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Xanax: Taking the edge off for millions

(CBS News) In this age of anxiety, Xanax is a convenient solution for de-stressing. It is to today, what Prozac was to the 1990s. As the most prescribed mental health drug -- 46 million prescriptions doled out in 2010 -- it seems like everyone is on it. But its popularity comes at a price with growing reports of addiction, abuse and overdoses.

Lisa Miller, author of New York magazine's cover story, "Xanax, A Love Story," describes herself as a "chronic worrier" who has successfully treated anxiety with Xanax but she also has reservations about what the drug's prevalence means to us as a society.

For busy working people suffering from what's called "situational anxiety," Miller said Xanax is a convenient solution without having to commit to costly therapy or long-term drugs.

Miller defines anxiety as being characterized by chronic worry -- worrying about what's going to happen in the future and what has already happened in the past.

"And if you're a person who does that a lot, [Xanax] is a huge relief," she said. "It just makes that spinning stop."

"Americans love convenience," she said. "We love quick fixes. And so, Xanax is a part of that trend. But it can also be extremely addictive."

Miller reported that there were 140,000 emergency room visits for Xanax-related problems in 2009 -- a nearly 150 percent increase from five years before.

Alone, the drug is very rarely deadly. It's most dangerous when addicts mix it with other drugs, so people who take alcohol, painkillers, and other more serious drugs should not be taking Xanax. It was found in the autopsies of Heath Ledger and Michael Jackson and allegedly in the autopsy of Whitney Houston -- although that is unconfirmed as of yet.

To see the full interview with Lisa Miller, click on the video in the player above.

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