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Thursday, January 3, 2019

Benzodiazepine Use and Abuse Concerns

Prescription opioids and the substance use disorder that can result has dominated national news cycles for more than a decade. Practically every American adult understands the dangers accompanying opioid use. When addressing addiction stemming from prescription drug use, it is critical to remember that other pharmaceuticals carry significant risk as well. This fact is especially true when two forms of narcotics are used simultaneously.

During the period when opioid prescribing surged dramatically, so too did prescription sedatives. Benzodiazepines are one type of drug that is commonly used to treat anxiety and depression in the United States. Valium, Xanax, Ativan, and Klonopin are prescribed the most; and, such drugs can also lead to addiction. What’s more, when benzos are misused or mixed with other drugs like opioids, patients can experience a potentially fatal overdose.

"The risk of poisoning from benzodiazepines alone is very high, but is compounded for those who misuse benzodiazepines -- a central nervous system depressant -- along with opioids, which suppress respiration,” said Linda Richter, director of policy research and analysis with the Center on Addiction. “When combined with alcohol, also a depressant, the effects can be similarly severe." 

Those patients who become dependent on benzodiazepines can also face complications when attempting to stop. It is vital that people struggling with use disorders resulting from the use of sedatives seek professional attention when making efforts toward recovery. One of the symptoms of benzodiazepine withdrawal is seizures, which can be fatal if they occur unsupervised.

Benzodiazepine Use Is On The Rise

While studying current U.S. data, Dr. Donovan Maust, an assistant professor with the University of Michigan's department of psychiatry, found that about one in five people prescribed benzodiazepines are misusing the substances, HealthDay reports. Moreover, Dr. Maust found that misuse was as common as prescribed use among young adults. The findings of the research appear in Psychiatric Services.

Most experts agree that opioid misuse and overdose in America began steadily increasing in the late 1990s. Disturbingly, a report in the New England Journal of Medicine shows that annual benzodiazepine overdose deaths rose from 1,135 to 8,791 between 1999 and 2015. The U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) finds that almost one in three opioid overdoses involve a drug like Valium or Xanax.

Even though benzodiazepines are of little to no value in treating anxiety, panic disorders or insomnia, according to Maust, the data indicates that nearly 13 percent of adults used these types of drugs in the past year. He points out that cognitive behavioral therapy or CBT and psychotherapy is typically more effective at treating symptoms than sedatives. Dr. Maust adds that benzos may be more of a hindrance than a help.

"Benzos for anxiety is like opioids for chronic pain. There's a small subset of patients with treatment-resistant conditions where use may be appropriate," Maust said. "The current amount of use way, way exceeds what the evidence would support."

Dual Diagnosis Treatment

If your use of benzodiazepines to treat symptoms of mental illness resulted in developing a use disorder, please reach out to The Haven. We provide medically supervised and top-quality care for addressing both the addiction and co-occurring mental illness like depression and anxiety. Our premier central coast addiction treatment center is the perfect place to renew your best today.