Warning: We Can’t Afford to Ignore Benzo Abuse
As prescription painkillers continue receiving cautionary headlines in the media, the dangers associated with benzodiazepine drugs (benzos) have long been minimized.
Benzodiazepines like Xanax, Klonopin, Valium and Ativan are prescribed for conditions that include anxiety and insomnia; when taken as directed, they’re generally safe. However, recent studies show a sharp increase in benzodiazepine abuse, which often leads to treatment, hospitalization or fatal consequences.
The Benzodiazepine Explosion
Doctors are prescribing benzos at an astonishing rate. In fact, Xanax is the most commonly prescribed psychiatric drug in America. As a result, the streets have been flooded with benzodiazepines and abuse rates are skyrocketing.
Recreational abuse typically involves taking large doses of benzos as a way to magnify the effects of alcohol and/or prescription opioids such as OxyContin and hydrocodone.
According to a report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), 95 percent of all benzodiazepine-related hospitalizations include the abuse of another substance.
A Treatment Episode Data Set (TEDS) report revealed that hospital admissions for benzodiazepine treatment tripled between 1998 and 2008. A similar SAMHSA report shows emergency room admissions associated with the non-medical use of Xanax doubled, jumping from 57,419 in 2005 to 124, 902 in 2010.
Needless to say, the increase of hospitalizations reflects the increase of benzodiazepine abuse.
The Dangers of Benzo Abuse
Benzos affect the neurotransmitters of the brain and, when taken properly, they can alleviate anxiety, depression and restlessness. When mixed with alcohol or opioids, however, benzos tend to create an amnesia-inducing effect and an inability to control motor skills.
Benzodiazepine withdrawal symptoms can include severe anxiety, restlessness, muscular pain and stiffness, seizures and even psychosis.After prolonged use and abuse, an addiction develops. Benzodiazepine withdrawal symptoms can include severe anxiety, restlessness, muscular pain and stiffness, seizures and even psychosis.
Due to the potential severity of withdrawal symptoms, you should always seek professional help when dealing with a benzodiazepine addiction.
A Decidedly Deadly Cocktail
The recreational abuse of benzodiazepines generally involves the use of other substances – specifically prescription painkillers.
Over the last decade, emergency rooms have experienced a sharp rise in overdose admissions brought on by benzo-opiate cocktails. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 30 percent of all overdose deaths in 2010 were caused by combining benzos and opiates.
Benzodiazepine abuse may not get the same amount of media exposure that opiates receive, but statistics indicate that it probably should.
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Additional Reading: Meet the New Benzo Causing Deadly Consequences
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