West Virginia ranks highest for anxiety med use, experts say men - WVVA TV Bluefield Beckley WV News, Weather and Sports

West Virginia ranks highest for anxiety med use, experts say mental health often overlooked

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MERCER COUNTY, WV (WVVA) -

A local mental health and substance abuse counselor says health professionals need to look deeper into patients mental health history after the West Virginia State Medical Association says the state ranks highest in the nation for prescriptions of anxiety and nerve medications. 

Benzodiazepine prescriptions such as Xanax or Valiums are prescribed in West Virginia at 71.9 prescriptions per 100 people, which nearly doubles the national average according to the WVSMA. 

Mental Health and Substance Abuse Counselor Sylvia Wright has been practicing in Princeton for nearly 19 years.

Wright says patience are often under treated or misdiagnosed for serious mental health problems.

"They're giving people medication for anxiety but there may be duel diagnosis which means another diagnosis like bipolar, depression, PTSD.," she said. "We're seeing a lot of that now just from unresolved things like domestic violence, old child abuse injuries."

Wright says a number of factors could contribute to people abusing anxiety pills, such as societal, environmental or simply genetics. She also says the abuse of anxiety medications is often related to patience experiencing pain stemming from labor intensive, blue collar jobs.

 "If you have pain you're going to have anxiety and depression and that whole cycle is there," Wright said. "If you're in pain all the time, you're tense, you're anxious. It's not a good situation. So you have a chronic cycle with injuries."

Wright says the overuse or abuse of anxiety or nerve medications can not be solely blamed on the users. She argues that health professionals need to do more to treat patience with mental health problems stemming from trauma or past experiences.

"I think as mental health professionals and doctors, and all health professionals need to be careful to really assess what's going on with that patient with a good history. That includes a mental health history which is often scuffed over because people are uncomfortable talking about mental health issues." 

Wright says she encourages stress management over medication. She offers alternative relaxation tactics as appose to anxiety medication. She also says there are other medications that can be taken that aren't as addictive as benzodiazepines. 

"You've got to really go back and do a good history and assessment. What has that persons life been like? What have they been exposed to? What is their family life like. And if you don't do those things, you don't have a true clear clinical picture of what's going on. Some patience don't even realize why they're anxious."

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