Health professionals are sounding the alarm over the heightened risk of death linked to the use of psychiatric drugs, which was highlighted in a pair of Vancouver-based studies published this month.

Benzodiazepine (BZD)  is a class of psychiatric medications known as tranquilizers. Tranquilizers reduce the body’s drive to breathe. These medications are commonly used to treat anxiety, sleep disorders and seizures. Some of these drugs include Valium, Xanax, and Ativan.

In one study done by researchers from B.C. Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS (BCCfE) and the University of B.C. it was found that BZD was linked to a higher risk of death than illegal drugs.

“The study followed a cohort of 2,802 drug users in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside between 1996 and 2013. Participants were interviewed semi-annually over a median duration of just over five-and-a-half years each. By the end of the study, 527 (18.8 per cent) of the participants had died.”

These studies revealed some real issues in the longterm safety of these drugs.

“These studies really reveal how very dangerous these drugs are, and they should be used with great caution,” Dr. Thomas Kerr said. “We can’t just focus on opioids, we need to look at other medications that are used in combination.”

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