Signs abound that the coronavirus pandemic has really stressed out Americans. Dentists say they are seeing a surge in patients needing care for jaw-clenching and teeth grinding. Doctors report treating increased numbers of patients who have shed abnormal amounts of hair due to fear and anxiety about getting sick with Covid-19, losing a job as part of the disease’s economic shocks, or losing friends or loved ones to illness.

But there also is an increasingly worrisome way to deal with the mental health challenges of the coronavirus: prescription drugs, specifically the class of medications known as benzodiazepines. “Benzos,” as they commonly are known, are widely “prescribed for anxiety, insomnia, seizures, panic disorders and other health problems,” the New York Times reported.

“They are also often given before certain medical procedures. They slow brain activity, causing sedation or calming effects. The drugs are enormously popular. In 2019, according to the agency, roughly 92 million prescriptions for benzodiazepines — such as the highly prescribed Xanax, Klonopin and Ativan — were dispensed in the United States.”