The opioid abuse and overdose problem is no longer breaking news, but is the United States on the verge of another epidemic fueled by prescription drug abuse? Some experts worry that benzodiazepines will spark the next drug pandemic. Benzodiazepines, sometimes known as “Benzos,” are beneficial for treating anxiety attacks and panic disorders. However, benzos are potent medications that may be very addictive. Despite their risks, benzos are so successful at reducing anxiety that their prescription rates have risen. The significant spike in prescriptions for benzos over the last several years suggests that, like opiate prescriptions, these prescriptions are given out too liberally.
Similar to opioids, it is possible to overdose on benzos. The history of benzodiazepine prescriptions mirrors that of opioid drugs, which led to a catastrophe that the United States still faces today. Numerous healthcare experts are worried and feel this impending disaster warrants further attention.
As with opioids, legitimate prescription drugs have entered the recreational drug market. The recreational use of benzodiazepines among adolescents and young adults is rising. In this age range, benzo addiction rates have surpassed opiate addiction rates. Youth may believe it is OK to use the drug since it is a prescription substance, even if it is not for them. However, the drug is harmful, addictive, and illegal. Many addicts combine benzodiazepines and opioids, a potentially lethal combo.
There are all the hallmarks of a new drug pandemic with the usage of benzos. While the rate of fatal overdoses has not surpassed that of opioids, the number of benzodiazepine overdose fatalities has increased from 1,135 in 1999 to 11,535 in 2017. Between 2017 and 2019, there was a modest decline in benzodiazepine overdose fatalities, while fatal overdoses involving benzodiazepines in conjunction with opioids (primarily fentanyl) climbed significantly. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, over thirty percent of opioid overdose fatalities also had benzodiazepines. These overdoses are categorized as opioid overdoses, despite the fact that they are caused by the combination of opioids and benzodiazepines.
As with opioids, the marketing and prescribing of these medications may contribute significantly to the issue. Many primary care doctors give benzodiazepines at the request (or demand) of their patients; this may be best left to psychiatrists who are specially educated in the distribution of these medications.
Can our nation forestall a new drug epidemic? With opioids, many individuals began using the medicine for good reasons but quickly developed an addiction. With benzodiazepines, a similar scenario may be occurring. This last year of lockdowns, did they increase anxiety and the number of persons seeking benzodiazepine prescriptions? Will a greater quantity of these prescriptions wind up on the black market? Hopefully not, but there are warning signals. Education about the risks of benzodiazepines is crucial. Sadly, this next possible prescription drug catastrophe does not seem to be receiving much attention or awareness.
Criminal defense attorney, Alex R. Hernandez Jr. has defended clients accused of drug-related crimes. If you are being investigated on drug charges, then get in touch with the Law Offices of Alex R. Hernandez Jr. Understand the defenses available to you with a free consultation.