Tag Archives: benzos

Xanax Abuse Rates Rising

With all eyes on the opioid problem in America, many people are missing the fact that millions of people are also abusing other prescriptions, such as Xanax. These anti-anxiety drugs have a very high potential for abuse and addiction and there is evidence that it is becoming even more prevalent.

Xanax Seen as Safer than Other Drugs

Addiction specialists are expecting a continued increase in the number of teens and young adults addicted to Xanax and other sedatives belonging to a class of anti-anxiety drugs called benzodiazepines (“benzos”). A number of young people feel that Xanax is safer and more readily available than other drugs, but it is certainly just as dangerous. The drug is abused by itself and also commonly taken with other substances, such as painkillers or alcohol.

Like most other substances, people can develop a tolerance over time, requiring more of it to achieve the same effect. This can lead people who have legitimate prescriptions for the drug to eventually become dependent and sometimes even farther down the path toward addiction.

Often, teens are finding the pills in their parents’ or grandparents’ medicine cabinets, not realizing they can be just as dangerous as opioids or illicit drugs. The risk to health and life increases when Xanax is taken with other drugs and/or alcohol.

Risk of Addiction Higher with Younger Start

When Xanax use starts early in life, the risk of addiction increases. A recent US Surgeon General’s report on drugs and indicated that close to 70 percent of young people who experiment with an illicit drug before the age of 13 will become addicted within the next seven years. Waiting to try illicit drugs until after the age of 17 lowers the risk of addiction to 27 percent.

Addiction professionals are seeing a significant increase in the number of teens and young adults who are addicted to Xanax. Many of them are taking high doses of the drug on a daily basis, sometimes in combination with opioids and alcohol.

Sharon Levy, the director of adolescent addiction treatment at Boston Children’s Hospital, explained that hospitals see trends first. She stated that benzo use among adolescents has “skyrocketed” and that more young people are being admitted to hospitals for withdrawals due to the possibility of dangerous seizures. At the same time, fewer teens are seeking help for prescription opioid addiction.

benzo use brain changes

Study Cites Benzo Use as Cause for Brain Changes

benzo useA new research study has shown that benzodiazepines, such as Xanax, Valium, Ativan and Klonopin, actually change the structure of the brain. This discovery could lead to further research regarding benzodiazepine addiction that can be explained by altered brain chemistry.

The study, which will be published in the August edition of Psychiatry Neuroimaging, shows that long term use of benzodiazepines can change the caudate in the brain. The caudate is responsible for the reward system, a function of the brain that is often linked to addiction.

The study, which was conducted in Finland, gathered data from MRI scans of 38 people diagnosed with schizophrenia. The MRIs were taken when the subjects were 34-years-old and then again when they were 43-years-old. Comparing the MRIs showed distinct changes in the brains of those that were using benzodiazepines. In order for a study to be valid, researchers have to take into account age, illness, and medication dose, yet even with these adjustments, benzodiazepines still seem to have a major effect on the brain.

Because this is the first study that has analyzed the potential of benzodiazepines to change the structure of the brain, researchers are anxious to further their understanding of this new development.

“There is a need for understanding the mechanisms behind antipsychotic – and benzodiazepine – related structural and functional changes in the brain. Further studies should also focus on how medication-related structural alterations correspond to cognition and functioning,” explained the authors of the study. They also understand that there will need to be a more large-scale population to gather enough data to back up their initial findings more thoroughly.

However, the study is interesting because it may answer questions about the potential for benzodiazepine addiction. Medications like Xanax or Valium are highly addictive and oftentimes abused by people who do not have their own prescription for the drug. Traditionally prescribed to those that suffer from anxiety disorders, these drugs are oftentimes sold on the street to people looking for the high that benzodiazepines can provide.

It can also garner further insight into how to treat benzo addictions in terms of helping to rehabilitate the brain and repair lost function from the drugs.

Benzodiazepine Overdoses Also on the Rise

prescription drug overdoseThe main focus of lawmakers, medical professionals and educators regarding substance abuse has been on the opiate epidemic in the United States lately. For good reason too, because every day 44 people die from an overdose of prescription painkillers, and the rising number of heroin-related deaths is equally as alarming.

However, because all the attention has been on preventing these from occurring, people have ignored another silent killer. Benzodiazepines like Xanax or Klonopin have been killing people at a rate increase that is beginning to surpass even prescription painkillers, according to a recent study published in the American Journal of Public Health.

“We found that the death rate from overdoses involving benzodiazepines, also known as ‘benzos’, has increased more than four-fold since 1996 – a public health problem that has gone under the radar,” commented Dr. Marcus Bachhuber of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York.

Dr. Bachhuber led a team of researchers in investigating the rising amount of benzodiazepine overdoses by compiling several large surveys that were conducted on prescription trends and overdose fatalities. They quickly found that the amount of benzos that were being prescribed had increased significantly over the years. This was an important discovery because it shows that doctors are relying on the drugs to handle their patients’ symptoms despite the very real possibility of addiction and subsequent overdose.

Typically, benzodiazepines are prescribed to address anxiety disorders and other serious problems. However, the pills are extremely addictive and can cause an even more intense level of anxiety or bring on seizures if the person has a sudden cessation of use. These dangerous symptoms often cause people to continue using more and more of the pills, and a growing number are experiencing benzodiazepine overdoses. Their level of danger increases when combined with one or more additional substances, such as alcohol or other prescription drugs.

Physicians are being pressed to review their prescribing practices given the number of prescription drug problems in the country, and it would be extremely helpful if the U.S. followed suit of other modern nations and disallowed drug companies to market prescriptions directly to consumers. Understanding the trends of abuse and overdoses is vital when it comes to saving lives and preventing undo harm to patients and their families.