Benzodiazepines are a Schedule 4 drug, thought to have a low potential for abuse. They are addictive and can be even more dangerous than opioids. Benzodiazepines are a type of medication known as tranquilizers. Familiar names include Valium and Xanax. They are some of the most commonly prescribed medications in the United States. When people without prescriptions obtain and take these drugs for their sedating effects, use turns into abuse.
Out of all 50 states, Utah ranks eighth in the number of prescription drugs overdose deaths, according to Susannah Burt with the state’s Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health. And, despite a dip in 2008, the number of pill-related deaths in Utah over the past decade has increased by 400%, according to Burt. People in Utah, who have statistically speaking been successful at maintaining healthier lives, are no less vulnerable. In fact, because medications are prescribed by a physician, the assumption often is that they’re OK.
Since 2016, the University of Utah Health prescribed nearly 206,000 benzo prescriptions and refills. Intermountain Health did not have benzo prescription data readily available and told us it would take a dedicated team to gather and verify that information. Mountain Star Health told us benzo prescriptions have gone down but did not provide us any raw data adding it would be too difficult to explain to the public.
Benzo’s even had the attention of the Drug Enforcement Administration. “The opioid crisis concerns me because it is the current crisis, the crisis on the horizon is Benzo’s” says Brian Besser the Utah DEA District Agent in Charge. In 2016, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention issued new guidelines for doctors to not prescribe benzos with opioids. But that’s exactly what Besser says his agents are seeing more and more of on the streets.
Xanax, the brand name for alprazolam, is classified as a benzodiazepine, a sedative that depresses the central nervous system. It’s often prescribed for anxiety disorders and is one of the most commonly abused prescription drugs on the market. Other meds in this class include Ativan, Valium, and Klonopin.
The drug slows the central nervous system, so it puts the user in a calm and passive stage. Because it’s a fast-acting drug, major benefits are seen within an hour with the effects lasting for at least 6 hours. This, unfortunately, leads to abuse and addiction.
Anxiety disorders can be quite scary with users feeling as if they’re having an out-of-body experience that’s attached to a feeling of impending doom. Certain triggers, such as driving, social events, or seeing traumatic things can bring on the symptoms: The sensations one experiences can be frightening and include:
When someone becomes addicted to Xanax, it’s because they took higher than prescribed doses and therefore, develop a tolerance to the drug. It creates a physical and emotional dependence on having the medication in their bodies. More medication is needed to achieve the same effect. However, once the users quit the drug, they go through withdrawal. Symptoms vary from person-to-person, how long they’ve taken the drug, and at what dosages
Some of the long-term effects of using Xanax is attributed to confusion, slurred speech, impaired cognitive function, tolerance to medication, physical dependence, and addiction. Sadly enough, young, healthy people often abuse Xanax.
Similar to Ritalin and OxyContin, Xanax is now a street drug. People looking for their fix or high have an emotional and physical dependence on the drug and will go to great lengths to obtain it. In fact, it creates a sense of euphoria, much like alcohol does. Addicts take it orally, chewed, or crushed and used to snort or inject, much like heroin. They can take upwards of 30 pills a day
A startling statistic from the Central for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that for the first time, prescription drug deaths outnumber traffic fatalities in the U.S. They are also killing more people than illegal drugs. In the past ten years, prescription addiction has doubled. The latest research from 2015 concluded most commonly misused substances by Americans age 14 and older are prescription drugs, just behind marijuana and alcohol.
From a 2017 report, more than half of drug overdose deaths are from prescription drugs for depression and anxiety. More than 33,000 people died from an overdose of prescription drugs, and in 2011, Treatment Episode Data Set Report, 60,000 people obtained drug abuse treatment from addiction to benzodiazepines, up from 22,400 people in 1998.
From the Federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s 2010 report, 7 million people abuse drugs with 2.2 million taking anti-anxiety drugs for non-medical purposes.