Andy MattisonJul 18, 2018, 11:21 pmJul 19, 2018, 2:41 pm

Health experts raise concerns over addictive potential of anti-anxiety medications

Over 30 percent of opioid overdoses nationally involve benzodiazepines, drugs used for insomnia, anxiety and restlessness

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HARRISON - Health officials and addiction experts are warning that the next drug epidemic could be linked to anti-anxiety medications.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, more than 30 percent of opioid overdoses involve drugs known as benzodiazepines, which are mild tranquilizers and are usually prescribed for insomnia, anxiety, and restlessness. The most common benzodiazepine drugs are Xanax, Valium, and Klonopin.

"They work without consequences at first, and if there's no consequences at first then there's no reason not to continue," said David Gerber of St. Vincent's Westchester Outpatient Addiction Director. "What happens is, the more we use, the more we develop a tolerance and the more it requires us to develop that euphoric effect."

According to Gerber, 15 percent of the patients in St. Vincent's program have identified benzodiazepines as their reason for seeking treatment.

"They're used to that euphoric feeling taking away emotional and physical pain," Gerber said. "Because of the euphoria you can get from these medications, oftentimes it is a pathway to further and different addiction."

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