What you need to know about the dangers associated with benzodiazepines
‘Tis the season for stress! Finding the perfect gifts, hosting family gatherings or taking final exams in college. How do you cope when you are overwhelmed? If popping Xanax or Valium is your answer, you could be putting yourself in harm’s way without even knowing it.
Anxiety levels are on the rise in the United States according to a poll conducted by the American Psychiatric Association. Not surprisingly, the number of prescriptions written for benzodiazepines, which include drugs like Ativan, Xanax and Valium, are also on the rise. The National Institute on Drug Abuse found the number of Americans who filled a prescription for benzodiazepines, sometimes referred to as benzos, increased by 67 percent from 1996 to 2013 or 8.1 million to 13.5 million people.
Risks Associated with Benzodiazepines
Although doctors are prescribing these medications and you hear people talk about them like they are harmless, many patients aren’t aware of the risks associated with this class of drugs, like dependence or addiction.
Benzos actually work in a similar way as alcohol; they quickly provide a temporary calming effect by targeting the brain’s GABA receptor(1). The person’s anxiety fades away, but some feel even more anxious once the medication wears off. In order to keep the anxiety at bay, some people take the medicine continuously, which leads to dependency(2). Dependence is when the body gets used to the drug and a person needs to take higher and higher doses in order to get the same effect. Even when taken as prescribed, a person can develop a dependency. Addiction can also occur. Unlike dependency, addiction is when there are chemical changes in the brain and a person takes the drug despite experiencing negative consequences.
Whether you are dependent, addicted or just take benzos on a regular basis, you can experience withdrawal when you stop taking them. You should always consult your doctor before stopping the medicine because withdrawal can be dangerous. Common signs include(3):
In severe cases a person can experience seizures, rapid heart rate, increased blood pressure and death. Depending on the amount of benzos you are taking, you may need to go to an inpatient detox facility to safely rid your body of the medication.
Besides the risk of becoming dependent or addicted to benzos, it’s easy to accidentally overdose when taking them with other drugs, especially opioids, or alcohol. Opioids, alcohol and benzos all suppress the part of the brain that is responsible for controlling breathing and heart rate. When taken together, a person can stop breathing or go into cardiac arrest. The National Institute on Drug Abuse found that 30 percent of people who overdosed on opioids also had benzos in their system. Their research also found the number of overdose deaths involving benzos increased from 1,135 in 1999 to 8,791 in 2015.
Know the risks before you take the medications! While these drugs serve a purpose, it’s crucial to take them as prescribed, take the smallest dose possible and only when you truly need it. Most importantly, never mix them with other drugs or alcohol.
The holiday season is upon us. Before you know it, college kids will be coming home and gathering around the Thanksgiving dinner table, but where are they the night before?
Many young adults choose to spend Thanksgiving eve catching up with old friends at the local bars. In fact, it has become one of the biggest drinking days of the year; some refer to it as Black Wednesday, Blackout Wednesday and Drinksgiving. As a result, Thanksgiving is one of the deadliest holidays to be on the road. According to Mother’s Against Drunk Driving (MADD), between 2012 and 2016, more than 800 people were killed by drunk drivers during the Thanksgiving long weekend (Wednesday evening to early Monday morning).
Even if a person is responsible enough to avoid driving while under the influence, it doesn’t mean they are out of harm’s way. Many young people binge drink, especially during the holidays. Binge drinking is defined as consuming large amounts of alcohol in a short period of time. A binge is typically four drinks for a woman and five drinks for a man within two hours. The difference is due to the fact that men are typically larger than women, so their bodies metabolize the alcohol differently.
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) reports binge drinking is most common among people ages 18 to 34, however, those under 21 who reported binge drinking drank larger quantities during the binge. The large quantities of alcohol put a person at risk for alcohol poisoning, which can be deadly if not treated promptly. The high levels of alcohol in the body can cause a person to stop breathing and shut down their gag reflex, which can cause a person to choke if they vomit. If you notice a person has slow or irregular breathing, acts confused or cannot be roused, call 911 and get them to the emergency room immediately.
Dangers of Binge Drinking
Besides alcohol poisoning, there are other dangers associated with binge drinking that you might not think of. Here is a list compiled by the CDC:
We don’t want to put a damper on your holiday festivities, but we want everyone to be safe. As MADD and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says, “Make It to the Table: Don’t Drink and Drive this Thanksgiving Eve!”
Safely Dispose of Your Medications
In the United States, prescription drug abuse, specifically abuse of opioid pain relievers, is becoming more prevalent and has been linked to more overdose deaths than any illicit drug class. The National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) estimates 54 million Americans ages 12 and older have misused prescription drugs at least once in their lifetime.
Why are so many people abusing prescription drugs? They’re often easier to get. In fact, you may have some sitting in your own medicine cabinet. Many people are prescribed painkillers after surgery and leave the unused medication in their medicine cabinets. Although you might not be abusing it, friends and family members could be. Of those who abuse prescription opioids, more than half report getting them from friends or relatives. Even your pets take medications that are commonly abused!
To help curb the problem, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Taskforce developed National Prescription Drug Take Back Day. This year, it’s Saturday, October 27th. If you have any unwanted, unused or expired medication, you can safely dispose of it at various sites throughout the country.
Prescription Drug Disposal in Connecticut
In 2017, more than 37,000 pounds of prescription and over-the-counter drugs were disposed of at collection sites in Connecticut. You don’t have to wait for Take Back Day to clean out your medicine cabinet. Find a site near youand dispose of them at any time.
In collection boxes you can dispose of:
Do your part to help curb the prescription drug abuse epidemic and safely dispose of your medications today!
PREVENT BULLYING WITH KINDNESS
Nearly 30% of U.S. students in grades 6 through 12 and 19% of elementary students experience bullying every year. While some people think bullying is a normal part of growing up, research shows that it has a lasting impact. Those who are bullied experience higher rates of depression and anxiety than their peers and these issues can follow them into adulthood.
October is National Bullying Prevention Monthand this year’s theme is “Kindness Works.” Being kind to others is the respectful thing to do, but it also prevents bullying and improves the overall school environment. This is something that needs to be instilled in children beginning at a very young age. The behavior that seems harmless in toddler years can turn into a more serious problem later on if it’s not addressed and corrected by parents, caregivers and teachers.
Years ago, kids who were bullied could escape when they went home at the end of the day. Nowadays, bullying can continue after school thanks to technology. While verbal and social bullying are still the most common, 15% of high school studentsreported being electronically bullied in the last year; this takes place on social media or through text messages. However, this number is significantly higher for LGBTQ students; 55% report being cyberbullied. Instagram is the most popular social media network for teens and users say it’s an easy place to bully others by posting mean comments and bad photos. Some teens even go as far as creating “hate pages” which are dedicated to humiliating others.
5 Ways to Prevent Bullying
Parents, teachers and students all play a role in bullying prevention. Below are five ways to help create a positive environment for kids.
To learn more about bullying prevention, visit StopBullying.gov for tips and resources.
And remember, it’s cool to be kind!
Homeless Youth in Fairfield County
CT Coalition to End Homelessness released their report last week. Click below to view report:
Here is a summarized version of what the data shows…
There are estimated to be 5,054 homeless and unstably housed youth in the state of CT at any given point in time. These are unaccompanied minors and young adults between the ages of 18-24. “Homeless” refers to youth who are in emergency shelters, transitional programs, on the streets, or in some other place not meant for human habitation. “Unstably housed” refers to youth who are staying somewhere temporarily. This could mean several things. For example, someone who is unstably housed may bounce from one person’s couch to another and another with frequent moves every month, or it could mean that they are with family but often get kicked out with nowhere to go. It is important to recognize that even though youth may have a place to sleep, it is not always a safe place for them.
In Fairfield County, we have an estimated 1,032 homeless and unstably housed youth and young adults. 288 of these youth are literally homeless. Among those who are literally homeless, only 23% seek shelter. Mirroring the national data, we see that youth of color and LGBTQIA youth are disproportionately represented among homeless youth, many homeless females are pregnant and parenting, and many of these youth have a history of or current system involvement.
Helping Children and Youth Who Have Traumatic Experiences