Hollywood is probably the most glamorized drug den on planet Earth. Fame has become synonymous to partying, alcohol, sex, and of course – drugs. And while it’s not rocket science that drug abuse can kill you, people all around the world continue to be fascinated with this rock star lifestyle. When a famous celebrity is rumored to be using drugs, this is often covered up as being tabloid junk. Fans often don’t see this as a reason to stop watching their idols’ movies or listening to their music. Even if the celebrities confess to the drug use, the admission just adds to their enigma.
Of course this celeb drug culture is not without its casualties. Drug overdose has been the cause of many untimely deaths of Hollywood’s most famous. While a lot of people may assume that these drug deaths were triggered by illicit drugs like heroin and cocaine, there’s another easily accessible drug responsible for some of them: Benzodiazepines or Benzos.
Taking Down the Stars
Benzodiazepines are some of the most commonly prescribed medications in the United States. They are used to treat a variety of conditions such as anxiety, insomnia, and seizures. Xanax, Valium, Ativan, and Klonopin are just some of the more popular types classified under benzos. However, these drugs have also been known to play a role in taking the lives of popular celebrities.
Actor Heath Ledger who was well-known for his role as Joker in the Batman movie “The Dark Knight” died in 2008 from a lethal combination of opioids (hydrocodone, oxycodone), benzos (diazepam/Valium, temazepam/Restoril, and alprazolam/Xanax) and an antihistamine drug (doxylamine).
Actress Brittany Murphy died at age 32 in 2009 from a multiple drug overdose. According to reports, ten different drugs were found in Murphy’s bedside following her death which included two benzos: Ativan and Klonopin. Playboy model Anna Nicole Smith who died in 2007 was also the victim of an accidental multiple drug overdose that included benzos.
The music industry is also notorious for the use of these anti-anxiety drugs. Adam Goldstein or more popularly known as DJ AM was found lifeless in his New York City apartment in 2009 at age 36, from an accidental overdose due to the combined effects of cocaine, Oxycodone, Vicodin, Ativan, Klonopin, Xanax, Benadryl and Levamisole. While English singer and songwriter Amy Winehouse overdosed with alcohol and benzo drugs in 2011.
Mike Starr, former bassist of Alice in Chains, was reportedly mixing opioids and benzo drugs hours before his death, also in 2011. More recently, 21 year old rapper Lil Peep was found dead in his tour bus and evidence suggests that he died from a Xanax overdose,
Two of the most famous victims of benzos are musicians: Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston. Known as the “King of Pop”, Jackson passed away in 2009 from an overdose of opioids and benzos, while Houston’s overdose was reportedly caused by a combination of alcohol and benzos.
Mental health used to be a taboo topic. When Britney Spears had a breakdown in 2007, she received a lot of backlash. But now, superstars like Demi Lovato, Selena Gomez and Liam Payne are dubbed as inspirational for being brave in coming forward about their anxiety issues.
While it is often normal for everyone to feel anxious once in a while, constantly experiencing severe and intense anxiety that disrupts everyday activities is considered a disorder. Anxiety disorder is the most common mental health problem in the US with more than 40 million adults suffering from this condition.
For celebrities who are always in the limelight and are constantly worrying about their looks, their body image, their popularity, the paparazzi and many other stressful factors involved in their career, anxiety is not an unexpected result. The busy lifestyles led by these stars often don’t allow them to take a breather especially if they are at the peak of their careers. They have to put up a front that everything is well and good.
There are different ways people deal with anxiety disorders including behavioral therapy, exercise, meditation, and other relaxation methods. A much quicker way is through medication. Most times, the easiest way for celebrities to get rid of an anxiety disorder is by popping a benzo pill.
Actress, director and producer Lena Dunham shared that she did not have any issues getting prescribed benzos by doctors. Initially prescribed to calm her panic attacks, the Girls actress started taking more pills and became dependent on the drugs for about three years. Dunham shared that nobody ever told her or anyone she knew who was also using benzos that getting off the drugs would be a nightmare.
For some celebrities, misusing benzos seems like a safer way to do drugs. After all, having anti-anxiety meds with you looks much more “normal” than carrying around heroin or ecstasy. The problem is that many people who misuse benzos do not realize that these “doctor prescribed” pills can have deadly effects, especially when mixed with alcohol and other drugs.
Is there a Benzo epidemic in America?
According to latest statistics, more than one in eight US adults (12.6%) used benzos in 2017 with 17% of this number considered as misuse of the drugs. Benzos like Xanax and Ativan also consistently rank as two of the most prescribed psychiatric medications in America. The number of benzodiazepine prescriptions increased from 3.8% in 2003 to 7.4% in 2015.
The efficacy of benzos to treat anxiety is actually proven, however, it is often advised that one should only use these drugs for a period of 2 to 4 weeks. Long-term use of these drugs could lead to tolerance and abuse.
After the outbreak of the opioid crisis, a lot of people are now dubbing benzos as the next big public health emergency in the United States. Some are saying that it is making a major comeback as a designer drug. However, there are also those who say that benzos have never really gone away and people are just becoming more exposed to the ongoing drug problem.
While benzo drug abuse might not be as rampant as the opioid crisis, continuous awareness on how dangerous these drugs are would definitely help in not making it into another uncontrollable epidemic.
Benzodiazepine addiction is treatable. If you or a loved one is struggling with substance abuse. Help is available today.
Contact Lighthouse Treatment Center to learn more about our specialized modes of treatment.