Benzodiazepines such as Xanax, Valium, and Ativan, are now being prescribed at 27 out of every 100 doctor visits, based on a survey from the National Center for Healthcare Statistics. In addition, at about one third of those visits, opioids (narcotics) were also prescribed.
The rate of prescribing benzodiazepines was higher for women, and higher with increased age.
Benzodiazepines, also called benzos, are used for a variety of ailments, including anxiety, other mental disorders, insomnia, seizures, and musculoskeletal issues.
While bendodiazepines are generally safe for short-term use, they are addictive, and patients can become physically dependent on them.
Side effects of benzodiazepines include over-sedation, respiratory system depression, dizziness and falls.
Long-term use of benzos has been linked with risk of dementia and suicide. If a patient has been on long-term benzodiazepines, stopping them suddenly can be fatal. The elderly are at higher risk for adverse effects.