“Xanax Is the New Heroin”

Hand reaching for Xanax tablets

There’s a nearly 4-billion-dollar industry right now you may not be aware of. No, it’s not heroin or street drugs. This is the legal, prescription market for anti-anxiety drugs in the United States.

Nearly 40 million Americans “suffer from anxiety,” a recent study shows. It has been declared the most common “mental illness” in the United States. With that has come a 67% rise in prescriptions for benzodiazepines, a class of addictive anti-anxiety drugs. Xanax, Valium, and Ativan are all examples of this. These drugs have been around for a while yet have gained unprecedented popularity recently.

With the news the opioid epidemic has been receiving, this trend seems to have flown under the radar. Yet both epidemics are the result of overprescribing, and benzos are a double-edged sword.

Benzos kill from both overdose and withdrawal. Where opioids have overdose potential, withdrawal from them is rarely life-threatening albeit extremely uncomfortable. Benzodiazepine withdrawal can lead to psychosis, seizures, and death. In other words, once you’re hooked on them, you cannot safely get off them on your own.

Another scary factor is benzos are combined with other drugs, the lethality increases dramatically. Since they cause a person to feel less inhibited, much like alcohol, this is a common cause of benzodiazepine-related death. In fact, the number of benzodiazepine-related deaths quadrupled between 2002 and 2015, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Long-term use can make extremely difficult for a person to ever get off them. Rehab isn’t always an option for such people, as they cannot safely stop without long-term medical intervention.

Benzos work by literally slowing brain function. That’s why they are effective at treating anxiety. Tolerance develops rapidly, causing anxiety to be worse when the drug wears off. So, what you see with the drug is a long-term worsening of symptoms from the person being on it, and a need for greater amounts of the drug to “feel okay” again.

As you can see, this drug would be ideally used only as a last resort for SHORT periods in emergency situations. Why are our country’s medical professionals prescribing so much of this stuff? It’s insane that we cycle through error after error in how we manage medicine and addiction but just keep on making the same stupid mistakes.

Its evident benzos are a highly abused drug, and I haven’t even mentioned the illegal market that exists. Just talk to some teenagers or listen to popular music and you’ll find that taking “Xanny Bars” (Xanax) is a common pastime. Even Grammy Award-winning artist, Chance the Rapper, recently posted on Twitter “Xanax is the new Heroin. Don’t let em fool u.” He admittedly has struggled with benzodiazepine addiction in the past.

Anxiety isn’t new.  CNBC’s recent report on the subject indicates that America’s anxiety increase is due to high-stress factors of the workaday world, usually beginning in people’s 20’s, an age where they don’t have the resources to manage their symptoms.

While this may or may not be a new cultural development, it’s evident that the “quick-fix” mentality of prescribing Xanax does not address the real, underlying issue of “why?”. And the questions still remains as to whether anxiety as a condition is more common, or simply more popular as a diagnosis.

Let’s get real here. We’re a drug-oriented nation that loves to take pills to change how we feel rather than examining life for the actual causes. We’re looking for a euphoric escape, because it’s easier than addressing the things we worry about…in the short run.

Our emotions are catalysts to action. They are the fuel of life, and the fiber of experience. How about we stop drowning them out and start listening and changing our world if we’re uncomfortable. Real solutions exist for substance abuse that focus on addressing the real issues that drugs simply mask. Contact us for more information.

This content has been reviewed by Dr. Rohit Adi MD, ABAM to ensure accuracy and quality.



Joe Kertis

Originally from the Pacific Northwest, Joe has worked at Narconon New Life Retreat for the past seven years, since his relocation to Louisiana. As the Intake Supervisor, he helps families and individuals through a very difficult time and take their first steps to a new, drug-free life. Get in touch with Joe on Twitter, Google+ or LinkedIn.