Benzodiazepine Deaths Continue to Rise
As the opioid epidemic continues to capture headlines and the attention of public health officials, another class of prescription drugs called benzodiazepines has quietly been contributing to a growing number of overdose deaths across the United States.
Doctors commonly prescribe benzodiazepines, which you might recognize by brand names such as Xanax and Valium, for patients living with disorders like anxiety and insomnia. These drugs are also highly addictive, and using them can be fatal, especially alongside other drugs like opioids and alcohol.
Why Are Benzodiazepine Deaths Increasing?
The number of overdose deaths involving so-called “benzos” rose from 0.54 per 100,000 in 1999 to 5.02 per 100,000 in 2017 among women aged 30 to 64, researchers reported in January of this year in the Centers for Disease Control’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. That represents an 830 percent jump, surpassed only by increases in overdose deaths involving heroin and synthetic opioids.
Overall, there were 11,537 overdose deaths involving benzodiazepines in the United States in 2017, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. To put that number in contrast, the total was 1,135 in 1999.
Benzodiazepines are sedatives, which are especially dangerous to use with other depressant drugs such as opioids and alcohol. Combining these substances can suppress heart rate and breathing, causing people to fall deeply asleep and never wake up again. People frequently have legitimate prescriptions for both benzos and opioids at the same time, which is why more than 30 percent of overdoses involving opioids also involve benzodiazepines.
Sadly, the rising number of deaths involving benzos hasn’t stopped doctors from prescribing them, or patients from taking them. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, there was a 67 percent jump in benzodiazepine prescriptions filled between 1996 and 2013. The quantity of benzos acquired more than tripled over the same time.
How Do Benzos Work?
Benzodiazepine drugs are so effective because they enhance the activity of a calming neurotransmitter called gamma-aminobutyric acid within the brain. These drugs are also quick to take effect, bringing rapid relief.
Benzos are relatively safe to use on and off for a short period. However, when people take them long-term, their brains begin to adapt. As a result, it eventually requires higher and higher quantities of these drugs to achieve the same effect.
According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, many benzo users admit to taking them improperly, including taking these drugs without a prescription or in a way that ignores their doctor’s instructions. Misuse accounted for 20 percent of all use overall.
What to Do If Your Benzo Use Is out of Control
If you have become dependent on benzodiazepines, medically supervised detoxification can help rid your body and mind of the harmful effects of these drugs, thus providing you with a solid foundation for the subsequent stages of recovery and addiction treatment.
You can live a happy, healthy and fulfilling life without using benzos, opioids or alcohol. Don’t risk the dangerous withdrawal symptoms that accompany trying to get clean from these drugs on your own. Contact us at Ken Seeley Detox to learn more about the benefits of detoxifying in a safe, comfortable and private facility that puts your needs first.