Drug experts are now warning of a dangerous new health problem involving medications like Valium and Xanax that are typically prescribed for anxiety and insomnia.

It turns out benzodiazepines, commonly referred to as benzos, are increasingly being used and abused by teens and 20-somethings to treat nervousness and for recreational purposes.

“We need to ring the alarm bell loud and clear that this is a major problem,” said Angelo Valente, the executive director of the Partnership for a Drug Free New Jersey.

“Just recently there was a study that showed there’s been an 830% increase, from 1999 to 2017, in overdose deaths involving the drugs that are commonly called benzos," he said.

"This spike was only surpassed by overdose deaths involving synthetic opiates or heroin, so there’s no question this is an alarming statistic.”

According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, 10,600 people died from benzo overdose in 2016. In 1999, that number was about 1,100.

So why is this happening?

“Certainly we see there are many more young people that are being prescribed these medicines for anxiety and insomnia, depression," Valente said.

He pointed out in some cases teens and 20-somethings are being prescribed benzos along with opioids, which can be extremely dangerous if amounts of these drugs are abused.

At the same time, teens may take benzos for fun, helping themselves to drugs they find in the family medicine cabinet that were prescribed for someone else.

Valente said there are alternatives for treating depression and insomnia that young adults and their parents should be aware of.

“Benzos are generally safe when they are taken occasionally over a few weeks, but the brain quickly accepts and adapts to the medicine and certainly that is something very alarming.”

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