Benzos in 30% of NYC’s Overdose Deaths; ER Visits Soar


The NYC Department of Health reports that 30% of the city’s 2009 overdose deaths were tied to benzodiazepines, and that benzo-related emergency room visits have increased 50% from 2004 to 2009. Benzos “could turn a relatively mild overdose into something that could be fatal,” said a NYC psychiatrist. One mental health network in Louisville, KY, has stopped prescribing the drug. “The problem is, in terms of longer term treatment, there are really much better treatments that have better outcomes” said a network psychiatrist.

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Kermit Cole
Kermit Cole, MFT, founding editor of Mad in America, works in Santa Fe, New Mexico as a couples and family therapist. Inspired by Open Dialogue, he works as part of a team and consults with couples and families that have members identified as patients. His work in residential treatment — largely with severely traumatized and/or "psychotic" clients — led to an appreciation of the power and beauty of systemic philosophy and practice, as the alternative to the prevailing focus on individual pathology. A former film-maker, he has undergraduate and master's degrees in psychology from Harvard University, as well as an MFT degree from the Council for Relationships in Philadelphia. He is a doctoral candidate with the Taos Institute and the Free University of Brussels. You can reach him at [email protected].


  1. From the article:

    “In disclosures on the Pfizer Physician Prescription Information sheet, or PPI, doctors are warned of the possibility of physical and psychological dependence associated with Xanax.

    The PPI goes on to say:

    “Some patients have experienced considerable difficulty in tapering and discontinuing from Xanax, especially those receiving higher doses for extended periods. Addiction-prone individuals should be under careful surveillance when receiving Xanax.””

    It doesn’t take an addiction-prone individual to become dependent on a benzo. It can happen to anyone. The rebound anxiety once a benzo wears off convinces many they need more of the medication.

    It’s quite common for doctors to prescribe an antidepressant and then a benzo, often Klonopin, when the patient complains of adverse effects of the antidepressant such as nervousness, sleeplessness, or akathisia.

    Then the patient develops a dependency on both drugs. Klonopin is very, very difficult to withdraw from.

    It is, of course, extremely stupid to prescribe an addictive drug to counter the adverse effects of an antidepressant, which have its own withdrawal issues, but it’s SOP among doctors. I wonder where they learned this from?

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