Multiple sources have confirmed a significant increase in the number of prescriptions for popular anti-anxiety medications, including Klonopin, Ativan and Xanax. These drugs, known as benzodiazepines (or benzos), are among the most misused prescription drugs in the country.
Health research firm IQVIA indicated that there was a 10% increase in prescriptions for anti-anxiety medications in March 2020 compared to the previous year. Another report from Cigna-owned Express Scripts showed that there was a 34% increase in the number of prescriptions for these drugs from mid-February to mid-March of this year. What is not tracked, however, is how much dosages have increased for existing prescriptions.
The data represents the proverbial tip of the iceberg, as it was from the beginning of the pandemic, and the 10 weeks since then have been much more stressful and troublesome for most people.
Psychiatrist Beth Salcedo told the Wall Street Journal that, “If you have a boatload of Xanax, and you are slightly anxious, and you take one, you feel better. Next time you are anxious, instead of taking care of what is making you anxious, you’re much more likely to reach for the Xanax. It can very quickly become a habit.” Salcedo is also the past president of the Anxiety and Depression Association of America.
Benzos like Xanax are also drugs that have a serious risk for overdose fatalities. In fact, the American Journal of Public Health reported that overdose deaths from benzodiazepines more than quadrupled between 1999 and 2013.
A Mental Health Crisis
Additional data shows that prescriptions for antidepressants and sleep medications are also increasing at similar rates. The amount of fear, worry, stress, anxiety and other troublesome thoughts and emotions has been palpable. While many people will be able to cope and develop resiliency to return to pre-COVID-19 stress levels as restrictions ease, a good portion will continue to have mental health difficulties. This is one of the many public health problems associated with the pandemic and the response to it that has shuttered schools and businesses across the country and forced people to stay in their homes.
Among the millions of new prescription drug users, and likely millions more who increase dosages, a percentage of them will develop dangerous dependencies that require professional assistance. Benzodiazepine withdrawal can be one of the most difficult ones to navigate, and a medical detox and treatment protocol is often necessary.
If you have a loved one who needs help for a substance use issue for benzos or other prescription drugs, contact Desert Cove Recovery today to see how we can help.