Benzodiazepines, or benzos, are a high-risk, addictive drug. These benzo stats show just how widespread and commonly used these drugs are, suggesting a need to seek out treatment and to build prevention solutions.
National Statistics on Use
Data from the 2015 to 2016 National Surveys on Drug Use and Health from the National Institutes on Drug Abuse, found that:
- 12.5% of adults in the United States use benzos. This equates to about 30.5 million people.
- Of those, about 2.1% misuse these drugs. About 0.2% meet the requirements to be labeled as having a benzodiazepine use disorder.
- About 11.8% of those who misused benzos do so to get high, while others do so because they are hooked.
- About 22.4% of those misusing them do so to improve sleep, reduce tension or cope with stress.
- About 5.7% of people using benzos did so as an experiment to see what would happen.
- Of those who abuse this drug, only 20% got them from their doctor, indicating many don’t have a prescription for the drug.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse provides a number of benzo statistics that can clarify just how commonly used these drugs are. The organization notes that each day in the United States, 115 people die from overdosing on opioids. It says that over 30% of those overdoses also involve benzodiazepines. Many of the people using benzos have access to them through prescriptions written as a treatment for anxiety or insomnia. This, coupled with prescription medication opioids, creates a significant risk of overdose.
Consider a few addiction benzo abuse statistics:
- Increased access to the drug is a key reason for higher overdoses. From 1996 through 2013, the latest date for this statistic, the number of benzo prescriptions grew from 8.1 million to 13.5 million per year. That is a 67% rate of growth.
- The amount of benzos prescribed also increased, from 1.1 kilograms to 3.6 kilograms of lorazepam-equivalents per 100,000 adults.
- The number of people dying from benzo overdose increased over sevenfold during this time.
The organization links the increased number of prescriptions, along with the growth in opioid use, as key factors in increasing benzo-related deaths in the United States. This is because many people are prescribed both drugs at the same time. The death rate of people who receive both drugs is 10 times higher than the death rate of those just receiving opioids.
Benzodiazepine Prescription Statistics in Treatment
Benzos, which include brand names such as Valium and Xanax, are very commonly prescribed medications, increasing the risk of their abusive use. There are over 2,000 different types, but only 15 are FDA-approved for use in the United States. Their wide-spread availability makes them a commonly used drug.
Studies indicate that there’s been a significant change in the way doctors prescribe benzos. In one study published by the National Institutes of Health, there’s evidence that more primary care physicians are prescribing this medication. The study looked at 386,457 ambulatory care visits from 2003 to 2015. The use of these drugs in ambulatory care grew from just 3.8% in 2003 to 7.4% in 2015.
Many times, the drug was prescribed alongside other medications used for sedation. However, the number of psychiatrists prescribing the drug changed from 29.6% to just 30.2%, indicating they had not increased the amount they prescribed. However, primary care physicians, who had been prescribing at 3.6% in 2003, were doing so more readily, reaching 7.5% in 2015. This change may provide some insight, the study found, into increasing overdose rates for benzo users.
How Popular Are Benzos Globally?
Globally, benzos are used quite frequently, as they are in the United States. Drugs such as the following are often prescribed for use in treating anxiety, seizures, insomnia, and withdrawal from alcohol.
- Alprazolam (Xanax)
- Clonazepam (Klonopin)
- Diazepam (Valium)
- Lorazepam (Ativan)
- Chlordiazepoxide (Librium)
- Temazepam (Restoril)
- Triazolam (Halcion)
Why Benzo Abuse Statistics Are Changing
Attitudes toward the use of benzos continue to change. It’s possible to say that increased use of benzos has led to a secondary epidemic in the United States, following opioids in terms of risks and overdose rates. The study that looked at changes in prescription habits from 2003 to 2015 provides a significant amount of information about changing attitudes toward the drug.
Many doctors, including family doctors, increasingly see people who have common anxiety-related conditions. Anxiety, along with other stress-related conditions, cause people to struggle to sleep well. This, in turn, leads to the prescription of benzos for their ability to help people sleep. Some believe this is a public health problem.
Increasing long-term use of benzos, even with prescriptions, can lead to complex negative effects. While it taxes the health care system from overdoses and drug treatment, it also creates the potential for a number of negative health complications. This includes changes in cognitive function, sleep disturbances, impairment in routine activities, increases in accidental falls and more motor vehicle accidents. It also interacts with other medications, which can create a higher risk of a drug overdose.
Because fewer psychiatrists are prescribing the drug and more family physicians are doing so, there’s an increase in the number of people with anxiety and other mental disorders receiving drugs without additional treatment. The study indicates that this may continue to grow in number until and unless more doctors refer patients to mental health providers for treatment rather than simply prescribing benzos.
Demographics and Benzo Abuse Facts
Doctors prescribe benzos to adult men and women, as well as children. The drug is more frequently abused by adults. In one study, the following demographics were found:
- Women are more likely than men to be long-term users of benzos.
- Lorazepam was the most commonly abused benzo by men.
- Lormetazepam was the most commonly abused benzo by women.
Understanding Benzo Abuse Facts
It’s clear there’s an increasing number of people using benzos as a way to treat anxiety and other mental health disorders. Many receive these medications from doctors through prescriptions. Others are purchased and used illicitly. While benzos are not as deadly in terms of overdose as opioids, they’re a current public health crisis requiring attention.
Finding Help for Benzo Addiction
If you or a loved one is suffering from an addiction to benzos, seeking help for drug use is critical. At FHE Health, we provide a wide range of treatment options to help patients to detox and receive ongoing care for benzo addiction. To learn more about how we can help you, call FHE Health at 833-596-3502.