When drugs to treat anxiety, called benzodiazepines or benzos, first burst onto the scene in the 1950s and 1960s, they quickly became known as “mother’s little helper,” the mild tranquilizer that could soothe frazzled housewives’ nerves. More than four decades later, benzos — including Valium, Xanax, Klonopin and Ativan — are used to treat anxiety, mood disorders, and insomnia. Dr. Michael Kelley, the medical director of the behavioral department at St. Mary’s Regional Medical Center in Lewiston, Maine, says he doesn’t go a single day without seeing somebody addicted to them. Drugs of choice often include the combined use of opiates and benzos, both sedatives that can slow respiration, and that’s incredibly dangerous.
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