While the “rising popularity” of Xanax and other benzodiazepines, such as Valium and Klonopin, isn’t exactly a secret, the fact remains that not a lot of Americans know that the number of OD deaths caused by “benzos” increased almost eight-fold between 1999 and 2015.
And although this figure can’t be compared to the number of deaths caused by opioids—which were responsible for one in 65 deaths in the United States in 2016—it’s still mind-boggling how benzos managed to not only sneak into our everyday lives but also so easily take them.
If this is the case, though, why aren’t people reacting more harshly to the use of Xanax? Why isn’t there more talk about the fatal consequences of such a seemingly harmless pill?
The problem stems from the fact that people in the US see Xanax and other benzos as just that—harmless pills, which almost everyone (including older generations) takes to calm down and fight their anxious feelings. And, naturally, there are plenty of these feelings to go around, especially with the current climate and among younger generations, who are more than comfortable with using different drugs to manage their moods.
However, no matter how normal it has become for us to reach for Xanax in our time of need, it is far, far from just a harmless pill.
Xanax and the False Sense of Security It Creates
The difference between opioids and benzodiazepines is that most people are wary of taking the former because they know it’s not good for them and that it is “frowned upon” in our society. When it comes to the latter, though, this is not the case. Why? Because it’s easy to get used to a certain drug when you know that it’s FDA-approved and you have your doctor’s blessing.
What Xanax does is lull you into this false (and sometimes deadly) sense of security where you forget how powerful it is and how a higher dose (or a combination of it and alcohol, for example) could potentially be lethal. Familiarity clouds our judgment, as it often does, and can lead to us paying less attention to precaution and protective procedures.
But the issue here is not just with us becoming sloppy in terms our meds—in our urge to get rid of our anxious feelings and thoughts, we forget that the relief Xanax brings is only temporary and that one pill can soon become two, then three, four, etc. And before you know it, you’re experiencing withdrawal symptoms in between your doses.
Physical Dependence, Addiction, and Worsened Anxiety
Here’s what you should know about benzos: they work fine up until the point where they turn on you i.e. at the moment you stop taking them. Some people reported that they got tremors because of it, an even heavier case of anxiety, headaches, insomnia, and other symptoms you would experience if you were to stop taking any drugs.
According to research, about 10-15% of people who become physically dependent on benzos will experience disabling and serious withdrawal that can go on for years, even if you slowly wean yourself off them.
Psychiatrists all over the world are fighting a never-ending battle over the use of these addictive medications, arguing that they actually do more harm than good and that they should not be handed out so easily. However, they do agree that issue should be approached carefully because a sudden change in the use of benzos could be fatal—which is what is happening with opioids and people suffering from chronic pain (last year, there were dozens of cases of reported suicides after doctors started reducing doses for their patients).
Dr. Best and his Neuroscience Center team have seen and dealt with the effects of Xanax and other benzodiazepines over the years, and they know how to help you or your loved one in a safe way, in case you’re suspecting you have an addiction.
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