Abuse of Anti-Anxiety Meds Triples over Past 10 Years

More people are abusing benzodiazepines, which are pills that relieve anxiety, according to new research from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Although admissions for drug treatment rose by 11% between 1998 and 2008, it more than tripled for benzodiazepine abuse in the same period.

Introduced in the 1950s as a safe replacement for barbiturates, benzodiazepines treat anxiety, insomnia and seizure disorders. Some popular brands are Halcion, Valium, Xanax, Ativan, and Librium.

The study found that treatment admissions for these drugs went from 22,400 in 1998 to 60,200 in 2008, and now account for over 3% of all substance abuse admissions compared to 1% in 1998. About 95% of those who abuse benzodiazepines abuse other substances too, most often alcohol and opioid painkillers. The study found that the typical abuser of benzodiazepines is a white male between the ages of 18 and 34 years old.

“The misuse of benzodiazepines along with other prescription drugs is fueling the rise of treatment admissions,” said Pamela S. Hyde, Administrator of SAMHSA. She said everyone can help curb the epidemic of prescription drug abuse by locking up their medications and properly disposing of any they do not use.