Appropriately labeled as “date rape” drugs due to their euphoric side effects, benzodiazepines are one of the most commonly abused drugs, according to recent statistics. This conclusion is not only based on the fact that the drug itself is potentially lethal and addictive but also because it is completely legal. Doctors may prescribe benzodiazepines for a variety of illnesses and conditions including anxiety, insomnia, muscle tension, or alcohol withdrawal. Based on this information, it is easy to see why this drug can be potentially dangerous. Users will often feel overly relaxed and non-resistant, which can leave them vulnerable to attacks. So what makes this legal drug so dangerous?
Types of Benzodiazepine
Benzodiazepines are relatively common prescription tranquilizers that are designed to stimulate the central nervous system, resulting in intense feelings of relaxation and calmness. Since the start of distribution, the FDA has only approved 15 out of the 2,000 benzodiazepines on the market and has separated them into three categories:
- Long-acting: Librium (Chlordiazepoxide), Valium (diazepam)
- Short-acting: Xanax (Alprazolam), Ativan (lorazepam)
- Ultra-short-acting: Versed (Midazolam), Halcion (triazolam)
Health experts warn that benzodiazepine is particularly dangerous because of the potency of its chemicals and the intensity of symptoms. Patients rarely die from consuming the drug. However, people do commonly consume benzodiazepine with alcohol or other prescriptions, a mixture that can result in lethal side effects.
Common signs of benzodiazepine abuse are:
- Uncoordinated walking and drowsiness
- Poor breathing and weakness
- Poor concentration and slurring
The Benzodiazepine Crisis
Experts warn that the benzodiazepine crisis has been shelved in light of the recent opioid crisis, a fact that needs to change in order to prevent addiction and abuse. Sources indicate that, between 2003 and 2013, adult users of benzodiazepine in the U.S. increased from 8.1 million to 13.5 million (by approximately 67%). As of 2015, 8,800 people died from overdosing on variations including Xanax and Valium. In 2016, medical experts placed labels on boxes to warn patients about the dangers of combining opioids with benzodiazepines, a dangerous trend that has increased by 17% in 2013.
While benzodiazepine does not typically cause death, psychiatrists are urged to counsel patients about the dangers of the drug and screen them for mental illness, which can ultimately instigate abusive behavior.
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