What is the Benzodiazepine Epidemic?

Benzodiazepine are prescription pills used to treat a many different disorders, such as anxiety disorders, panic disorders, muscle tension, insomnia and seizures. They are classified as Schedule IV in the Controlled Substances Act, and offer a calming effect to the nervous system. Benzodiazepines, also known as “benzos”, work by relaxing the nerve impulses on the neurotransmitter GABA. The relaxing of the nerve impulses give a euphoric sensation that can become addicting to its users.

Benzodiazepines can be very helpful when treating these various conditions while under the supervision of professionals. They are best utilized when taken in the short term, in order to avoid any complications from their addictive nature. Benzodiazepines may cause dependency, addiction and the abuse of this drug could lead to death by overdose. However, Benzodiazepine prescriptions have been on the rise, causing a huge epidemic.

Prescriptions are Rising

According to NPR, the rise in Benzodiazepine prescriptions have largely been from primary care doctors. Since Benzodiazepines can also work as a muscle relaxer, they have been prescribed more and more for pain. In addition, continuing prescriptions have been on the rise. This means that people are now more easily, and legally, able to refill their Benzodiazepine prescriptions, adding fuel to the dependency and addiction fire.

What Causes The Rise in Benzodiazepine Prescriptions?

According to Anna Lembke, an associate professor of psychiatry and medical director of addiction medicine at Stanford University School of Medicine, there are many other reasons for the rise in Benzodiazepine prescriptions. She states that primary care physicians have not received the proper training needed to prescribe medications that have such high risk for addiction or overdose.

In addition, she believes that primary care physicians are given little time or resources to handle a high volume of pain patients with complex conditions. Since Benzodiazepines can treat such a variety of conditions, they are easy to prescribe out. Along with financial incentives for doctors to prescribe these medications, all of these things have led to Benzodiazepine abuse becoming a major epidemic.


  • Overdoses involving benzodiazepines have risen eightfold from 1999 to 2016
  • According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the benzodiazepine overdose mortality rate involving for women has increased by 830 percent between 1996 and 2017 between the ages of 30 and 64
  • The percentage of outpatient medical visits that led to a benzodiazepine prescription doubled from 2003 to 2015
  • From 1998 to 2008, addiction treatment admissions involving benzodiazepines abuse nearly tripled
  • Continuing prescriptions of Benzodiazepines increased by 50 percent from 2005 to 2015.
  • Benzodiazepine overdoses account for more than 30 percent of opioid overdoses

Am I Addicted to Benzodiazepines?

It can be difficult to understand how you can become addicted to a medication that is prescribed to you, and re-prescribed to you, under a doctor’s care. However, it is important to understand the dangers and side effects of all medication that you take, including the chances of addiction. If you feel as if you may have slipped into dependency on your Benzodiazepine prescription, ask yourself these questions:

  • Am I taking more than prescribed?
  • Do I go to multiple doctors and pharmacies?
  • Do I use them at inappropriate times, such as at work or before driving?
  • Do I have withdrawal symptoms when I stop?
  • Do I purchase them from a drug dealer or on the black market?
  • Do I take someone else’s prescription?
  • Have I stolen or borrowed money in order to pay for Benzodiazepines?
  • Am I using them for longer than I had originally intended?
  • Do I have a strong desire to use?
  • Do I need them in order to feel “normal”?

How to Get Help

If you feel as if you are dependent on your Benzodiazepine prescription, it is time to get help in order to stop the progression of your addiction. Make sure you speak to your doctor about your dependency issues, and be honest with how much you have been taking. It could save your life.

Sudden, cold-turkey withdrawal from Benzodiazepine medications can be damaging and fatal, so they should not be done alone. Physicians who want to remove patients from long-term use should do it slowly over time. You may be offered medication to help with any withdrawal symptoms while you are being tapered off your medication, as to make sure your detox experience is as comfortable as possible.

About Pinelands Recovery Center

Benzodiazepine prescriptions have been on the rise, resulting in the rise of addiction and mortality rates. You do not have to become a statistic in the Benzodiazepine epidemic. Help is available for you to comfortably wean off of your medication, as well as get help for the co-occuring disorder you were taking Benzodiazepines for in the first place. A life free of addiction is here, all you need to do is give us a call.

Pinelands Recovery Center of Medford is widely known as one of New Jersey’s finest, most respected addiction treatment facilities. With comfortable 30-bed accommodations and a 24-hour professional staff, we can offer clients a serene, relaxing environment amid the lush piney woods. This stress-free setting with its sense of warmth and welcoming enables you to feel comfortable and confident about your clean and sober life ahead.

We will establish clear goals, both general in nature and specific to your needs. We continue to monitor those goals, to make sure that our clients are progressing and buying into their recovery plan. We thrive on assisting clients in feeling connected to the recovery community, share and demonstrate effective coping techniques, help clients to modify attitudes and patterns of behavior and everything else you will need to be happy and productive living a sober, healthy life.

We ensure that clients complete their planned concrete tasks, encourage hope, optimism and
healthy living. Our recovery program is not a revolving door treatment program; it is a recovery model designed to help clients go on to lead productive, happy lives. For more information, visit pinelandsrecovery.com