The Food and Drug Administration, alert to the drug’s habit-forming tendency, approved the sedative only for short-term use. The Drug Enforcement Agency further attempted to put the breaks on runaway abuse by making it a Schedule IV drug. Yet federal regulations can only intrude so far into the Pharma-physician-patient triangle. Because the symptoms benzos treat, such as anxiety and insomnia, tend to be sporadic and/or intermittent, most prescriptions are “as needed,” which is, for an addict, a minefield of an instruction. “As needed” can morph all too easily into “as wanted.” At the same time, the drug’s class strength — its relative safety — became, in practice, a liability, freeing doctors as it did from the restraints of ethical and especially legal fears.
Like all addictive substances, benzos foster tolerance, which in turn requires you to take more drug for the same effect; upping the dose accelerates dependence, and that way addiction lies.