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Mixing Opioids and Benzos: Effects, Dangers, and Getting Help

Combining medications can lead to adverse effects, sometimes even when both medications are prescribed to you. Certain drug combinations can lead to overdoses or even death, such as mixing opioids and benzodiazepines (benzos).1

Opioid use has been associated with addiction, and this may be an outcome you face even when taking these medications as prescribed. If you misuse benzodiazepines while taking opioids, you are at a higher risk for both overdose and addiction. This page will help you understand the dangers of mixing opioids and benzodiazepines, as well as how to get help for opioid and benzo addiction.

Dangers of Mixing Opioids and Benzodiazepines

Opioids are strong pain relievers that also induce a sense of euphoria, hence why they are often misused. They come in prescription form and are also illicitly sold on the street.2,3 They are prescribed for post-surgery or post-trauma pain relief, as well as for cancer related pain. Some commonly prescribed opioid pain relievers include:2,3

  • Oxycodone (OxyContin).
  • Hydrocodone.
  • Morphine.
  • Codeine.

Benzodiazepines are central nervous system depressants that are prescribed for certain anxiety disorders and seizure disorders.4 Benzos may also be manufactured and distributed illicitly on the street.

A few common prescription benzodiazepines include:5

  • Diazepam (Valium).
  • Alprazolam (Xanax).
  • Clonazepam (Klonopin).

About 220 Americans die every day due to opioid overdose.6 Combining opioids with benzos, known as polysubstance use (the use of more than one drug), increases the risk of emergency room visits, being admitted to the hospital for a drug-related emergency, and death by drug overdose.6 In 2021, nearly 14% of overdose deaths involving opioids also involved benzodiazepines.6

Effects of Mixing Opioids and Benzos

Common health effects of opioid use may include:7

  • Pain relief.
  • Drowsiness.
  • Nausea.
  • Constipation.
  • Euphoria.
  • Slowed breathing.

Common health effects of benzos include:7

  • Drowsiness.
  • Slurred speech.
  • Poor concentration.
  • Confusion, dizziness.
  • Problems with movement and memory.
  • Lowered blood pressure.
  • Slowed breathing.

Combining benzos and opioids is potentially dangerous because both cause increased sedation, impairments in cognitive function, and suppression of breathing.6 Taken together, they have a greater effect than if they were taken separately, and can result in completely stopping a person’s breathing, which is (in general), the cause of an overdose fatality.8

There is also increased risk of brain damage and damage to other organs due to the decrease in oxygen caused by the reduction in respiratory function.9

Unintentionally Mixing Opioids and Benzodiazepines

If your physician has prescribed both medications, it is important to understand this doesn’t protect you from overdosing, sometimes even when taken as prescribed.1

Communication with your doctor and pharmacist is important when being prescribed opioids and benzodiazepines. The U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) has recommended these substances not be prescribed together unless it is necessary, and even then, the dosage should be kept to the very minimum possible.10

If a person is already taking benzos for anxiety and a different doctor prescribes an opioid cough medicine, for example, the patient could overdose without ever knowing of the possibilities.10 The FDA has added boxed warnings to both benzodiazepine and opioid labels to help reduce the use of these medications together.10

Because both opioids and benzos can be obtained illicitly, a person may unintentionally overdose on either drug by accidentally consuming a higher dose than intended. When someone obtains opioids or benzos illicitly, there is a possibility it is laced or cut with fentanyl without their knowledge.11 Fentanyl, both prescription and illicit, is a synthetic opioid that leads to many overdoses in the U.S.11 Fentanyl is 100 times stronger than morphine and 50 times stronger than heroin.11 An individual is at increased risk of overdose anytime they take illicitly purchased medications.

If you would like more information about opioid/benzo addiction treatment options available in your area, contact American Addiction Center’s helpful admissions navigators at for a free, private consultation today.

Overdose Risk of Mixing Benzos and Opioids

If you think a person is experiencing an overdose, it is important to call 911 as soon as possible to get help on the way. The next step for helping your loved one would be administering naloxone in the case of an opioid overdose.9

Naloxone (Narcan, RiVive, Kloxxado) is an over-the-counter medication that can potentially reverse an opioid overdose.12 It blocks the effects of opioids and can quickly restore breathing. Naloxone will not affect someone who hasn’t overdosed on opioids, so if a person has overdosed on another medication and has no opioids in their system, naloxone would have no effect. If you have a family member or loved one who you fear could overdose on opioids, you should keep naloxone on hand. You can purchase Narcan and RiVive over the counter from a local pharmacy without a prescription, while Kloxxado and other brand or generic formulations may require a prescription.13

There are a few things that can help prevent a lethal overdose.9,14

  • Understand the signs and symptoms of an overdose so you can act fast.
  • Keep naloxone on hand.
  • Communicate with your doctor about other medications you are taking.
  • Take medication as prescribed only.
  • Avoid combining opioids and benzos.

If you or a loved one are finding it difficult to stop using opioids and benzos, entering an addiction treatment program can help end your dependence or compulsive misuse and can save your or your loved one’s life.

Getting Help for Opioid and Benzo Addiction

Addiction treatment is personalized to each person’s needs. Your treatment may vary based on the severity of your addiction and other circumstances that surround your life. Most addiction treatment programs include a detoxification stage, the rehabilitation stage, and aftercare to assist with continued sobriety.

If you or a loved one are living with an opioid and/or benzo misuse disorder, contact a treatment facility today. It could save your life or the life of a loved one. Call to connect with a compassionate admissions navigator today for a free, private consultation. Our professional and caring admissions navigators are here for you 24/7.

Detox and Treatment Programs

Detoxification is the first step of recovery from drug addiction or alcohol addiction. Medical detox for drugs and alcohol is a crucial step in the recovery process, but detox alone is not sufficient treatment to support long-term abstinence.15 Individuals who only complete medical detox without continuing with a treatment program could potentially relapse. Opioid detox may include medications that help reduce or eliminate uncomfortable side effects of withdrawal and can be used during and after rehab treatment.16

After a patient has detoxed from opioids and benzos, they are ready to transition into a treatment program. There are different levels and options of treatment, including:

As part of your treatment program, behavioral therapies can help patients recognize and change the behaviors, feelings, and thoughts surrounding drug use.17 Support groups are typically also a part of treatment. They involve meeting with a group of peers who are also struggling with drug use, and these support groups can help reinforce recovery.18

Aftercare programs occur following rehab and help reduce the risk of relapse and returning to drug use. Aftercare programs may include many aspects, including sober living, individual counseling or less intensive outpatient treatment, and mutual support groups, such as Narcotics Anonymous.15

The type and length of treatment program you receive will depend on your individual needs. You can search for local rehabs with specific features to best suit your desire for treatment in the rehab directory at Rehabs.com. If you have health insurance coverage for rehab our specialists at American Addiction Centers (AAC) can help you verify how much of the rehab your policy will pay. Your insurance may pay for the entire cost or just a portion. Entering rehab should not be a financial burden. If you are paying out-of-pocket, we can help you find programs that will assist you with the costs of treatment.

If you are struggling with opioids misuse or addiction, having a conversation with your doctor can be a great way to start the search for a treatment center. You can also look at the facilities listed below to see if they provide the program you are looking for:

Does Insurance Cover Opioid Addiction Rehab?

For those who have insurance, using health insurance to pay for rehab should cover at least some of the cost of addiction treatment. Depending on your individual insurance plan, treatment at a specific facility may or may not be covered. It’s important that you know what is covered prior to attending a rehab. Use the free online insurance coverage checker tool below to find out if your health insurance provides coverage for addiction rehab and other rehabilitation treatment plans for substance abuse recovery.

Coverage may vary depending on your needs and insurance plan. To find out if your policy covers rehab, click here, or fill out the form below. Your information is kept 100% confidential. You can also click here to find a rehab near me.

American Addiction Centers maintains a strong partnership with a large group of insurance companies at our addiction treatment facilities. Start the journey to recovery and find out instantly using the form below if your health insurance provider may be able to cover all or part of the cost of rehab and associated therapies.

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