What Happens When You Mix Depressants and Opiates?

Using multiple drugs causes multiple problems. The effects are often unpredictable and may result in serious health consequences such as unexpected physical or psychological reactions or overdose. Understanding the dangers of polydrug abuse can increase understanding of the need for positive support and therapy to end addiction and find a healthy and happy life.

Opiates and Alcohol

Opiates are central nervous system (CNS) depressants. This means they slow reaction times and decrease heart rate, lung function and other mental and physical process. Using opiates and alcohol results in an increased depressant effect on the CNS, as alcohol has a similar effect on the body. Recreational drug users may seek this increased effect but they do so at great risk to themselves. According to the Health Department of Western Australia, in Australia alone, “Approximately one in four opiate deaths involve a combination of opiates and alcohol” (“Fact Sheet: Alcohol Interaction with Other Drugs”). Heart and lung function can quickly drop to fatal levels, or stop altogether, when these substances are combined.

Opiates and Benzodiazepines

Benzodiazepines are a category of drugs that enhance the effect of neurotransmitters such as GABA to produce sedative and antianxiety results. Few concerns are associated with prescribed short-term use of benzodiazepines but risks develop when high doses are taken, a benzodiazepine drug is taken for longer than recommended or when one or more of these drugs are mixed with opiates. An article published in the Journal of Drug and Alcohol Dependence found that, when benzodiazepines are taken prior to opiate use, increased concentrations of the opiate are then found in the liver and brain. Some benzodiazepines inhibit the perceived effects of opiates and this may cause users to take another dose of an opiate drug (“Polydrug Abuse: A Review of Opioid and Benzodiazepine Combination Use,” September 2013). Both potential effects of opiates and benzodiazepine combinations can lead to overdose. Despite this risk using opiates and benzodiazepines together is unfortunately common. According to the Journal of Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 22% of heroin users in Australia also use benzodiazepines, while 18-24% of patients entering treatment for opiate abuse also needed treatment for or detoxification from benzodiazepines.

Ending Depressant Abuse

Although the dangers of polydrug abuse are real, the possibility for a healthy, drug-free life is even greater. Call our toll-free helpline to learn more about helping yourself or a loved one put an end to dangerous drug use practices. We are here 24 hours a day to connect you to real, personalized resources for mediation, therapy, treatment and aftercare. We are here to support you through every step of the recovery journey. All you have to do to begin is call.

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