While we were looking the other way (Rx opioids), the benzodiazepine class (Xanax, Valium, Klonopin, etc) have been creeping up in the prescription tally. It has been known for years that “benzos” are addictive. They are also considered by addicts as a drug that helps increase the duration and intensity of opioids. They are also used to reduce the withdrawal effects of various drugs of abuse. They are also one of the hardest drugs to withdraw from.
Benzos got their start in the public psyche as “mother’s little helper.” They increase GABA, an inhibitory neurotransmitter, that in turn relaxes the patient and reduces anxiety. Hence the class term of “anxiolytics.” These drugs are extremely dangerous for many reasons. The opioid potentiation effect probably the most notable during the current opioid/heroin epidemic.
Doctors need to be re-schooled (or just schooled) about addiction. Many have no inkling what causes addiction, the normal course of addiction and how their prescribing habits affect addiction and society in general. Mandatory prescription monitoring needs to be in place in every state. When a doctor writes for an addictive drug, it needs to be logged in the database and all Rx’s that get presented at a pharmacy need to be logged in the same database by the pharmacist. Right now, most state monitoring databases are voluntary (hello, Ohio!).
If we can track a pair of socks from Amazon.com all over the country, we can track dangerous prescription drugs. When I was a pharmacist in Illinois, we had triplicate prescription blanks for all CII narcotics. That means the MD writes the Rx and sends one copy to the DEA, and the other 2 to the pharmacy. The pharmacist fills the Rx and sends one copy to the DEA and retains the original. We need better ideas, not ones based on greed, to start saving our on members of society. We can’t trust the medical profession to do it for us.