Anxiety Drug Misuse

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By now, most of us are familiar with the dangers posed by misusing opioids. But there’s another group of medications that people should be aware of.

There is a group of medications called benzodiazepines, also known as benzos, that are prescribed for people with anxiety, depression and a host of other conditions. But, according to a University of Michigan survey, about one in every five people who take medication to help with anxiety, misuse them.

“Xanax being the most addictive because it has the shortest half life, so it works for four hours or so and then patients need to take another one because it has worn off, we’re really trying to get away from that class of medication if at all possible,” says Monica McKee, Physician Assistant, Mercy Clinic Family Medicine.

In fact, overdose deaths involving anxiety medications have increased exponentially over the past decade. As if there isn’t enough danger from just that class of medications, add an opioid into the mix and it becomes even more dangerous if not taken as prescribed.

“Both are addictive first off, but they also decrease your respiratory drive, so you take benzodiazepine and an opioid, and you go to sleep, cause they make you sleepy, people can actually stop breathing if they are abusing it to that point and that can cause death,” says Monica McKee.

One study shows that nearly a third of all opioid overdoses involved people also taking anxiety medication. So, doctors have been trying to prescribe longer lasting versions of benzodiazepines to cut down on the likelihood of addiction.

McKee says no medication will get rid of all anxiety, and if necessary she recommends the patient working with a therapist in addition to taking medication.

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