Why Doctors are Concerned About Prescribing Benzodiazepines

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Why Doctors are Concerned About Prescribing Benzodiazepines

Prescribing benzodiazepines for anxiety began in the 1950s.  Later, during the 1970s, they were on the list of most highly prescribed medications. They reduce anxiety by enhancing GABA neurotransmitters in the brain that help neurons communicate with each other.  The most commonly known drugs in the benzo family include Librium, Ativan, Klonopin, Valium, and Xanax.

These drugs can have adverse, long-term side effects including addiction, overdose, and cognitive impairment. Therefore, it’s not difficult to understand why some doctors hesitate to prescribe these medications.  However, benzodiazepines are useful for helping people who struggle with anxiety, panic attacks, seizures, and PTSD.

Is Your Doctor Worried About Prescribing Benzodiazepines for Anxiety?

In today’s chaotic world due to Coronavirus lockdowns, physicians are seeing an uptick in the number of people who want help for anxiety, stress, insomnia, and depression.  All in all, it’s been a scary time in our lives and this fear has had a significant impact on mental health for some individuals.  As a result, between February 16th and March 15th of the pandemic, the number of anti-anxiety prescriptions rose by more than 34%.  Three-quarters (78%) of the prescriptions were new, not refills.

Although benzodiazepines are intended for short-term use only, most users insist on continuing the drug for extended periods.  As they continue using the drug, larger doses are needed to get the desired effects.  This process is a sign that dependency or addiction will develop. Doctors worry that patients who are also taking opioids are at increased risk of developing benzo addiction, respiratory depression, or overdose.

Alternatives to Using Benzodiazepines for Anxiety?

Using benzodiazepines for anxiety should be a last resort. Especially for individuals who are using opioids, have a history of drug abuse, or chronic health problems.  Benzos work right away to depress the central nervous system and produce a calming, drowsy effect.  For this reason, they should not be used with alcohol or other drugs.

Non-medical alternatives to benzodiazepines for anxiety can include the following:

  • Relaxation techniques
  • Exercise
  • Yoga, meditation
  • Music
  • Reading
  • Deep-breathing exercises
  • Changing sleep habits
  • Nutritious foods
  • Learn new ways to respond to anxiety

Remember, your doctor has valid reasons for being cautious about prescribing benzodiazepines for anxiety.  In fact, he knows people can die from withdrawal if the drug is suddenly withheld after prolonged use or addiction.

Why Do People Die from Benzodiazepine Abuse or Addiction?

When taken as directed, for short-term use, the danger of addiction or overdose is minimal.  However, a person who continues using benzos for longer periods and at increased doses, respiratory depression and heart failure can occur.  As a result, respiratory failure causes less oxygen to reach the brain, resulting in cell death.  In many cases, brain damage and coma follow, which can be fatal.

Signs of benzodiazepine overdose:

  • Dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Hallucinations
  • Slurred speech
  • Low blood pressure
  • Drowsiness
  • Blurred vision
  • Weakness
  • Poor coordination
  • Trouble breathing
  • Coma

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, about 23% of people who died of an opioid overdose also tested positive for benzodiazepines.  In 2017, more than 11,000 deaths involved benzos alone or benzos combined with other drugs.

Find Help for Benzodiazepine Abuse or Addiction in the United States

If you turned to benzodiazepines to help with anxiety during today’s challenges, you’re not alone.  But, when you find that you can’t control or stop the use of the drug, contact A Forever Recovery.  We understand how easy it is to become addicted to these powerful substances.  Our programs address each aspect of addiction to ensure lasting recovery for our patients.  So, call now to learn more.


  • health.harvard.edu – Benzodiazepines (and the Alternatives)
  • webmd.com – Doctors, Patients Struggle with Benzodiazepine Use
  • drugabuse.gov – Benzodiazepines and Opioids
  • drugabuse.gov – Overdose Death Rates

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