In the midst of the opioid crisis, it is easy for most of us to focus our attention on drugs like heroin, fentanyl, and Percocet, substances all responsible for thousands of deaths each year. While this epidemic is in the forefront of all of our minds and lives, we must not ignore another crisis that is silently lurking in the background.
Benzodiazepines and related overdose deaths have grown exponentially over the years, yet many of us would not know otherwise. It is important to be informed of these types of prescription drugs and the threat they impose on all of us, so we are better able to combat this crisis head on.
What Are Benzodiazepines?
Benzodiazepines are central nervous system tranquilizers, typically prescribed by a doctor for anxiety, insomnia, and seizures. Most people know them by their brand names such as Xanax, Valium, Klonopin, and Ativan. These substances act on the central nervous system to produce sedation and muscle relaxation, but when abused, benzodiazepines can become extremely dangerous to the user, having even fatal outcomes. One major reason for abuse is the same as prescription opioids, being that they have become so readily available through the over prescription by physicians.
Due to its tranquilizing abilities, benzodiazepines can have deadly effects when taken in large doses. Symptoms of abuse can include, drowsiness, dizziness, memory loss, confusion, weakness, difficulty breathing, coma, and death. While these drugs may seem like a safe option because they are prescribed by a doctor, it is imperative to know just how dangerous benzos can be. Additionally, chronic abuse can lead to dependence and that dependence can create withdrawal symptoms for the user, including anxiety, insomnia, and seizures, all symptoms the drug was intended to treat. For this reason, someone dependent on benzodiazepines should never attempt to detox alone and should seek immediate help from a medical or addictions professional.
Overdoses Have Quadrupled
Benzodiazepines have become the most popular prescribed medication within the United States, with over 50 million prescriptions written each year. Due to this popularity, overdoses related to this class of drug have quadrupled between 1996 and 2013.
Dr. Marcus Bachhuber of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York told NBC News, “We found that the death rate from overdoses involving benzodiazepines, also known as ‘benzos,’ has increased more than four-fold since 1996 – a public health problem that has gone under the radar.” He continued on to say, “Overdoses from benzodiazepines have increased at a much faster rate than prescriptions for the drugs, indicating that people have been taking them in a risker way over time.”
The research team at Albert Einstein School of Medicine also concluded that nearly one third of the 23,000 people who died from overdoses, were taking some form of a benzodiazepine. Additionally, the number of adults filling a prescription for a benzo increased from 8.1 million to 13.5 million, and found a large increase in the number of tablets each adult was prescribed.
Benzodiazepines & Opiates: A Fatal Combination
While this class of drugs is dangerous on its own, that risk increases significantly when combined with prescription opioids, alcohol, or other substances. Although this should be obvious, new studies report that doctors are prescribing a combination of opiates and benzos at increasing rates. Using a sample of privately insured patients from 2001 to 2013, researchers found that concurrent prescribing rates of opioids and benzodiazepines increased 80%. Furthermore, as one would guess, concurrent use of these drugs was associated with higher rates of emergency room visits and hospital admissions for overdose.
Opioid addiction has become the leading cause of accidental death in the United States, putting our country in a state of emergency. Nevertheless, we cannot ignore the clear threat that benzodiazepines pose to all of us. While many are dying from drugs like heroin, fentanyl, or other synthetic opiates, it is important to know that 30% of all opioid-related deaths involved a combination of benzodiazepines and opioids.
So, while we focus our attention on drug addiction across the country, it is imperative we focus on ALL substances, both legal prescriptions and illicit substances. Just because something was written and prescribed by a licensed physician, doesn’t necessarily mean that medication is safe. If you think you many have a problem with benzodiazepines, opioids, or other prescription drugs, help is available for you too. Please remember, do not attempt to detox yourself without medical supervision, as certain symptoms can be fatal. Always consult with a medical or addictions professional before stopping any narcotic medication.
Contact Clearbrook Today For Prescription Drug Abuse
If you or someone you know and love has found themselves addicted to prescription medications, help is available.
For 45 years, Clearbrook Treatement Centers has been providing quality treatment that has proven to work. When you arrive at Clearbrook, you will be fully evaluated by our medical team and offered a medically supervised detoxification protocol that will best suit your needs. From there, you or your loved one will immediately begin the residential portion of treatment, where clinical care and therapy will commence. By the time you are ready to leave us, you will have the necessary tools to begin a life of recovery.
If you are ready to change your life, please contact our Admissions Specialists today. We look forward to helping you in any and every way we can.