The non-medical use of prescription drugs has been cited as an epidemic in the United States, with 52 million people over the age of 12 having used prescription drugs non-medically in their lifetime. But overdose deaths, arising from the misuse and abuse of sedatives, have emerged as a bigger problem, with only few people understanding its enormity.
Sedatives, including benzodiazepine, that are widely prescribed for anxiety or insomnia have become a drug of abuse at the height of their popularity, says a 2016 study published in the American Journal of Public Health.
The researchers from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Montefiore Health System and the Perelman School of Medicine at University of Pennsylvania said that benzodiazepine overdoses contributed to 31 percent of the overall 23,000 deaths from prescription drug overdoses in the US in 2013. During 1996–2013, the number of adults taking benzodiazepine increased by a whopping 67 percent, the researchers said.
Alarmingly, the overdose deaths continued to climb sharply, increasing from 0.58 deaths per 100,000 adults in 1996 to 3.14 deaths per 100,000 adults in 2013, a more than four-fold increase.
“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,” said lead author Marcus Bachhuber, M.D., MS., assistant professor of medicine at the the Albert Einstein College of Medicine and attending physician, internal medicine at Montefiore. “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.”
“This epidemic is almost entirely preventable, as the most common reason to use benzodiazepines is anxiety — which can be treated effectively and much more safely with talk therapy,” said Sean Hennessy, Pharm.D., Ph.D., professor of epidemiology at Penn’s Perelman School of Medicine and co-author of the study. “Given the high prevalence of anxiety symptoms, we need a more constructive approach to the problem than popping pills.”
With such rampant accessibility, sedatives are posing a greater risk to abusers due to their similarity with other illicit drugs in terms of abuse, dependence, intoxication and withdrawal.
Often these drugs are referred to as tranquilizers and sleeping pills, as they depress the nervous system and cause reduced pain, sleepiness, and lower anxiety and muscle relaxation.
Because sedatives depress the central nervous system, people taking these drugs may feel drowsy or dizzy, with the effects ranging from calming down anxious nerves to promoting sleep. A person abusing tranquilizers or sedatives may experience the following symptoms:
– Feeling of intoxication and drowsiness
– Confusion about surroundings or time
– Altered mental status, impairment of cognition
– Respiratory depression
– Rapid, involuntary eye movement
Medical detox therapy
To counter the drastic effects of drug withdrawal, doctors usually recommend medical detoxification — an initial period of medical management that helps an addict reduce alcohol dependency. Detox subdues the physical effects of narcotic addiction and opioid withdrawal and a person can’t achieve complete benefits from the treatment unless the substance is out of the system. However, it must be kept in mind that withdrawal isn’t an effective treatment by itself. A patient may need further treatment and support to lead a normal life in the long term.
In a rehab center, patients get to the core reasons behind their addiction and are encouraged to cope with impairments in their lives so they manage to move on with their lives without going back to drugs. Life skills learned in rehabs allow patients to have a smooth transition into a more independent lifestyle.
It is not easy to overcome addiction. However, with proper treatment and care, a person can reclaim his life.
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 Florida Detox Helpline today at 855-920-9869 to seek guidance. Our experts can help with information related to detox and rehab processes and facilities, and ensure a sober life for you.