Benzodiazepines are a class of drug targeted to treat anxiety. These drugs are powerful medications, which include Xanax, Valium, Ativan, Librium and others, and they have a high potential for abuse. Researchers have found that as people get older they rely more on drugs like Xanax to get them through the day. Unfortunately, because the drugs are so potent, they carry with them extreme side effects and after a person has become dependent on the drugs they are likely to experience intense withdrawal symptoms that could even lead to death.
The healthcare community has long been wary of these drugs, stating numerous time that the high risk for taking pills like Xanax need to be heavily weighed before issuing prescriptions. However, those warnings haven’t curbed the over-prescribing of the drugs enough.
In an attempt to figure out what population was demanding these drugs, a study was conducted by researchers at the National Institutes of Health that was published in JAMA Psychiatry. Data was collected dating back to 2008 and it included information from people aged 18 to people aged 80. It was discovered that of the people who were 18 to 35, 2.6% of them were issued long term prescriptions for benzodiazepines. However, those that fell into the 65 to 80 year old category saw a marked increase in prescriptions, 8.7% of these people were given long term prescriptions for benzos. It was also found that women were twice as likely to be taking the drug than men.
“These new data reveal worrisome patterns in the prescribing of benzodiazepines for older adults, and women in particular. This analysis suggests that prescriptions for benzodiazepines in older Americans exceed what research suggests is appropriate and safe,” explained Dr. Thomas Insel, director of the National Institute of Mental Health.
Potent drugs like Xanax can be extremely dangerous because they are highly addictive and cause intense, sometime life threatening withdrawal symptoms. High levels of anxiety, insomnia, inability to eat, tremors, suicidal thoughts and depression and seizures are all potential withdrawal symptoms when coming off of drugs like Xanax.
Hopefully more medical professionals and treatment practitioners will be more cautious of prescribing drugs like these in the future, and perhaps seek other ways for patients to successfully deal with anxiety-related issues.