On August 31, 2016, the United State Food and Drug Administration announced a new requirement for manufacturers of both brand name and generic opioid analgesics and benzodiazepines as well as opioid-based cough medications. The new labeling and warnings are intended to decrease the number of hospitalizations and deaths that have occurred over the past several years due to combining opioids with benzodiazepines or central nervous system depressants in general. When these medications are taken simultaneously, their actions are magnified, leading to decreased respirations, increased sleepiness, coma, and death.

[su_note note_color=”#F0F0F0″]The FDA will now require manufactures to use boxed warnings on these drugs; this type of warning is the strongest possible. Almost 400 medications will be affected by this new law. In addiction, the FDA is encouraging physicians to understand more about the interactions between these types of drugs and to use only the lowest possible dosages of these drugs for the minimum amount of time when they are necessary. In certain situations where opioids and benzodiazepines must be prescribed together, doctors should thoroughly warn patients about the possible signs and symptoms of an interaction and should closely monitor their patients.[/su_note]

The Increase in Opioid Overdose Dangers

This new labeling is due in part to the severe uptick in opioid overdoses and deaths, including in Hesperia and other High Desert cities, that have been seen since the early 2000’s. In fact, the FDA noted a 41 percent increase in patients who were prescribed both an opioid and a CNS depressant between 2002 and 2014 and found that the number of ER trips due to interactions between these drugs tripled between 2004 and 2011.

However, this is not to say that patients who are truly in pain in and who suffer from anxiety at the same time will not be adequately helped. It is still legal to have a prescription for an opioid analgesic and a benzodiazepine concurrently. However, patients must be careful to take the drugs exactly as prescribed and to alert their doctors immediately to any negative side effects. In addition, family and friends of the individual taking these drugs in Victorville and surrounding cities are encouraged to learn more about the possible negative side effects by reading Medication Guides.

[su_note note_color=”#F0F0F0″]Opioid analgesics are amazing drugs that can blunt the effects of pain throughout the body. Benzodiazepines are most often used to treat anxiety. Due to new labeling and warnings, the FDA hopes to make these drugs safer to use once again by limiting over-prescribing and simultaneous prescribing of them.[/su_note]