-year $1.05 million grant from the Facilities for Illness Management and Prevention (CDC) to determine threat and protecting elements linked to the mixed use of opioids and benzodiazepines, a gaggle of medicine used to deal with  anxiousness and insomnia. 

Sad woman looking at prescription pills next to a glass full of water.

Hundreds of thousands of sufferers prescribed opioids for persistent ache are co-prescribed benzodiazepines, generally known as “benzos.” Nonetheless, the mixed use might improve overdose threat for sufferers on long-term opioid remedy. 

Benzodiazepines are depressants with a sedative impact that reduces the exercise of nerves within the mind. Two frequent benzos are the prescribed drugs Valium® and Xanax®. 

“Benzodiazepines are prescribed to about 25% of sufferers on long-term opioids. They amplify the dangers of overdose significantly,” mentioned Fenton, professor and vice chair of analysis within the Division of Household and Group Medication at UC Davis Faculty of Medication and principal investigator of the research. 

Dangers of depressant dependency for sufferers taking opioids

Combining opioids with benzos can improve the overdose threat. Each medication could cause sedation and suppress respiration—the principle reason for overdose fatality —and impair cognitive operate.

In keeping with the Nationwide Institute on Drug Abuse, almost 200 People die after overdosing on opioids on daily basis. In 2020, 16% of overdose deaths because of opioids concerned benzodiazepines. The overdose loss of life price amongst sufferers taking each kinds of drugs was 10 instances increased than amongst these solely taking opioids. 

“Benzodiazepines create important bodily dependency and reducing doses can pose dangers of withdrawal and seizures. So, as soon as established, sufferers are sometimes caught on this hazardous drug mixture,” Fenton mentioned. 

Dr. Joshua Fenton in a white doctor’s robe

Benzodiazepines create important bodily dependency and reducing doses can pose dangers of withdrawal and seizures. So, as soon as established, sufferers are sometimes caught on this hazardous drug mixture.”Joshua Fenton

Assessing the overdose dangers of polydrug use

The grant will fund a set of research to determine elements, prescribing patterns, and dose trajectories of opioid and benzodiazepine use. They are going to take a look at:

  • the initiation of long-term opioid-benzo co-prescriptions
  • the prescription drug overdose (each deadly and nonfatal) after opioid-benzo co-prescription
  • the polydrug overdose (involving opioids and different medication, together with fentanyl or psychostimulants) in sufferers co-prescribed opioids and benzos 

The researchers will analyze affected person teams in two massive information sources: California CURES information linked to loss of life data and the OptumLabs information, a nationwide database of claims from business and Medicare Benefit enrollees. Findings from the research may assist inform well being care initiatives to mitigate overdose threat, particularly for these attributable to opioid and benzodiazepine co-prescribing. 

“We count on that research outcomes will assist determine attainable safer approaches to reducing doses for one or each medication after the mix therapy is established,” mentioned Stephen Henry, affiliate professor of inside medication, school member on the Heart of Healthcare Coverage and Analysis (CHPR) and co-principal investigator on the research. 

This work is in collaboration with CHPR researchers, together with Iraklis Tseregounis, Susan Stewart and Alicia Agnoli

Associated tales:

Elevated overdose and psychological well being dangers persist two years after opioid dose discount

Is decreasing opioids for ache sufferers linked to increased charges of overdose and psychological well being disaster?


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