U.S is on Track for a New Epidemic: Benzodiazepines

America is on track for an epidemic of addiction and overdoses from anti-anxiety medication, a top clinician warns. With the nation's attention on prescription painkillers, there has been little conversation about the climbing rate of people being prescribed benzodiazepines, potent drugs like Xanax and Valium designed to alleviate anxiety and panic attacks on a short term basis.

Dr Anna Lembke, a psychiatry professor at the Stanford University School of Medicine and author of Drug Dealer MD, warns 'benzos' are being consumed and distributed in a way that eerily echoes the lead-up to the opioid epidemic. Crucially, she warns, more and more patients are finding it impossible to reduce their dose or quit the drugs even after one prescription, paving the way to either an excruciating battle with withdrawal symptoms or a lifetime of addiction.

'I started to see that, two or three years ago, more and more patients were coming in to my office seeking help specifically to get off benzodiazepines - all prescribed to them by a well-intended doctor,' Dr Lembke said. 'In many cases they had no history of addiction, but found themselves utterly incapable of even decreasing their doses a bit. Even reducing it a little bit they had these incredible withdrawal symptoms that were just unbearable.'

She was also seeing patients who had managed to reduce their doses of get off but were left with tremors and full-body twitching, which they directly attributed to going on the benzodiazepines ('these are the so-called "benzo survivors" who feel they have been harmed by going on them and struggling to get off'). Crunching the data in a recent paper, Dr Lembke saw a clear trend. The rate of benzodiazepine prescriptions climbed 67 percent between 1996 and 2013 - up from 8.1 million to 13.5 million. In 2016, Xanax, Desyrel and Ativan were all in the top 10 of the most-prescribed psychiatric medications (second, sixth and ninth, respectively).

This uptick has proved particularly dangerous in tandem with the opioid epidemic. Millions of people have been mixing the two - whether on purpose or unwittingly - with devastating consequences. When taking benzodiazepines and opioids together, a person's overdose risk quadruples. Since 1999, the rate of people dying of such a combination has increased seven-fold.

While the best long-term control of anxiety comes in the form of behavioral therapy or a low dose of antidepressants, benzos offer almost instant relief. Within as little as 30 minutes, the drug awakens the GABA neurotransmitters, and users feel a calming effect. Interestingly, we still do not fully understand how the drug interacts with the brain, but we do know that it produces short-term effects that millions of people are looking for. 'These were never meant to be given long term. There's consensus that they should be used for the shortest duration for the lowest dose.'

Reference: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-5975541/Xanax-driving-Americas-drug-epidemic.html

  • 1 Commentby Likes|Date
  • Benzos are awful, awful drugs. Like opioids, I know they help a lot of people. But they also wreak havoc with a lot of people's lives, too. I know, because I am one of those people. I was prescribed Klonopin by my psychiatrist and had no idea what I was getting myself into by taking it. Here's my story in case anyone's interested in reading it:

    Held Hostage by a RX Drug: My Klonopin Nightmare

    If a doctor prescribes a benzodiazepine for you, please make sure to ask questions like how long you'll be taking it, what side effects there will be, how difficult it will be to stop taking it, etc. Also, be sure to ask if there are any alternatives to taking a benzo. If there are, I would definitely try those first.
Sign In or Register to comment.