What study are you referring to? I'm interested to see a double blind study that shows SSRIs to be comparable to placebo in regards to anxiety.
Also, I believe much of the bad publicity benzos get is from the general lack of knowledge on the part of those who prescribe them. Like insights mentioned many doctors attempt to get you off of them in record time, without giving you a real taper schedule, or any information at all. The ones I encountered preferred I stay on them simply because they didn't know how to taper me off correctly. Like I said, I was met with blank stares and referrals to other doctors when I asked to be tapered off of Ativan, I eventually had to find a psych on my own who had some experience in it, and was open to letting me go at a reasonable pace. They simply weren't designed to be long term (over a few months) solution.
Being an alcoholic or a street drug user is really a moot point, I never took more than was prescribed. It's not an addiction, it's a physical dependance happening.
Until doctors get wise to the fact that people do have trouble coming off of BZDs, I have no problem with them being more conservative in prescribing them. Had I known then what I do now, I would have refused the prescription and dealt with the anxiety I was having while starting an SSRI. I just can't see an argument for them being anything other than a last resort option for long term use in dealing with anxiety. As far as the Reefer Madness analogy I would imagine anyone dealing with issues getting off of Opiates/BZDs or even SSRIs for that matter would much prefer to have a "dependance" on pot lol.
Sorry to hear about your father. Hospitals often have to abide by the "first, do no harm" deal to absolve themselves from responsibility in the case of malpractice suits.