Despite how addictive they are, benzodiazepines have still been one of the most widely prescribed medications of all time. Between 1996 and 2013, benzodiazepine overdose mortality and prescription rates increased considerably in the United States. Between 2014 and 2016, physicians prescribed benzodiazepines at 27 prescriptions per 100 adults. In 2019, studies showed that prescribing rates amongst psychiatrists were about 30% of visits, and the prescribing rate among all other physicians increased. Primary care doctors prescribed more than double the amount of benzos. The number of prescriptions increased from 3.6% to 7.5% of visits.
How Addictive Are Benzodiazepines?
Benzodiazepines are synthetic drugs that belong to a class of drugs called sedatives. They are commonly used to treat anxiety, seizures, occasional insomnia, muscle spasms, or alcohol withdrawal. Benzodiazepines work on the CNS (central nervous system) by increasing the effect of GABA, a chemical in the brain. GABA reduces activity in the parts of the brain that are responsible for rational thought. Benzodiazepines are considered psychoactive drugs because they change the nervous system’s function, which alters mood, cognition, behavior, perception, and consciousness. Benzos are also commonly given in a surgical setting in low doses to reduce anxiety. They are given in higher doses and other medications during surgery to help induce sleep and produce amnesic effects. Benzodiazepines are a Schedule IV drug under “The Controlled Substance Act.” Schedule IV drugs are considered to have a low potential for abuse; however, the risk is still there, especially for those with addiction problems. The CSA says that Schedule IV drugs are classified as such because abusing the drug may lead to limited physical or psychological dependence relative to other drugs and substances listed in Schedule III. A very scary part of taking benzodiazepines is that a person can become dependent on them in as little as three to four weeks of use. Research shows that tolerance can develop in just a few short days, while full physical dependence can arise in as little as a few weeks. With the number of people in this country facing addiction issues now, the risk of dependence on any addictive drug or substance is great. If physicians continue to write prescriptions for benzodiazepines without assessing the patient’s history, the risk of more people becoming dependent on benzos is highly likely.
Benzodiazepine Misuse is Climbing
In 2019, a study found that 30.6 million adults, or 12.6% reported benzodiazepine use in the past year. 25.3 million of these or 10.4% were as prescribed, and 5.3 million or 2.2% were misused. The National Institute of Health “Benzodiazepine use, misuse, and abuse: A review report describes that:
Benzodiazepine (BZD) abuse has reached epidemic levels and results in poor outcomes, particularly when combined with concomitant central nervous system depressants. BZDs are abused most commonly in combination with opioids and alcohol. Emergency department visits and related deaths have soared in recent years. In the absence of other medications or illicit substances, BZDs are rarely the sole cause of death. Prescription drug abuse has received more attention in recent years, yet much remains unknown about BZD abuse. BZDs have low abuse potential in most of the general population. A subset is at elevated risk of abuse, especially those with a history of a substance use disorder. Education, prevention, and identification are vital in reducing BZD abuse. (NIH)
With the addiction epidemic we are facing, many physicians are now afraid to prescribe any controlled substances to their patients.
Benzodiazepine Addiction Treatment
Evoke Wellness has a network of drug and alcohol treatment centers that are carefully designed to offer a lasting solution for healing those suffering from substance use disorders. In addition, we offer a safe and comfortable environment for medical detoxification. Our patients are treated extensively so that minimal discomfort is experienced during the detox process. Evoke Wellness provides residential treatment in a structured environment and then provides you with after-care support, which is important for addiction. Evoke Wellness is here to help you get on the road to long-term recovery. A sober life begins now!