Misusing Sedatives Increases Risk of Substance Use Disorder


Prescription painkillers, or opioids of any kind for that matter, are often used in conjunction with other narcotics, such as benzodiazepines. People drawn to opiates, like heroin, are inclined to use sedatives and tranquilizers, i.e., Xanax, Valium, Ativan, and Klonopin. When people mix the two families of drugs, a synergistic effect takes place; meaning, the drugs amplify the euphoric feelings of one or both drugs. What’s more troubling, drug synergy increases the risk of overdose, as well.

Doctors prescribe sedatives and tranquilizers to treat anything from anxiety to insomnia. The class of drugs is effective in treating those conditions, but use comes with inherent risks, such as dependence, addiction, and overdose. One need not even mix benzodiazepines with opioids to experience an overdose, but when opioids and “benzos” are combined the dangers are far higher.

The general public doesn’t hear much about sedative abuse in the news, the result of the opioid addiction epidemic taking the spotlight. However, people prescribed drugs like Xanax (alprazolam) should be fully aware of what can happen when these drugs are used and abused. With that in mind, new research suggests that misusing prescription sedatives and tranquilizers puts people at risk of abusing more problematic drugs down the road, MedicalXpress reports. The findings were published in the journal Addictive Behaviors.


Riding a Wave of Sedatives

Researchers from the University of Michigan School of Nursing’s Center for the Study of Drugs, Alcohol, Smoking and Health analyzed data from almost 35,000 American adults, according to the article. They examined people using sedatives after a one-year period (Wave One) and again after a three-year period (Wave Two). The findings, at first glance, seem promising; however, a closer look reveals concerning results which call for preventive efforts.

The researchers considered misuse as taking:

  • Too much of the medication.
  • A drug longer than prescribed.
  • Medication for reasons other than intended.
  • Someone else’s prescription (nonmedical use).

The research showed that 76 percent of participants misusing sedatives and tranquilizers during Wave One stopped by the time they got re-interviewed, three-years later. Unfortunately, 45 percent of those who abused such drugs during Wave One, had developed a use disorder involving other substances by Wave Two, predominantly involving alcohol, marijuana, and opioids.

“We have to retrain clinicians to think differently,” said lead author Carol Boyd, professor of nursing and women’s studies. “Most drug users are not single drug users. They misuse several substances and often co-ingest them. This puts misusers at risk for overdose, and even death. We must remember that sedatives and tranquilizers contribute to overdose, especially when mixed with alcohol and opioids.”


Safer… But Still Addictive and Deadly

Drugs like Xanax, the researchers point out, are Schedule IV medications; they are considered less addictive as other drugs such as opioids. However, less addictive doesn’t mean nonaddictive; the risk of abuse and addiction is high, and patients should be made aware. What’s more, detoxing from benzodiazepine addiction can be problematic; without medical supervision, people attempting to abstain are at risk of potentially fatal side effects.

If you or a loved one is misusing any form of sedative or tranquilizer, we strongly encourage you to seek help—immediately. At Hemet Valley Recovery Center and Sage Retreat, we can help you safely detox from narcotics and start you on the road of lasting addiction recovery. Please contact us today, recovery is possible.