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A mental health clinic in Louisville, KY, has stopped writing prescriptions for the anti-anxiety drug Xanax because of concerns about abuse and overdoses. Experts say benzodiazepines, including Xanax, are often overlooked as a source of prescription drug abuse.

The clinic, Seven Counties Services, made the decision to stop writing prescriptions for Xanax and its generic version, alprazolam, due to a large number of overdoses involving the drug both locally and nationally, The New York Times reports. The clinic stopped providing new prescriptions for the drug in April and will wean patients off the medication by December. Several other health care providers in the region have also stopped giving patients prescriptions for certain opioids and benzodiazepines, the article notes.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the estimated number of emergency department visits involving nonmedical use of benzodiazepines increased 89 percent nationwide between 2004 and 2008. The drug’s effects are felt almost immediately and last only a few hours, which can lead to abuse.

Seven Counties has switched some of the estimated 3,000 patients on Xanax to clonazepam, a benzodiazepine that is longer-acting and does not take effect as quickly. It is thought to be less addictive than Xanax. The clinic ultimately plans to treat patients with severe anxiety with an antidepressant and benzodiazepine, as well as teaching patients to learn coping skills with cognitive behavioral therapy.

Some doctors object to cutting off Xanax completely, saying the drug helps many patients who use it correctly.

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