Americans are an anxious bunch.
So much so that 92 million prescriptions were written last year for a sedatives class called benzodiazepines (benzos). The most commonly used drugs in this class are alprazolam/Xanax (38%), clonazepam/Klonopin (24%), and lorazepam/Ativan (20%).
As is the case with virtually all prescription drugs, benzo use comes with risks.
The FDA has now moved to add warning labels on these drugs, stating that “while benzodiazepines are important therapies for many Americans, they are also commonly abused and misused, often together with opioid pain relievers and other medicines, alcohol, and illicit drugs.”
Steven Hahn, the chief administrator at FDA, said the agency was “taking measures and requiring new labeling information to help health care professionals and patients better understand that while benzodiazepines have many treatment benefits, they also carry with them an increased risk of abuse, misuse, addiction, and dependence.”
According to U.S. News & World Report, “in a report released last year by the U.S Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, benzos were found to be involved in a full third of all fatal opioid overdoses. The drugs were also involved in nearly two-thirds of overdoses tied to the lethal synthetic opioid fentanyl.”
And not only are these drugs often combined with other intoxicants, but physical dependence on them can also occur when the drugs are taken regularly for as little as a few days.
It’s worth noting that benzos should generally not be prescribed for more than a few weeks, yet 50% of all prescriptions in the U.S. are for a considerably longer period.
Given the challenges of physical dependence on benzos, the agency cautions that abruptly stopping the use of these drugs may produce withdrawal reactions, including seizures.
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