The pandemic has led to stressful situations that caused many individuals to turn to anti-anxiety medications. While many of these medications have been around for some time, there might be a possibility that they can become addictive.

Last month, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) stated that it will be requiring makers of benzodiazepines to include possible risks on the drug label. These risks would include addiction, abuse, physical dependence on the drug, and withdrawal.

Benzodiazepines refer to a class of drugs that are used for treating neurological disorders such as anxiety, seizures, panic disorder, social phobia, and even insomnia. These prescription drugs have been present for decades. However, there is growing evidence that the use of these drugs could potentially be abused and could even lead to addiction.

Dr Bechoy Abdelmalak, a psychiatrist in a New York City clinic revealed to ABC News that if these drugs are monitored properly, they would have a positive effect on patients who would take them in accordance with the prescription. The downside is that these medications could possibly lead to an addiction. Worse, there is a black market in existence for these medicines.

Dr Harshal Kirane, medical director of Wellbridge Addiction Treatment and Research, described benzodiazepines as a "silent epidemic," something that has been in existence for a long time.

FDA Commissioner Stephen M. Hahn, mentioned last month that the agency is taking measures and requiring new labelling information on these drugs in order to help patients and professionals better understand that benzodiazepines carry both benefits, as well as some risks for patients such as addiction, dependence, and abuse.

The recent warning was given by the FDA based on their Adverse Event Report System database, after they discovered that benzodiazepines are usually prescribed in the U.S. for a period considered as longer than the recommended timeframe. They also saw that these drugs may be abused along with other illicit drugs, thereby putting patients at risk for serious health consequences.

Abdelmalak noted that while the drugs yield positive results once patients start taking them in, it often makes it hard for them to discontinue using the drug. Some patients take them for years, leading to a risk of suffering from a number of side effects, especially among seniors.

FDA reported that statistics revealed that approximately half of the patients in 2018 who were received benzodiazepines took them for two months with some even longer. This is way longer than the recommended use of just a few weeks.

Anti-anxiety medications may be addictive Photo: Pixabay

An estimated 92 million prescriptions of benzodiazepine were distributed from pharmacies in the U.S. in 2019.