Study: Xanax, Valium Next Potential Drug Crisis

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XanaxAre sedatives like Xanax and Valium looming as the next drug epidemic for Americans? A new study warns that the casual use of these medications, combined with the growing overdose deaths involving these meds, may be the beginning of a new drug crisis. The findings were published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Known as benzodiazepines, these drugs are prescribed for a variety of conditions, including anxiety, insomnia and seizures.

“These are highly addictive and potentially lethal drugs, and many people don’t know that,” said review author Dr. Anna Lembke, an associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences with the Stanford University School of Medicine. “Sadly, most physicians are also unaware of this and blithely prescribe them without educating their patients about the risk of addiction.”

Prescriptions for benzodiazepines increased by 67 percent between 1996 and 2013, from 8.1 million to 13.5 million, the researchers said. And the rates of prescribing benzodiazepine with opioids has nearly doubled, increasing from nine percent in 2001 to 17 percent in 2013.

What’s more, overdoses involving the drugs multiplied sevenfold between 1999 and 2015, increasing from 1,135 to 8,791 deaths, with many overdose deaths involving benzodiazepine and another substance, such as opioids or alcohol, the authors noted.

“Just like with opioids, people overestimate the benefits and underestimate the risks of benzodiazepines,” Lembke said. “They are effective for a panic attack or severe insomnia, but when taken daily long-term, people develop tolerance and dependence. They stop working and they can even make anxiety and insomnia worse.”

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