EAST BRUNSWICK, NJ - The New York City Health Department just released new guidelines on prescribing Benzodiazepines that you should know about. It is not new news that prescription drug abuse is a rising epidemic in our communities. But let’s talk about where it all starts…the first prescription.

Benzodiazepines (often called Benzos) are one of the more frequent drugs prescribed for issues such as insomnia and anxiety. Such commonly known Benzos are Xanax, Klonopin, and Ativan. You may have heard of them before, but did you know that if used in combination with opioids (Rx painkillers), alcohol, or another central nervous system depressants, it could be a fatal? Yup it’s true! In 2014, there were 301 benzodiazepine-involved overdose deaths in NYC. Out of those deaths, 42% also involved alcohol, 53% of Opioid overdose deaths involved Benzodiazepines, and 41% of Heroin-involved overdose deaths also came up positive for Benzos.

Benzodiazepines should never be the first line of defense. These drugs should be used very carefully and only for a maximum of 2-4 weeks as a quick symptom relief or short-term treatment of severe anxiety or insomnia. It is just a Band-Aid until the true healing of other treatments take full effect. The long-term use of these drugs is the main issue that is leading to addiction, abuse and overdose.

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So what are the alternative treatments for anxiety and insomnia? There are things such as:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
  • Relaxation Techniques
  • Good Sleeping Routine
  • Yoga and Exercise
  • Melatonin
  • Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs)
  • Serotonin-Norephrine Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRIs)

If you are someone that is currently on Benzos for longer than the above recommended timeframe, please contact your prescriber and talk to him/her about alternative treatments and how to slowly taper off your prescription under medical watch. Know the risks, know the facts, and know the best route to the healthiest version of you.