Benzos are so overused that they top all prescriptions in psychiatric medicine and are among the most prescribed medication of any type in the United States. Nearly 50 million benzos prescriptions are written every year.
Prescriptions for benzos have skyrocketed over the past two decades. Between 1996 and 2013, the number of prescriptions for benzodiazepines more than tripled and fatal overdoses more than quadrupled.
What’s the Big Deal?
Benzos are known for helping with anxiety disorders and insomnia, so what’s the big deal if they are heavily prescribed?
Well, there are a couple of reasons why this is a major problem.
First, there is evidence indicating these drugs do not work well over the long-term. Studies reveal that long-term use of benzos can increase anxiety symptoms. Furthermore, it is possible to treat anxiety and sleep disorders without medication, or at least with other medications besides benzos.
The second problem is the addiction and dependence risk. People who receive high doses of benzos can become physically dependent fairly quickly. Without medical supervision, the withdrawals from benzos are severe, ranging from intensified anxiety to high blood pressure, seizures, and convulsions.
The longer someone uses benzos, the greater the likelihood of addiction. People who misuse benzos tend to take higher-than-prescribed doses or mix the pills with alcohol or other drugs. Benzos are often chewed or crushed which interferes with the timed-release formula and speeds up the effects. This way of using benzos is extremely dangerous.
A Deadly Combination?
The true dangers of benzos really amplify when they are taken with other substances like opioids and alcohol. The risk of combining benzos and opioids is well-known, yet many doctors prescribe benzos and opioids together to patients.
From 2001 to 2013, benzos and opioid prescriptions increased by 80%, according to an analysis by researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine. It is not considered safe to use both together yet this is fairly standard practice.
Opioids vs. Benzos?
Highlighting the dangers of benzos is not intended to diminish the significant dangers of prescription painkillers. Make no mistake, we are in the midst of an opioid epidemic, and opioid addiction has become a national crisis. However, in 30 percent of opioid-related deaths, a combination of benzos and opioids caused the overdose. That’s why it is so important to talk about benzos when we are discussing the opioid epidemic.
Why is this combination so deadly?
Opioids and benzos both slow down the body systems, particularly the respiratory and cardiovascular systems. Therefore, it is not difficult to understand why this combination is so risky. You are essentially combining two substances that slow down the functioning of your body. If you add a cocktail on top of that, it only compounds the problem. In worse case scenarios, this combination of substances causes breathing to stop.
In addition, alcoholics regularly abuse the benzo alprazolam, known by its brand name Xanax. Alcohol is a depressant so combining alcohol with the sedative effects of benzos increases the likelihood of overdose and respiratory failure.
Should Doctors Take the Blame?
The use of benzos often begins in the form of a prescription. Dual prescriptions of benzos and opioids are far from uncommon. Doctors are more likely to prescribe to patients who complain of pain, anxiety, and insomnia during a limited 15-minute consultation time.
In this rushed state, a physician may desire to help a patient but not have the time to explore the underlying causes. Therefore, medication becomes the easiest treatment. It unclear whether doctors are adequately warning their patients of the potential dangers of combining these drugs to help prevent addiction. As for now, it is difficult to place the blame on one person or thing, but one thing is for certain: people need to know the risks.
Overall, more and more people are struggling with addiction, and overdose death numbers have reached epidemic levels. If you are currently struggling with addiction, please do not wait. Recovery is possible. Call toll-free today.