Benzodiazepines or “benzos” benefit many people when taken as prescribed. However, for those taking methadone to treat opioid addiction, mixing benzos and methadone can be dangerous. But, there are options for those taking prescription medications like benzos to continue medication-assisted treatment (MAT) with methadone during rehab. At Believe Detox Center, we know that quitting opioids like heroin and fentanyl can be challenging without MAT. We want to assure clients that prescription benzos do not disqualify them from our MAT program. Still, some precautions and information can help our clients consider their best treatment options.
What Do Benzodiazepines Treat?
Doctors prescribe benzodiazepines (benzos), like Xanax, Klonopin, or Ativan, for many conditions. Overall, benzos are a sedative drug, meaning that they reduce brain activity. Benzos, therefore, can treat conditions such as insomnia, anxiety, panic attacks, and muscle spasms.
Benzos can help people reduce symptoms of these conditions, especially when combined with additional treatments like mindfulness meditation, talk therapy, and exercise, depending upon the condition. However, like all medications, benzos carry a risk of dangerous or unpleasant side effects.
Unintended Side Effects
Since benzos are sedative drugs, a person must understand the potential risks. For instance, they might be unable to perform certain tasks after taking their medication, like driving or working.
Even when a person takes their medication as prescribed, they could have unintended side effects, including:
- Trouble thinking and confusion
- Impaired coordination
- Blurred vision
- Slurred speech
- Feeling weak or lightheaded
- Shakes or tremors
In addition, benzos carry a risk of dependency and addiction. So, it is important to disclose the use of any medications when beginning any drug treatment program, including methadone treatment for opioid addiction.
How Does Methadone Work?
Methadone helps to treat opioid addiction during medication-assisted treatment (MAT). MAT programs also include behavioral therapy and peer support groups to treat addiction long term. Methadone is a prescription medication that treats opioid use disorder (OUD). Doctors also prescribe methadone for pain management.
When prescribed for MAT, methadone occupies the opioid receptors in the brain, like other opioid drugs. However, unlike drugs like heroin or fentanyl, methadone’s effects are mild. Most people in recovery from potent opioid drugs will feel little to no effect. But, by occupying the opioid receptors, methadone reduces cravings and withdrawal symptoms, and also blocks the effects of other opioids in case of a relapse.
In addition, the mild effects of methadone last longer than other opioids. During MAT with methadone, clients take one daily dose to treat addiction one day at a time. By reducing cravings and withdrawal, clients can focus on their recovery to learn new coping skills for the underlying causes of their addiction.
Potential Dangers of Mixing Benzos and Methadone
Since methadone works on the opioid receptors, a person might feel some unintended side effects similar to benzos. When taking both medications at the same time, these side effects might be more severe and even life-threatening.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warns those taking benzos and prescription opioids like methadone to be aware of “symptoms of unusual dizziness or lightheadedness, extreme sleepiness, slowed or difficult breathing, or unresponsiveness.” This is because both of these drugs depress the central nervous system and the combined effects could be dangerous.
Can You Take Benzos With Methadone?
Clients can take benzos with methadone, however, they must be aware of the risks. It is also vital to have a support system in place to monitor a person’s safety in case of a medical emergency. As with any medications, clients must weigh the risks and benefits. They can also consider alternative MAT medications or treatments.
Weighing the Risks
It’s no secret that opioid addiction is deadly. It also carries other risks, like legal problems, medical issues, and difficulty maintaining relationships with loved ones. Therefore, if a person is concerned about the risks of taking benzos and methadone, they must also consider the risks of continuing their addiction.
Consider Other Medications
Fortunately, the FDA has approved other medications to treat OUD. These medications include buprenophrine and naltrexone. They come in several forms including pills, sublingual film, and brand-name injections. Of course, mixing these other medications with benzos can also lead to unintended side effects. It is critcal to speak to a healthcare professional before taking any medications.
Taper Off Benzos
Of course, another alternative is to stop taking benzos while on methadone. However, since benzodiazepines carry the risk of dependency, it is important to consult with physician before stopping. Doctors will recommend that clients taper off their prescription benzos so that they can safely adjust to the change.
Begin MAT in Los Angeles, CA
The best way to treat opioid addiction is a combination of several treatment methods. A comprehensive treatment plan can include medications like methadone for MAT along with talk therapy and holistic approaches. Those taking prescriptions like benzodiazepines need to consider the risks and benefits of methadone to treat their addiction. Believe Detox Center in Los Angeles, California, is here to help you or your loved one quit opioids like heroin and fentanyl for good. Contact us today to get the treatment you deserve.