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Deaths linked to Alprazolam are soaring
The number of unnatural deaths caused by the alprazolam (Xanax), an anti-anxiety medication of the benzodiazepine class (see What are Benzodiazepines), has increased significantly since 2009, new research reveals.
The study done by the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre at UNSW reviewed all sudden or unnatural deaths of individuals who were tested positive for alprazolam. Researchers of this study analyzed data presented between 1997 and 2012 to the Department of Forensic Medicine (DOFM) in Sydney.
The study described that only three deaths were linked to alprazolam in 1997. However, this number had jumped to 86 by 2012. The sharp increase in deaths started occurring after 2009. Of the 412 deaths linked to alprazolam, 82% of them occurred between2009 and 2012. By 2012 nearly one in 20 of all sudden deaths presenting to the morgue involved the drug.
The dominance of toxicity is consistent with the demographic characteristics of those who died: 80% of the sample had a history of drug and alcohol problems; 57% were injecting drug users; and 32% were hepatitis C positive. Drugs other than alprazolam were detected in 95% of cases.
The study is published in the May issue of Drug and Alcohol Dependence.
What are Benzodiazepines?
Benzodiazepines are one of the groups of prescription drugs that are highly abused. Benzo abuse ranges from occasional binges on large doses, to chronic and compulsive drug abuse of high doses. Problematic drug abusers often use them as a recreational agent. The benzo abuse is high among drug addicts who abuse other drugs, i.e., poly-drug abusers. In addition, mortality is also higher among poly-drug abusers that use benzos.
When the Withdrawal May Appear?
Benzo withdrawal symptoms may appear after as little as three weeks of continuous use. Long-term use has the potential to cause both physical and psychological dependence and severe withdrawal symptoms such as depression, anxiety (often to the point of panic attacks), and agoraphobia.