Benzo Overdose Deaths on the Rise

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Benzo Overdose Deaths on the Rise

benzo overdosesIn the midst of our current opioid epidemic, another drug is gaining attention: benzodiazepines or “benzos.” This class of sedative narcotic drugs used to treat anxiety and insomnia(like Xanax and Valium) are highly addictive and can be fatal when combined with opioids, alcohol and Z-drugs (Ambien, Ambien CR, Sonata, Lunesta).

Prescriptions for benzos are on the rise – increasing from 8.1 million in 1996 to 13.5 million in 2013 – and so is misuse, according to a 2016 study in the American Journal of Public Health. What’s more, benzos have been linked to the dramatic increase in overdose deaths, especially among women. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), overdose deaths among women have increased a whopping 840 percent from 1999 to 2017.

What makes benzos so dangerous? Unfortunately, the problem is that benzos are often prescribed alongside opioid drugs. Benzodiazepines have a sedative effect and when used with other drugs known to slow breathing (like opioids, alcohol and Z-drugs), the combination can be fatal. People fall asleep and never wake up. What’s more, prescription opioid and benzo misuse have been linked to suicidal ideation in older adults.

In 2016, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued new guidelines that recommend that clinicians avoid prescribing benzodiazepines concurrently with opioids whenever possible. In fact, both prescription opioids and benzodiazepines now carry FDA “black box” warnings on the label highlighting the dangers of using these drugs together.

Even with legitimate prescriptions, using painkillers, anxiety and sleep medications simultaneously can increase the risk of addiction along with the risk of overdose and death. This is especially true with long-term use. For example, if you take benzos for longer than prescribed you may develop tolerance, or needing more of the meds to achieve the same effects. This can lead to increased dosage and high frequency of use (in an effort to make the drugs work or to stave off withdrawal symptoms) and cause drug dependency. Finally, continuing to take the drugs can lead to addiction.

Treatment for Benzo Addiction
For more than 43 years, we have been helping families find the courage to recover from substance use disorders, including prescription medication abuse. Seabrook’s vision is to make recovery possible for every family in need. To learn about our drug rehab treatment programs, call today: 800-761-7575.