Benzodiazepines, also called benzos, are a type of medication commonly referred to as tranquilizers because their effects usually include sedation and relaxation. They’re often used to manage anxiety, insomnia, alcohol withdrawal and seizures. They can also create dangerous interactions when used alongside methadone, which is why it’s so important to talk to your doctor about using them when undergoing methadone treatment.
What Are Benzodiazepines?
Benzodiazepines are a category of psychoactive medications that help manage conditions like anxiety, insomnia, seizures and alcohol withdrawal. You may know them under names like Valium and Xanax. Benzos affect the central nervous system, which regulates things like heart rate, temperature, breathing and blood pressure, slowing these processes down and relaxing the user.
Benzos are a valuable drug when used as prescribed, especially since many are fast-acting and can provide quick relief for panic attacks and sleep problems. When used in these cases, they often help the user return to a “normal” state and are both well-tolerated and relatively safe in the short term.
Benzodiazepine and Methadone
Methadone is a powerful drug used in medication-assisted therapies (MAT) and is used at MedMark Treatment Centers, along with buprenorphine. Methadone is a synthetic, well-controlled opioid, typically administered within methadone clinics. It doesn’t deliver the same kind of high as other opioids, but it controls the painful symptoms of withdrawal and reduces drug cravings.
Methadone can heighten the effects of benzos and create the “high” that many users seek out, making it a dangerous combination for those working toward addiction recovery. It can affect methadone treatment negatively, especially with continued use during treatment.
Many of the patients that are good candidates for methadone treatment are the same patients that need benzodiazepines. That’s why it’s so important to discuss these drugs with your doctor, who can determine the right path moving forward. Taking benzos doesn’t mean you can’t receive methadone treatment, but your provider may have to take extra precautions.
Methadone and benzos interactions can vary by drug, but since both work by depressing the central nervous system, the potential for risk is very high. Let’s look at two of the most commonly known benzos:
- Methadone and Valium: Valium, also called diazepam, is often used to treat anxiety disorders, alcohol withdrawal and muscle spasms. Like most benzodiazepines, it can slow your breathing and lead to dangerous side effects when used with methadone, with has many of the same effects. Combining the two can lead to problems like respiratory depression, coma and even death.
- Methadone and Xanax: Xanax, or alprazolam, is a sedative and anti-anxiety drug that has a wide range of drug and substance interactions. It can lead to similar effects such as slow or difficult breathing and unresponsiveness when combined with methadone.
Getting the Right Information
Benzos and methadone are a dangerous combination, but many patients either don’t realize this or intentionally seek out the effects of their interactions. If you or a loved one starts methadone treatment for opioid addiction, it’s important to understand the effects that benzos can have and avoid their interaction. Always discuss benzodiazepine usage with your licensed healthcare provider before taking benzos.
If you’re interested in starting a medication-assisted treatment for opioid addiction, please reach out to your nearest MedMark Treatment Center or call us at 866-840-6658. We can discuss individualized care, including any existing use or abuse of benzodiazepines and how they can affect treatment.