Brighton resident Lynn Howlett, a Webster native, appeared on “The Dr. Oz Show” on April 21 to discuss the dangers of alcohol and benzodiazepine addiction.
Howlett taped a 10-minute segment March 8 in New York City for the show segment titled “Why Are So Many People Overdosing on Anxiety Drugs?” alongside interventionist Joanie Gammill and Dr. Sudeepta Varma. Howlett is in long-term recovery from alcohol and benzodiazepine addiction, and is a locally recognized recovery advocate as well as a certified recovery coach and trainer.
“This epidemic hasn’t received the attention it deserves,” Howlett said. “There’s been a large public health response to the epidemic of prescription narcotics use and addiction and overdose, but there has not been much response to the increase in prescription benzodiazepine deaths.”
It’s estimated that one in 20 adults fills a benzodiazepine prescription in a year. These drugs are prescribed for anxiety, mood disorders and insomnia. While deaths from heroin and narcotic painkiller overdoses have surged in recent years, a new report from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City finds the same things is happening with widely used sedatives such as Xanax, Valium and Ativan.
In 2013, overdoses from these drugs accounted for 31 percent of the nearly 23,000 deaths from prescription drug overdoses in the U.S.
“As more benzodiazepines were prescribed, more people have died from overdoses involving these drugs,” said Dr. Joanna Starrels, study author and associate professor of medicine at Albert Einstein College of Medicine.
Patients are often unaware of the toxic effects these drugs can have, especially when combined with other substances such as alcohol and narcotics.
“In 2013, more than 5 percent of American adults filled prescriptions for benzodiazepines and the overdose death rate increased more than four times from 1996 to 2013,” Starrels said.
During the “Dr. Oz” segment, Dr. Oz emphasized that tighter regulations of these drugs are needed. This includes prescribing smaller quantities and using other non-habit-forming drugs or longer-acting benzodiazepine.
“Parents and other family members should keep these drugs away from children,” Howlett said. “More public education is needed about these drugs and the dangers they have when combined with alcohol and other substances.”
Howlett said being on the show was exciting, and she was grateful to have the chance to share her story of recovery and spread hope to viewers.
“Recovery is not just about putting down the drink or drug, it’s about picking up and incredible life,” Howlett said. “I feel so fortunate to be able to share that message of hope on a national platform and I’m hoping that someone is helped by the sharing of my story.”