Benzodiazepine vs. Opiates and Alcohol: Which Is More Addictive?
Benzos and opiates are considered equally addictive. Some of the similarities between the two drugs include:
- Both can cause tolerance and physical dependence
- Both substances can cause dangerous withdrawal symptoms if detox is not handled correctly
- Both substances depress the central nervous system
- Both affect the brain’s reward center, producing sensations of pleasure and reinforcing the desire to use them again
One of the main differences between benzodiazepines and opioids is in how they are prescribed. Opioids are primarily prescribed to treat pain, while benzos are primarily prescribed to treat anxiety disorders.
Another difference is in how they affect the brain. While benzos activate inhibitory neurotransmitters to depress nerve activity, opioids block pain receptors and produce feelings of euphoria.
Benzos vs. Alcohol
Alcohol and benzodiazepines are both central nervous system depressants, and they both carry a high risk of addiction. Some people may believe that because alcohol does not require a prescription and is not a controlled substance, it must be safer than benzos or other prescribed medication.
Alcohol is one of the most widely abused substances in the U.S. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism reports that over 14.5 million Americans age 12 and older have alcohol use disorder.
An even more serious danger comes from mixing alcohol and benzodiazepines. The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that overdose deaths attributed to combining benzos and alcohol are more likely to occur when people view prescription medications as “safe” because they are prescribed by a doctor.
Tolerance may be the major factor in alcohol-benzo overdose. Alcohol and benzodiazepines both act as central nervous system depressants, and each enhances the effects of the other. When an individual who is addicted to either builds up a tolerance to their preferred substance, they might experiment with an additional substance to achieve the desired results.
According to the CDC, combining the two drugs increases the risk of suppressed breathing and brain function and dangerously low heart rate.