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Posted on March 10th, 2016

Rising benzodiazepine overdose deaths concern experts

Rising benzodiazepine overdose deaths concern experts

The astounding rise in drug overdose deaths in the United States has turned drug addiction into a major health concern today. And now the experts have warned that the number of deaths due to sedative drug overdose has also increased in the country.

A team of researchers at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, Montefiore Health System and the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania has found that benzodiazepine drugs used for treatment of anxiety, mood disorders and insomnia are the next group of drugs to be abused. They observed that since 1996, there has been over four times rise in the number of deaths from benzodiazepines.

Dr. Marcus Bachhuber, assistant professor of medicine at Einstein and attending physician at Montefiore, said, “We found that the death rate from overdoses involving benzodiazepines, also known as ‘benzos,’ has increased more than four-fold since 1996 – a public health problem that has gone under the radar.”

The study, published online in the American Journal of Public Health, also found that the number of adults buying this group of prescription drugs has gone up by 67 percent from 1996 to 2013 – from 8.1 million prescriptions to 13.5 million. It also found that the increase in prescriptions has also seen an increase in overdose death rate during the same time period – from 0.58 deaths per 100,000 adults in 1996 to 3.14 deaths per 100,000 adults in 2013.

It has been found that each year around one in 20 people is recommended benzodiazepine drugs, which include Xanax, Valium and Klonopin. According to Dr. Bachhuber, “Overdoses from benzodiazepines have increased at a much faster rate than prescriptions for the drugs, indicating that people have been taking them in a riskier way over time.”

Effects of benzodiazepines

If abused, benzodiazepines can lead to physical and psychological addiction. Its symptoms are similar to that of anxiety because of which it is difficult to distinguish and start the treatment. The overdose becomes more fatal when it is combined with alcohol or opioid painkillers. The addict stops becoming a part of any important social, recreational, work, or school activities.

Some of the signs of acute toxicity or overdose are:

  • Drowsiness
  • Confusion
  • Dizziness
  • Blurred vision
  • Weakness
  • Poor judgment and decision making
  • Slurred speech
  • Lack of coordination
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Coma
  • Death from respiratory arrest (ceased breathing)

Experts suggest ways to curb the abuse of benzos. “An obvious way to improve benzodiazepine safety would be for people to reduce their use of these medicines,” said co-author Dr. Chinazo Cunningham, a professor of medicine at Einstein. According to another expert, the overdose can be prevented if the problem of anxiety is treated well through talk therapy and not by using benzo.

A study conducted at the University of Bordeaux in France in 2014 revealed that long-term use of Xanax, Valium and Klonopin leads to Alzheimer’s disease. It said that continuous intake of the pill for over six months increases the chance of developing Alzheimer’s by 84 percent.

Like any other state, Arizona is also witnessing an increase in drug abuse. According to reports from the Arizona Department of Health Services, from 2010 to 2013 there were more drug deaths than those caused by motor crashes in Arizona. It recorded 1,106 drug deaths compared to 711 motor vehicle deaths in 2010 and 1,200 to 770 in 2013. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Arizona was one of the 28 states to record an increase in heroin deaths.

Detoxification is important if a person wants to get rid of addiction. If you or your loved one is struggling to overcome an addiction, call the Arizona Detox Helpline today at 866-593-8453 to seek guidance. Our experts can help with information related to detox and rehab processes and facilities, and ensure a sober life for you.