Beliefs about the consequences of using benzodiazepines among persons with opioid use disorder.J Subst Abuse Treat. 2017 06; 77:67-71.JS
Patients admitted to addiction treatment programs report high rates of concurrent opioid and benzodiazepine (BZD) use. This combination places individuals at high risk for accidental overdose and other serious consequences. However, little is known about the beliefs opioid users have about the consequences of BZD use.
We surveyed consecutive persons initiating inpatient opioid detoxification (N=476; 95.0% enrollment) and identified 245 who reported BZD use in the past 30days and/or had a positive toxicology. We compared those who did and did not report BZD use on demographic and substance use variables, and specific beliefs about the potential effects of BZDs.
Participants averaged 32.2years of age, 71.2% were male, 86.6% used heroin, and 68.7% reported injection drug use in the past 30days. Over half (51.5%) used a BZD in the month prior to admission; of these, 26.2% (n=64) reported being prescribed a BZD. Alprazolam (Xanax) was the most commonly used BZD (54%). Benzodiazepine users (versus non-users) were significantly more likely to be female and non-Hispanic White, use concurrent substances, and report past year overdose. Overall, nearly all BZD users endorsed accurate beliefs that BZDs can increase the risk of overdose and can be addictive. However, BZD users, relative to non-users, were significantly less likely to endorse some known adverse consequences of BZDs, such as risk of worsening depression and poor medication-assisted opioid treatment retention.
Delineating the full array of risks from combining BZDs and opioids should be a high priority in detoxification settings, given the increased risks associated with BZD misuse in this population.