Many people really don’t consider pain medications, sleeping pills, and steroids and anti-inflammatory drugs as potentially dangerous. But they are. Even drugs like Xanax and the herbal supplement St. John’s Wort can be hazardous to people’s health under certain circumstances.
The risk associated with certain drugs is one of the main reasons they are dispensed only by a doctor’s prescription. Even then, there’s no guarantee of safety. When opiates and other opioids – from heroin to OxyContin – are used together with other drugs, a whole new set of dangers exist.
Certain combinations of drugs can be very hazardous. This is why supervising physicians and other care providers should all be made aware of any drugs that the patient is currently using, regardless who prescribed them. If such precautions aren’t taken, a threatening scenario may shockingly present itself. Whether innocently or strategically occurring, prescription drug interactions are so precarious that they really must be professionally managed to better ensure that safety and health are preserved.1
Taking Multiple Drugs at One Time Can Lead to Horrific Results
When it comes to opiates, one of the most common dangers is central nervous system (CNS) depression. This happens when an opiate is combined with a substance that causes sedation. CNS depressants include such substances as:
- Sleeping pills
- Muscle relaxers
- Anxiety medicine
Of course, conditions such as depression may also occur when opiates and other pain medications are used simultaneously. In effect, drugs and medications can combine to slow down the central nervous system to the point where these additional perils may occur:
- Decreased heart rate.
- Decline in breathing.
- Slowing down of the brain.
Yes, CNS depression is certainly not the only side-effect to fear from inappropriate prescription drug interaction. Consider the pain medicine Vicodin. The addition of this popular prescription drug presents these potential risks:
- Increases the risk of seizures.
- Claims 89 other medications (per Drugs.com) that cause dangerous interactions.
- Interacts badly with such random medications as antidepressants, bronchodilators, and bladder, urinary and irritable bowel medicines.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention has issued a report showing that there was a 68% increase in drug-interaction deaths between 1999 and 2004. Unintended drug poisoning continues to be the nation’s second-leading cause of accidental death. The report stated that “prescription drugs, especially prescription painkillers, are driving the prolonged increase.”2
Treating Multiple Conditions Can Present Extra Risk
Medications like Vicodin and Xanax are meant to treat completely different conditions, but taking them together presents a serious health risk. Even if the doses are not large, there are inherent dangers in simply combining the two. Now, imagine the risks that can exist with an addiction to more than one drug.
In such cases, professional treatment is especially important. The benefits of utilizing such specialized care can include:
- Breaking the physical addiction to each drug in a way that minimizes the withdrawal symptoms.
- Treating health issues that drugs may have suppressed, like anxiety, chronic pain or depression.
- Utilizing behavioral therapies in a way that helps the person avoid a possible addiction relapse.
- Addressing any psychological addiction or relapse triggers in order to avert drug abuse.
- Teaching skills that prepare users for a fresh start in life after addiction.
- Group therapy and aftercare support to help keep the recovery on track.
Addiction can happen even with legitimate, doctor-supervised drug use. There is no embarrassment in asking for help, especially since the alternative – addiction or other health issues – is less desirable.3
Searching for Help with Opiate Abuse and Related Conditions
If you or a loved one are concerned that a dangerous drug interaction may have occurred, call 911 immediately. For those who are simply concerned about the possibility that a bad drug interaction may occur, or if an individual wishes to avoid going through such emergency assistance, we are here to help. Our staff is available 24 hours a day at a toll-free helpline to talk about drugs, addiction, drug interactions, treatment options and more. We are good listeners…and good advisors. Trust a name that’s known for excellence as well as expertise in the field of drug addiction and other mental health conditions. We would also be happy to assist you in determining whether your insurance will cover such necessary care. We specialize in care…one person at a time.
1 “Prescription Drugs: Abuse and Addiction”, National Institute on Drug Abuse, https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugs-brains-behavior-science-addiction/drug-abuse-addiction , (October 2011).
2 “Drug Interactions: What You Should Know”, U.S. Food and Drug Administration, http://www.fda.gov/drugs/resourcesforyou/ucm163354.htm , (September 25, 2013).
3 “Drug Disease and Drug-Drug Interactions: Systematic Examination of Recommendations in 12 UK National Clinical Guidelines”, National Center for Biotechnology Information, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4356453/ , (March 11, 2015).