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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

BU Argues Stronger Efforts Needed on Concurrent Opioid and Benzodiazepine Use

Two in five people seeking detoxification for heroin or other opioid addiction reported taking benzodiazepines, usually obtained illegally—a finding that suggests a need for better education about the risks of the potentially dangerous drug combination, according to a new study led by a Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH) researcher.

The study, based at a Massachusetts drug-treatment program, found that just 23 percent of dual users obtained the benzodiazepines (sedatives such as Xanax) from a prescriber, while 48 percent reported getting them from “the street” and 28 percent from a friend or family member. And while those who got the drugs legally reported that “managing anxiety” was their primary reason for using them, those who bought them on the street were far more likely to report using the drugs to “get high or enhance a high.”

The study, published in the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment and led by Dr. Michael Stein, chair of the Department of Health Law, Policy & Management at BUSPH, urges more education—for both clinicians and patients—on the risks and alternatives to benzodiazepines (BZDs).

“Prescribers continue to need education on the risks of combining opioids and benzodiazepines, but another important target audience is drug users themselves,” Dr. Stein said. Some opioid users “may never cross paths with a health care provider in their pursuit of opioids and benzodiazepines, and therefore may be missing out on the diagnosis of psychiatric symptoms and alternative treatments for anxiety or depression,” he added.

To read more about the study, go to: