When Christy Huff developed a painful eye problem that led to insomnia, her doctor had a common solution— Xanax. She took the medication as directed.
One pill at night offered her some relief, but soon she began to experience anxiety, daytime terrors and tremors. Then, Huff had a startling realization. When she was off the Xanax she was going through withdrawal. And when she was on it “all of that just melted away,” she said.
In just three weeks, her body was dependent on Xanax.
“I don’t remember getting any warnings from doctors as far as addiction or dependence,” Huff, who is a cardiologist, told NBC News. “I was completely shocked at how sick I was.”
Xanax is part of a class of drugs called benzodiazepines, sometimes called “benzos” for short. Benzodiazepines are sedatives used primarily to treat anxiety and sleeplessness. The class of drugs also includes Valium, Ativan and Klonopin.
Dr. Anna Lembke, chief of addiction medicine at Stanford University Medical Center, said complications from benzos, such as dependency and addiction, are fueling a hidden epidemic akin to the opioid crisis.