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Antianxiety drugs — often more deadly than opioids — are fueling the next drug crisis in US

Published: August 5, 2018
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Source: CNBC

<i>Xanax , Image Source: <a href='https://www.flickr.com/photos/deanslife/1270344046'>Flickr</a></i>
Xanax , Image Source: Flickr

 

It is little wonder that stress levels today are higher than ever across the United States. Overloaded work schedules, juggling family and a career and making ends meet financially can all lead to anxiety and can affect nearly everyone from time to time.

Yet the kind of anxiety that strikes without notice for no apparent reason — such as panic attacks and social phobias — can be debilitating. And no one is immune. Not even celebrities like Demi Lovato and Selena Gomez, who have openly admitted their ongoing struggles with anxiety; Oprah Winfrey, who suffered a panic attack in 2013; and John Mayer, who suffered from severe panic attacks growing up and would often deal with his anxiety by isolating himself in his room to play guitar. In an interview with Katie Couric, musician Chance The Rapper said he used to be addicted to Xanax and in 2015

tweeted
that "Xanax is the new heroin."

Today more than 40 million adults in America suffer from anxiety, and it is the most common mental illness in the United States. But even more of a crisis than the number of those diagnosed with anxiety is the number of people who are addicted to the drugs that treat it — and the rising number of people dying from overdoses.

Now many mental health experts are sounding the alarm, claiming that benzodiazepine addiction is an epidemic as frightening and serious as the opioid crisis.

Overdose deaths involving benzodiazepines — such as Xanax, Librium, Valium and Ativan, drugs commonly used to treat anxiety, phobias, panic attacks, seizures and insomnia — have quadrupled between 2002 and 2015, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. In 2015 benzo overdoses accounted for 8,791 deaths, up from 1,135 in 1999. The trend is fueled by the fact that benzodiazepine prescriptions increased 67 percent between 1996 and 2013, with the number of adults filling a benzo prescription in the United States tallying 13.5 million, according to a study.

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