As the world we live in today becomes increasingly anxiety ridden, more and more people are turning to substances to ease the dis-ease of living life.

Whilst anxiety can be a paralysing state for some, for others with “functional anxiety” it is something quite different. Functional anxiety can be described as the state you need to be in in order to be a high achiever, necessary to give you that edge. It can often be found in people who work with unrelenting deadlines or making important, knife-edge deals as they believe they need the energy that low level anxiety provides. It’s what allows them to work on the weekend or get up before dawn and only leave the office when everyone else is long gone. Until it becomes too much. That’s when the pills come in.

Xanax, alongside Valium, Ativan, Klonopin are all types of benzodiazepines and they are quickly becoming one of the most controversial form of drug in the history of medicine. According to an article in the New York magazine in 2012 (Add link –, they work by “suppress[ing] the output of neurotransmitters that interpret fear.” In other words, they erase our ability to feel anxiety or danger. Great, if used at the prescribed dose and only when you really need them. However in today’s society, use of these drugs has become commonplace. Many people are unaware that they are highly addictive and potentially lethal. Overdose deaths involving Xanax have increased exponentially in the past few years, as has the rate they are being prescribed across the globe. The latest figures from the ONS show that drug deaths caused by any benzodiazepine has more than doubled in just over ten years, rising from 190 deaths a year in 2005 to 406 in 2016. It is also worth mentioning that deaths from Z drugs (zopliclone etc), which are commonly used sedatives very similar to benzodiazepines, has gone from zero deaths in the UK in 1993 to 126 deaths a year by 2017.

As we are living in an age of anxiety, where almost everyone can relate to feeling stressed, worried and anxious, and many doctors are prescribing benzodiazepines to combat these feelings, often without stressing the very possible risk of addiction associated to them.

A large percentage of intentional and unintentional overdose deaths worldwide, involve the use of Xanax alongside another substance. This is because benzos limit breathing and heart rate due to the suppressed neurotransmitters – they have a depressive effect on our central nervous system, which can make our bodies extremely vulnerable when exposed to another substance at the same time. You may be aware of a number of celebrity deaths all of whom had benzodiazepines in their blood streams at time of death. These include, Whitney Houston, Heath Ledger, Elvis, Michael Jackson and Amy Winehouse. One of the reasons benzos are so commonly used illegally is because they can help slow the heart rate after using other drugs like cocaine.

Unfortunately, this is also when the drug is at it’s most lethal.

Another issue facing benzodiazepine use is for those who have been prescribed the drug for years due to anxiety or stress issues. These people may have been dependent on them for years and unable to stop. The best way to use drugs like Xanax is intermittently, never more than a few times a week. If you are someone who needs to use a drug like Xanax to get you through the day, you may have an addiction to them, and need to seriously think about stopping. However, if you are concerned about your use, don’t consider quitting cold turkey as the withdrawal can be potentially life threatening. If you have been taking them for a long time, you need to work with a professional in order to taper off them in a safe way.