Member Research and Reports

Member Research and Reports

BU Finds Opioid Users Understand Risks of Benzodiazepines, But Need Strategies to Stop Dual Use

Benzodiazepine (BZD) use among people with opioid use disorder is common and is a major contributor to the overdose epidemic. But while most users understand the risks, many lack the motivation and strategies to quit BZDs, according to a new study led by a Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH) researcher.

In a study in the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, a team of researchers from BUSPH, Butler Hospital in Providence, the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University, and a Fall River, Massachusetts, treatment center surveyed more than 470 patients who initiated inpatient opioid detoxification, and identified nearly half who reported also using benzodiazepines. BZD users were significantly more likely to be female, use concurrent substances, and report past year overdoses.

Overall, nearly all BZD users endorsed “accurate beliefs” that benzodiazepines increase the risk of overdose and can be addictive. Study participants “were nearly universally aware that BZDs can be addictive, muddle one’s thinking, cause fatigue and driving accidents, contribute to overdose risk, and, if halted, produce withdrawal symptoms,” the study says. “That is, BZD users overall held accurate perceptions about BZDs’ major adverse effects.”

Lead author Dr. Michael Stein, chair and professor of health law, policy & management at BUSPH, said, “It’s been very difficult to develop effective interventions to reduce the use of BZDs by persons with opioid use disorders, but it’s a critical piece of the epidemic of overdose deaths.”

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