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The ‘Psychology’ Behind Benzo Abuse

When it comes to addictions, prescription dependencies can be difficult to classify. Often times, they start innocently (and for a legitimate purpose) if a person is recovering from surgery or intense pain. And these types of drugs are often thought of differently, since they come from accredited doctors and pharmacies. For those reasons and more, the noted outlet Psychology Today delved into this addiction trend to help understand the rationale and the risks.


Addiction psychiatry expert Giselle Appel authored the piece and used it as a forum to educate readers about the dangers of prescription drugs; particularly benzodiazepines (commonly known as “benzos“). Benzos consist of medications like Valium and Xanax, which work to tranquilize or sedate patients; but they can often be abused.


Appel went on to share that 30 percent of all opioid overdoses tie back to benzo medications. There is also an alarming stat about senior citizens and how that sect accounts for the highest rate of benzodiazepine abuse.


Tying back to psychology, Appel believes that people often turn to benzos instead of proper counseling. Taking pills privately (incorrectly) has them believe that they are overcoming their mental anguish. When the truth is, therapists can address all of those issues and work to correct them. Often times, without the assistance of drugs.


She claims that stigmas around entering therapy (often common with seniors), high costs and lack of availability are factors leading people to turn to benzos. Sadly, physicians can believe in the medication quick fix too; without truly understanding the long term risks of becoming dependent on a med like Xanax.


“The role of psychiatrists has been taken on by many general medicine practitioners, with sometimes negative consequence,” Appel explains her article. “It is not uncommon for these physicians not to fully understand the scale of the risk for dependency, tolerance, and medical consequences associated with this medication, especially when the physician sees their patient only a few times per year.”


The article concludes with a few recommendations about slowing down this trend. She again highlights the risk for seniors and encourages grown children to have regular check ins with their parents about mental health. There is also a call to provide better screenings to patients before benzos are prescribed and maintain continued communication with them. It certainly is easy for someone to fall between the cracks and develop a problem without others noticing. So if you or someone you are close to appears to be struggling with mental health issues, please do not hesitate to reach out.