Last updated on December 2019

Opioid/Benzodiazepine Polydrug Abuse


Brief description of study

Benzodiazepine (BZD)/opioid polysubstance abuse (PSA) dramatically increases risks of overdose, disability and death; however, little is known about phenotypes that could be targeted to decrease this use and these associated risks.

The opioid abuse epidemic is generating unprecedented numbers of overdoses (OD) and deaths from prescribed and illegal sources (e.g. fentanyl combined with, or sold as, heroin). Yet, medical and epidemiological data suggest these adverse outcomes are not solely due to over-consumption of opioids.The FDA recognizes the health danger of BZD/opioid PSA, and issued labeling changes for prescribing BZDs and opioids. Impact of these changes is unclear and could be minimal if people obtain these substances illegally.

BZD abuse can be harmful alone or combined with opioids, as BZDs: (a) contribute to OD/death e.g. 31% of opioid OD-related deaths from 1999 to 2011 were related to coincident BZD use, BZD co-use is dose-dependently related to mortality and rates of BZD OD deaths have sharply increased. (b) exacerbate progression and adverse outcomes of opioid abuse. and (c) worsen behavioral impairment from opioids, increase rates of falls and fractures, motor vehicle accidents, and sleep-disordered breathing.

There has been limited systematic research of BZD/opioid PSA. This is a major gap because BZD are often co-prescribed with opioids (in 33 to 50% of cases) and are easily obtained illegally.

In response to these problems, there is an urgent need to obtain population-level, clinical pharmacology, and mechanistic data to test our unified hypothesis of dual-deficit in affective/hedonic regulation.

Detailed Study Description

A subset (n=120) of patients recently admitted to (and not yet stable in) Substance Use Disorder treatment in Wayne County who abuse (Group 1) opioids, (Group 2) benzodiazepines (BZD), and (Group 3) BZD/opioid (40 patients per group) will be assessed.

Patients will be referred from the treatment regulator and local providers.

Participants will take part in one 6 hour face-to-face assessment during which they will undergo comprehensive assessments of both clinical (substance use, mental health) and hypothesis-driven measures (affective, neurocognitive, behavioral).

Participants must provide a supervised alcohol-free breath sample and a urine sample that will be screened for opioids, methadone, cocaine metabolites, BZDs, barbiturates, amphetamines.

Psychopathology: The Semi-Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-5 will be used to evaluate lifetime and current psychiatric and substance use disorders.

Affective dysregulation (inability to regulate emotions), neurocognition, pain and prescription misuse, insomnia, sleepiness, vigilance, and substance use will be assessed through the use of computerized measurements as well as paper and pencil questionnaires and face-to-face interviews.

Sample Size: In Aim 2, 40 patients in each of the 3 drug-use groups (n=120 total) will be evaluated. This will offer greater statistical power to detect affective and neurocognitive effects than prior studies, including analysis of sex differences and correction for multiple comparisons.

Clinical Study Identifier: NCT03696017

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