The Common Anxiety and Sleeping Drugs With Serious Side Effects

The Common Anxiety and Sleeping Drugs With Serious Side Effects

If you’ve ever called on Valium, Xanax or another type of benzodiazepine to help you sleep or to find calm, you may have experienced the hung over, foggy feeling that lingers the next day. Research has found that regular and sustained use of these drugs might cause serious long-term damage.

Benzodiazepines are widely prescribed for a number of conditions including insomnia, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and obsessive compulsive disorder. They include branded drugs such as Valium, Xanax, Ativan and Klonopin and growing research has found that they can greatly increase the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. 

In a review of 9,000 patients, there were some startling findings:

  • Use of the a benzodiazepine for three to six months increased the risk of Alzheimer’s by 32%.
  • The risk jumped to 84% when it was taken for more than six months. 
  • those who had taken a benzodiazepine for three months or less had about the same risk of dementia as those who had never taken the drug. 

Similar results have been found in other studies.

There is a clear association between benzodiazepines and Alzheimer’s, but further research is needed before we can claim that benzodiazepines cause Alzheimer’s.

Despite this, there are plenty of reasons to steer clear of these drugs. When taken over time, the effectiveness of benzodiazepines can decline. This can trigger a dangerous chase, with people taking higher-doses or longer-lasting benzodiazepines to find relief. These drugs can also interfere with sleep and set up a traumatic journey along a path of dependence and addiction. 

Benzodiazepines can be effective for short-term stress, such as in the days following the death of a loved one, a crisis or another situation that triggers intense emotion. However, they can cause problems if they’re used for much longer than a few weeks.

If benzodiazepines have been used regularly for more than a few weeks, it’s important that any withdrawal from the drug happens under the close supervision of a doctor. Withdrawal can cause powerful symptoms, including anxiety, depression, hallucinations, panic attacks and seizures.

It’s important to remember that, as with any drug, just because they’re prescribed, that doesn’t mean they’re safe. Dependency and side effects can still happen under the care of a doctor and some side effects, such as the risk of dementia, we are only just discovering.

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13 Comments

K

I hear the fact that there are side effects- but don’t all medicines and recreational drugs have side effects!
I was given fluoxotine for PND and i experienced scary brain activity that felt like the drug was rushing across pathways on the top of my head. It hurt and freaked me out, so i was given diazepam. 10mg briefly, then 5. When i felt better my Dr helped me cut them out by reducing by .5 or sometimes .25 of a milligram every second week.
Several years passed, and one of my parents died, and i was living in a region with devastating earthquakes. Once again I was prescibed diazepam, 2-5mg. That continued as needed as i reached menopause and lost another close family member.
To date i still take around 2mg daily. Sometimes .5 or 4mg.
I am calmer, more relaxed, have no drowsiness at all. I don’t have them for sleeping tablets. I don’t drink or smoke, exercise regularly and am very healthy.
I also have an agreement with my Dr that when the time is right I will no longer need them. I will know.
Quality of life is VERY important to me. Honestly I’ve had a hell if a life including sexual abuse.
If i have say a 40% chance of having Alzheimers, theres a 60% chance i wont.
I remember when i got pregnant after 40 i was told i had a 1 in 50 chance my child would be downs syndrome. Amnio test was needed. I declined and said there was a 49/50 chance my baby would be normal .A healthy baby arrived!
It works for me and won’t for everyone. Alcohol, cigarettes, panadol, antibiotics, tramadol to name a few can have horrendous side effects that can lead to death.
Open mindedness is needed and informed decisions essential.

Reply
Jake Poffley

Is Ativan ( 1MG, 3x per day) one of these type of drugs? ,How ’bout Trazadone? ( 100 MG, 1x per day at bedtime) I have been on them for years and they just added Effexor XR 150 MG. (1x per day in the morning)

In 1980 I completed a 28 day residential rehab for alcohol and pot that worked. AA birthday last month was 35 years. But I am concerned about this new batch of pharms that have been prescribed for me. Talk to me.

Reply
Jim Poffley

Oh, I am 70 years old, with a life time of sleep disorder and anxiety and some panic. I am a retired university professor. I live in Luang Prabang, Laos for 6months a year for the past 7 years where I volunteer teach at an orphanage and several Buddhist Temples.

I am reluctant to stop taking these pills and then return to higher levels of anxiety, worry, and sleeplessness.

OK, I think that’s what you need to know before you can respond.

I am really looking forward to hearing from you.

Reply
Hey Sigmund

I completely understand your concern. The best thing to do would be to speak to a doctor or pharmacist as they are best equipped to give you the information you’re looking for, after taking into account your circumstances, dosage etc.

In the meantime, here is some information for you from the US National Library of Medicine about Ativan http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0045926/ and Trazadone http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMHT0012504/?report=details.

Ativan is a benzo but it is critical that you don’t change anything in relation to these drugs without the close supervision of a doctor. Changing the dosage or withdrawing has its own side effects which can be serious if it done properly.

Here is some research that you might also be interested in http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19962288. It’s German research that found silexan, an oral lavender oil capsule preparation, was comparable to lorazepam (Ativan is a brand name) in reducing anxiety symptoms in adults with generalised anxiety disorder. It might be worth discussing this with your doctor or whoever is currently prescribing your medication. Again, it’s really important not to make any changes without talking to your doctor first. I wish you all the best and I hope this helps.

Reply
Anechidna

I was reading yesterday research that has been done in respect of the impact of probiotics and anxiety. Very interesting as it is one of a growing number of such studies that are linking our biome to our auto immune system and how that then impacts upon us in a myriad of ways.

The article was in the Guardian at http://www.theguardian.com/science/2015/oct/18/probiotic-bacteria-bifidobacterium-longum-1714-anxiety-memory-study

The person running the research is Ted Dinan, head of psychiatry at University College Cork.

I curate a Flipboard magazine Health & medicine and anxiety and depression articles initiate 100 – 200 likes per hour for days this is a subject that interests a lot of people obviously because of personal experience or close contact with people experiencing this.

My close friend in coming off the benzo’s was taught an asymmetric breathing techniques whenever she felt the anxiety overwhelming her. It was aimed simply at raising the blood CO2 level and hey presto it vanished. While the technique involved cupping her hands using a paper bag to breath into and out of a couple of times was a much easier fix.

Hey Sigmund is right only do something under the guidance or direction of your Dr.

Reply
Anechidna

Kathryn, you are right about the support those providing it need to know and have significant experience in supporting the withdrawals.

One area of concern and which was experienced by a very close friend coming off the Benzo was that of being forced unwittingly into total withdrawal the cold turkey style. Due exclusively to the lack of knowledge about the drug regarding efficacy. The professional support person recommended the preparation of the reduced dosage for the next withdrawal cycle to be prepared in advance to avoid confusion as to whether the right dosage was being prepared. Having been through this process you will know that confusion of thought processes can occur.

Once total withdrawal had been in progress for five days and severe side effects being felt. We cast around for reasons, the only difference to previous cycles was the preparing of the tablets. After asking the Dr’s and getting unsatisfactory answers I googled to see what I could find.

The answer was found in TOXNET, toxnet.nlm.nih.gov under the heading of adiabatic air pressure. For the Benzo Diazepam total efficacy is lost within 72hrs, when I told the Dr, the support professional, the response was yeah right and continued ignoring of the information. A US Government database detailing every aspect of every drug and conditions of stability etc apparently doesn’t cut it when compared to MIMs.

If in doubt check out TOXNET, boring as all heck to read but full of crucial information. Any drug packaged in blister style packing has to be considered a risk until you can determine that it is done so for marketing purposes so it looks like a real drug; ie: paracetamol etc. The odds are that the real drug will loose efficacy on exposure to the atmosphere.

Reply
Kathryn

My experience going into my fifth year of psych drug withdrawal, is that support, other than that found online, is either woefully ignorant or threatening and dangerous again due to ignorance as the withdrawal symptoms mimic those of psychatry’s other labels they term conditions.

Reply
Hey Sigmund

Yes I completely understand what you are saying. Labels can be dangerous when they are just applied to symptoms, without looking at the greater context or circumstances, and I know this happens. I’m sorry it has happened to you. You deserved better support than that. There are good doctors and counsellors out there, though I can hear that you have been let down. I hope you are able to find what you need to keep moving forward. Thank you for sharing your story.

Reply
Anechidna

If you have been taking them for any length of time and wish to stop you may need to get support and counselling to help you through the process. The benzo’s are highly addictive to the body and have side effects which heroin and coke takes say are worse than coming off the narcotics.

Take care. If possible avoid at all costs.

Reply
Karen Psaledakis

One thing I’d like to add is that most psychiatrists have no idea how to take people safely off these drugs. That is how I got this sick was by relying on docs. It wasn’t until I did my own research and found support forums online in the US and the U.K. that I was able to figure out what had happened to me. But for me it was too late. My “taper” was way too fast and too much time had passed to do a successful reinstatement followed by a slow careful taper.

So please don’t put blind faith in the docs, they are the ones who got us into this mess to begin with. Do your own research. Look up Heather Ashton, a U.K. Doctor who ran a clinic for 20 plus years helping people withdraw safely from benzodiazepenes.

Reply
Karen Psaledakis

So happy to see this article here. I am a benzo survivor having taken it daily for 4 years and then ripped off of it way too fast. I am 3 years out from the cold turkey and still recovering. It has been a completely debilitating nightmarish experience. Thank you for telling the truth!

Reply
Hey Sigmund

It sounds like you’ve had an awful experience with benzos! Your story is important and I’m grateful to you for sharing it here. You never know who it will be helping.

Reply

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When our kids or teens are struggling, it can be hard to know what they need. It can also be hard for them to say. It can be this way for all of us - we don't always know what we need from the people around us. It might be space, or distraction, or silence, or maybe acknowledging and being there is enough. Sometimes we might need to know that the people we love aren't taking our need for space, or our confusion or anger or sadness personally, and that they are still there within reach.
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What can be easier is thinking about what other people might need. Asking this when they are calm can invite a different perspective and can give you some insight into what they need to hear when they are going through similar. Don't worry if you just get a shrug, or a disheartened, 'I don't know'. They don't need to know, and neither do we. The question in itself might be enough to open a new way through any sense of 'stuckness' or helplessness they might be feeling.
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#parenthood #parenting #positiveparenting #parentingtips #childdevelopment #parentingadvice #parentingtip #mindfulparenting #positiveparentingtips #neurodevelopment #parentingteens
Give them space to talk but you don’t need to fix anything. You’ll want to, but the answers are in them, not us. Sometimes the answer will be to feel it out, or push for change, or feel the futility of it all so the feeling can let go, knowing it’s done it’s job - it’s recruited support, or raised awareness that something isn’t right.

Sometimes the feelings might be seismic but the words might be gone for a while. That’s okay too. Do they want to start with whatever words are there? Or talk about something else? Or go for a walk with you? Watch a movie with you? Or do a spontaneous, unnecessary drive thru with you just because you can - no words, no need to explain - just you and them and car music for the next 20 minutes. 

The more you can validate what they’re feeling (maybe, ‘Today was big for you wasn’t it’) and give them space to feel, the more they can feel the feeling, understand the need that’s fuelling it, and experiment with ways to deal with it. Sometimes, ‘dealing with it’ might mean acknowledging that there is something that feels big or important and a little out of reach right now, and feeling the fullness and futility of that. 

Part of building resilience is recognising that some days are rubbish, and that sometimes those days last for longer than they should, but we get through. First we feel floored, then we feel stuck, then we shift because the only choices we have we have are to stay down or move, even when moving hurts. Then, eventually we adjust - either ourselves, the problem, or to a new ‘is’. But the learning comes from experience.

I wish our kids never felt pain, but we don’t get to decide that. We don’t get to decide how our children grow, but we do get to decide how much space and support we give them for this growth. We can love them through it but we can’t love them out of it. I wish we could but we can’t.

So instead of feeling the need to silence their pain, make space for it. In the end we have no choice. Sometimes all the love in the world won’t be enough to put the wrong things right, but it can help them feel held while they move through the pain enough to find their out breath, and the strength that comes with that.♥️
Speaking to the courage that is coming to life inside them helps to bring it close enough for them to touch, and to imagine, and to step into, even if doesn’t feel real for them yet. It will become them soon enough but until then, we can help them see what we see - a brave, strong, flight-ready child who just might not realise it yet. ‘I know how brave you are.’ ‘I love that you make hard decisions sometimes, even when it would be easier to do the other thing.’ ‘You might not feel brave, but I know what it means to you to be doing this. Trust me – you are one of the bravest people I know.’
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 #neurodevelopment #positiveparenting #parenting #parenthood #neuronurtured #parentingtip #childdevelopment #braindevelopment #mindfulparenting #parentingtips #parentingadvice
So often, our children will look to us for signs of whether they are brave enough, strong enough, good enough. Let your belief in them be so big, that it spills out of you and over to them and forms the path between them and their mountain. And then, let them know that the outcome doesn't matter. What matters is that they believe in themselves enough to try. 

Their belief in themselves might take time to grow, and that's okay. In the meantime, let them know you believe in them enough for both of you. Try, ‘I know this feels big and I know you can do it. What is one small step you can take? I’m right here with you.’♥️
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 #neurodevelopment #positiveparenting #parenting #parenthood #neuronurtured #parentingtip #childdevelopment #braindevelopment #mindfulparenting
Anxiety will tell our kiddos a deficiency story. It will focus them on what they can't do and turn them away from what they can. We know they are braver, stronger, and more powerful than they could ever think they are. We know that for certain because we’ve seen it before. We’ve seen them so held by anxiety, and we’ve seen them move through - not every time but enough times to know that they can. Even when those steps through are small and awkward and uncertain, they are brave. Because that’s how courage works. It’s fragile and strong, uncertain and powerful. We know that that about courage and we know that about them. 

Our job as their important adults is to give them the experiences that will help them know it too. This doesn't have to happen in big leaps. Little steps are enough, as long as they are forward. 

When their anxiety has them focused on what they can't do, focus them on what they can. By doing this, we are aligning with their capacity for brave, and bringing it into the light. 

Anxiety will have them believing that there are only two options - all or nothing; to do or not to do. So let's introduce a third. Let's invite them into the grey. This is where brave, bold beautiful things are built, one tiny step at a time. So what does this look like? It looks like one tiny step at a time. The steps can be so small at first - it doesn't matter how big they are, as long as they are forward. 
If they can't stay for the whole of camp, how much can they stay for?
If they can't do the whole swimming lesson on their own, how much can they do?
If they can't sleep all night in their own bed, how long can they sleep there for?
If they can't do the exam on their own, what can they do?
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When we do this, we align with their brave, and gently help it rise, little bit, by little bit. We give them the experiences they need to know that even when they feel anxious, they can do brave, and even when they feel fragile they are powerful.

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