Benzodiazepines: An Examination of Prescription, Causality and Addiction

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Benzodiazepines � PAGE �10�

Running Head: Benzodiazepines


An Examination of Prescription, Causality and Addiction

Elizabeth Lizotte

PCN527 Psychopharmacology & Addiction


Benzodiazepines are a family of prescription drugs that are used mainly to relieve anxiety and to help people sleep. This family of drugs is used for the sedation of patients undergoing surgical or other medical procedures, the treatment of alcohol withdrawal symptoms, controlling and regulating seizures and the relaxation of skeletal muscles, specifically those found in the back and the neck. Because these drugs and widely acknowledged to be as safe as they are effective, benzodiazepines have consequently replaced older drugs that were capable of producing similar results, such as barbiturates. Currently, however, there are more that 50 benzodiazepines in use throughout the world, 14 of which are available for prescription in Canada. Roughly 10 percent of Canadians use a benzodiazepine at least once a year, with one in 10 of these people continuing use on a regular basis for more than a year at a time.

Despite the fact that the use of these drugs has subsequently declined in the past few years or so, these drugs continue to be one of the most widely prescribed drugs in Canada. In fact, women are prescribed benzodiazepines twice as often as men, and a large proportion of these drugs are prescribed to older adults. Non-medical use of benzodiazepines does happen quite often, especially amongst individuals who abuse other drugs in addition to benzodiazepines. Some people who abuse other drugs use benzodiazepines to enhance the effects of a number of sedative drugs, such as opioids and alcohol, or to lessen the effects of drugs that are stimulants, such as ecstasy or cocaine. Taking benzodiazepines in combination with other drugs can be dangerous. Despite the fact that many more women are...