The growing use of anti-anxiety pills reminds some doctors of the early days of the opioid crisis.
Considered relatively safe and non-addictive by the general public and many doctors, Xanax, Valium, Ativan and Klonopin have been prescribed to millions of Americans for decades to calm jittery nerves and promote a good night’s sleep.
But the number of people taking the sedatives and the average length of time they’re taking them have shot up since the 1990s, when doctors also started liberally prescribing opioid painkillers.
As a result, some state and federal officials are now warning that excessive prescribing of a class of drugs known as benzodiazepines or “benzos” is putting more people at risk of dependence on the pills and is exacerbating the fatal overdose toll of painkillers and heroin. Some local governments are beginning to restrict benzo prescriptions.