New Warnings on the Addictive Nature of Anxiety Meds

Xanor - Xanax

During an addiction crisis where the majority of public attention has been on the opioid epidemic, other drug problems have risen up without much awareness of them. Recently, the Food and Drug Administration released a report that it will now be putting warning labels on pill bottles for common anti-anxiety medications such as Xanax, Ativan, and Valium.

These drugs are addictive. They can be life-threatening, and much of the opioid-related deaths that have occurred in recent years have resulted from addicts using opioids and benzodiazepines together.

What exactly are benzodiazepines? And why the sudden increased focus on them?

What are Benzodiazepines? Defining the Drug

Examples of “Benzos”—Benzodiazepines, courtesy of

Benzodiazepines fall under the category of Central Nervous System Depressants. The drugs slow brain activity and have a sedative, tranquilizing effect on central nervous system function. Such medicines can cause drowsiness, poor concentration, slurred speech, dizziness, dry mouth, memory problems, slowed breathing, lowered blood pressure, headaches, and lightheadedness.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, if a person takes benzodiazepines for too long, they will require larger and larger doses of the drug to experience the same effects from it. Continued use can lead to dependence on the medications and withdrawal symptoms if one stops taking it. And not only are benzodiazepines addictive, mind-altering, and habit-forming, but they can cause overdoses as well. The initial reasons why the person began taking benzodiazepines may have been legitimate, but a medically-authorized prescription for benzodiazepine drugs can turn into a harsh addiction battle within a matter of months or even just weeks. And what’s perhaps worst of all, that which began as an innocent search for a solution to one’s anxiety can end up in an overdose on benzo drugs, potentially even a fatal overdose.

Benzo Addiction on the Rise

When it comes to addiction in America, benzodiazepines do not often make headline news. That changed recently. In fact, an increase in the misuse of common benzo drugs like Xanax, Ativan, and Valium caused the Food and Drug Administration to add misuse/abuse warning labels to all newly-produced prescription bottles for the three drugs mentioned above.

According to health experts cited in U.S. News, benzodiazepine misuse is a growing problem in America, exacerbated by the fact that benzo addicts often misuse such drugs in tandem with opioids, increasing the risk for accidents, overdose, and even death. In fact, in 2017 and 2018, benzo drugs were found in one-third of all opioid-related overdoses. That information is cause for concern because, in 2019 alone, more than 92 million prescriptions were written for benzodiazepine drugs. Furthermore, tens of thousands of Americans died from opioid and benzo-related deaths, showing just how prevalent this problem is.

Rising incidences of benzodiazepine-related overdoses and a shockingly high prevalence of benzodiazepine use among American people is a cause for concern.

Another factor to consider is the length of time that benzodiazepines are prescribed for. Benzodiazepines are supposed to only be prescribed for a few weeks at a time. Yet about half of all benzo prescriptions are written to include well over two months of medication.

Quoting Dr. Teresa Murray Amato, chair of emergency medicine at Long Island Jewish Forest Hills in New York City: 

”According to recent FDA data, approximately 50% of benzodiazepine prescriptions were for over two months of medications. Providers need to consider the risks and benefits of prescribing longer courses of these medications. The FDA is hoping that by adding verbiage to the current warning, providers will be extra careful in not only prescribing these medications, but also to be mindful of the duration.

Even the FDA admitted to the addictive nature of benzodiazepines, particularly when they are taken for longer than a few days or weeks. According to the agency: 

Physical dependence can occur when benzodiazepines are taken steadily for several days to weeks. Patients who have been taking a benzodiazepine for weeks or months can have withdrawal signs and symptoms when the medicine is discontinued abruptly. Stopping benzodiazepines abruptly or reducing the dosage too quickly can result in acute withdrawal reactions, including seizures, which can be life-threatening.

In many ways, benzodiazepine addiction is an underreported crisis, a severe problem that has grown steadily over the past few years while receiving very little public attention or media focus. But now that the American people are aware of the crisis, those addicted to benzo drugs must receive effective treatment.

Residential Drug Rehab for Benzodiazepine Addiction

An addiction to benzodiazepines comes with both physical and psychological manifestations. When someone takes such a drug for too long, they risk building up both a physiological dependence on the substance and a psychological reliance on the drug’s effects on them. The longer this goes on, the more difficult it will be to stop using the drug.

If you know someone who is addicted to benzodiazepines, who is using such drugs and cannot seem to stop using them, please do your best to help get him or her into a drug and alcohol rehab center. Narconon can help people who have become hooked on benzo drugs, and Narconon goes a step further and helps them address the underlying issues and difficulties that caused them to turn to benzodiazepines in the first place. If you know someone who is addicted to benzodiazepines and who cannot stop using them, take the first step to a brighter future for them and call Narconon today.


Reviewed by Claire Pinelli, ICAADC, CCS, LADC, MCAP, RAS



After working in addiction treatment for several years, Ren now travels the country, studying drug trends and writing about addiction in our society. Ren is focused on using his skill as an author and counselor to promote recovery and effective solutions to the drug crisis. Connect with Ren on LinkedIn.