NPR's All Things Considered, in an article by Susan Sharon, looks at the risks from the popular benzodiazepines:
The drugs first burst onto the scene in the 1950s and '60s and quickly became known as "mother's little helper," the mild tranquilizer that could soothe frazzled housewives' nerves. More than four decades later, benzos — including Valium, Xanax, Klonopin and Ativan — are used to treat anxiety, mood disorders and insomnia.
Dr. Michael Kelley, the medical director of the behavioral department at St. Mary's Regional Medical Center in Lewiston, Maine, says he doesn't go a single day without seeing somebody addicted to them.
He says when he first took the job 15 years ago, about 75 percent of the detox patients were alcoholics, and the rest were drug addicts. Now, he says, 90 percent of them are drug addicts whose drugs of choice often include the combined use of opiates and benzos; both are sedatives that can slow respiration.
"It's actually pretty rare to see somebody only using only one," he says — and that's incredibly dangerous.
"Benzodiazepines and the opiates both can cause death when you take too much of them," he adds. "But they potentiate each other — they make each other stronger. And so one plus one doesn't equal two; it equals three or four."
The article includes testimony from a woman a few years into her recovery, that has her journey through addiction, along with a provocative last line:
She still gets anxious but says she's learned to deal with life on her own terms, without relying on the medications she thought were her friends.