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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

While the abuse of prescription opioids has received widespread attention, benzodiazepine (BZD) sedatives have seen a similar growth rate, with prescription rates nearly doubling since 2003.

Why it matters: In the U.S., deaths associated with BZDs like Xanax and Valium have increased from 135 in 1999 to over 11,500 in 2017. The dangers of misusing these potentially addictive drugs are particularly acute for adults over 50, who have experienced the largest increase in BZD prescriptions.

What's happening: The increase in deaths and overdoses associated with BZDs has been driven by misuse. Although BZDs are intended to be used for less than 14 days, chronic use — over 120 days — is common.

What's needed:

What to watch: Policymakers are beginning to recognize the harmful side effects of BZDs and other hypnotics. Policy reform — coupled with prescriber accountability and provider and patient education — could mitigate dangerous trends of misuse.

Nambi J. Ndugga and Elsa Pearson are policy analysts at the Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH). Melissa Garrido is the associate director of the Partnered Evidence-Based Policy Resource Center at the Veterans Health Administration and a research associate professor at BUSPH.

Go deeper

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
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The winners and losers of AT&T's split with WarnerMedia

Photo: Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

AT&T is unwinding a huge part of its $84 billion acquisition of Time Warner, less than three years after it closed.

Driving the news: AT&T this morning announced that it will merge its WarnerMedia properties with Discovery Inc.'s media assets.

Supreme Court agrees to hear major Mississippi abortion case

Photo: Erin Scott/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Supreme Court has agreed to hear a challenge to a Mississippi law that bans nearly all abortions after the 15th week of pregnancy.

Why it matters: It will be the first abortion case to be argued before the Supreme Court since Justice Amy Coney Barrett was confirmed, potentially providing a pathway to challenging Roe v. Wade and allowing outright bans on abortion.

This story is breaking news. Please check back for updates.

1 hour ago - World

Blinken says he hasn't seen evidence Hamas was in AP building Israel struck

Smoke rises after sraeli forces destroyed building in Gaza City where Al-Jazeera and Associated Press had their offices. Photo: Mustafa Hassona/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Monday he had not personally seen evidence that Hamas was operating in a building that housed offices for Al Jazeera, the AP and other media in the Gaza Strip, as the Israeli government has claimed, AP reports.

The latest: "The Secretary was referring only to what he personally had seen. As he made clear, any such information would be provided to others in the administration, not directly to the secretary of State," a senior State Department official told Axios.