Benzodiazepines, also known as Xanax, Valium, Klonopin or by the more common street name of “benzos,” has burst onto the American scene as the number of overdose deaths related to them have reached disturbingly high levels.
In 2013, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that about 30 percent of prescription drug overdoses were attributed directly to benzodiazepines, while opioid-related overdose deaths took the other 70 percent.
This information was brought to light by Dr. Marcus A. Bachhuber, assistant professor of medicine at Montefiore Medical Center and Albert Einstein College of Medicine in his study, Increasing Benzodiazepine Prescriptions and Overdose Mortality in the United States.
The Rise of Benzodiazepine Use
Bachhuber mentions at length how he expected the prescription and use of benzodiazepines to have either stagnated or be on a steady decline because of the recent rise in opioid awareness and opioid overdose-related deaths.
Unfortunately, the researchers’ prediction differed from the outcome of the data they collected on benzodiazepine use in the US from 1996 to 2013. They found that in an 18-year period, benzodiazepine use increased by a whopping 67 percent, the highest recorded growth in prescription drug use aside from opioids.
Looking at the data, Bachhuber deduced that:
“Overdoses from benzodiazepines have increased at a much faster rate than prescriptions for the drugs, indicating that people have been taking them in a riskier way over time.”
Bachhuber concluded that the rising numbers of overdoses relating to benzodiazepines are not only a public health concern but also an epidemic that has been cruising under the radar. It soon becomes apparent that the numbers resemble the growing heroin epidemic overtaking the country.
Mixing Benzodiazepines and Death
Not only are benzodiazepines, the second leading cause of overdoses from prescription drugs, growing in use and prescription across the nation, but it’s also commonly mixed together with opioids, the number one leading cause of overdoses from prescription drugs.
While the two main prescription drugs that lead the country in overdose-related deaths are often combined and mixed to treat chronic pain, unfortunately, they also raise the overall chances of an overdose.
Dr. Gary Reisfield, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Florida says:
“The risk of overdose and death from benzodiazepines themselves is generally low-to-moderate in otherwise health adults… [mixed with other substances] their lethality is magnified”.
Combine this creeping prescription drug use with the rising rates of alcoholism in the country, and an epidemic is clearly born. Benzodiazepines when mixed with alcohol nearly triples the chances of overdosing, which begs the question: how common is alcoholism?
According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIH), around 16 million adults over the age of 18 have some kind of alcohol use disorder. That coming from a population of approximately 300 million, makes it to about 7 percent in total. This makes it highly probable that any individual using benzodiazepines would also have an alcohol disorder.
What sparked this increase of benzodiazepine overdoses during the decade, and most dramatically during the past three years, remains largely unknown. However, what is known is that the overall reason benzodiazepines are being so commonly used is because they are heavily prescribed to patients.
While benzodiazepines are used mainly to treat anxiety, it should be noted that there are alternative medicines to take that aren’t as addictive or harmful.
The benzodiazepine addiction epidemic may not slow down nationwide, but battling against its addictive clutches can undoubtedly be handled by professional addiction specialists who can assist with detox services and other recovery methods. If you or a loved one are battling benzodiazepine addiction or benzodiazepine withdrawal, call Drug Treatment Center Finder today.