Doctors have identified “an epidemic of benzodiazepine use among youth”. We must learn from the opioid crisis and respond to concerns about the over-prescription of benzos.
According to this recent study, benzodiazepines (“benzos” for short) carry significant risks associated with both use and withdrawal:
- Over half of those who had been prescribed benzos report suicidal thoughts or attempts.
- About 45% report that their use of benzos caused a loss of employment.
- Over 85% reported related problems with social interaction or recreation.
- Use is also associated with greater risk of deadly falls for elderly people.
The over-promotion and over-prescription of benzos without proper assessment of risk and without the informed consent of patients follows a similar pattern as we saw with the over-promotion and over-prescription of opioids leading to the opioid crisis. In many opioid-related deaths, multi-drug toxicity was a key factor and benzos are involved.
Canada must learn the lessons of the opioid crisis, and avoid making the same mistake with benzos. The government must work with health authorities to establish clear guidelines around the prescription of benzos.
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