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News media outlets have barely covered it. When a celebrity dies of overdose, the benzodiazepines in their system are hardly given any attention. Chris Cornell’s death including benzodiazepines caused controversy as to whether or not benzos. Old lead to suicide. Tom Petty had a number of benzos in his system. Budding rapper Little Peep was outspoken about his addiction to Xanax, a popular benzo.

Certainly, the opioid epidemic which has claimed more than 100,000 lives in the last two years has deserved front and center attention. However, hidden in the shadows of the opioid epidemic had been the development of another drug problem: benzodiazepines.

Bloomberg writes that a large number of opioid overdoses have included the abuse of benzodiazepines. Both drugs are central nervous system depressants, causing the same respiratory depression which ultimately leads to death. “America’s Next Big Drug Problem” cites that the number of opioid users also taking benzodiazepines has doubled since 2001. The numbers get worse from there.

According to the article, “the number of adults filling benzodiazepine prescriptions has increased nearly 70 percent, and the quantities taken have tripled.” Since 1999, the number of benzodiazepine overdoses per year have increased either fold. In 2015, overdose deaths involving benzodiazepines resched 9,000.

Benzodiazepines are tranquilizers, Invented as a safer replacement for barbiturates. Used in the treatment of anxiety and insomnia, benzodiazepines are prescribed with emphasis that the medication is non habit forming and cannot create any kind of dependency. Unfortunately that isn’t true. People who take the medication regularly, as prescribed, do become dependent on the drug. It isn’t until they miss a dose and get thrown into symptoms of withdrawal that they realize the severity of their dependency. Some people realize this dangerously: benzodiazepine withdrawal can cause seizures.

Originally, benzodiazepines were meant to be a short term treatment option. Due to the severe symptoms of withdrawal, and worsened anxiety, people stay on the medication for years and years. If they do decide to go off the medication, their symptoms of withdrawal can be more intense.

We must be ready for the growing problem of benzodiazepine abuse as uninformed doctors prescribe these addictive pills to addicts and alcoholics attempting to recover.

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