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.

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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.

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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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Big feelings, and the big behaviour that comes from big feelings, are a sign of a distressed nervous system. Think of this like a burning building. The behaviour is the smoke. The fire is a distressed nervous system. It’s so tempting to respond directly to the behaviour (the smoke), but by doing this, we ignore the fire. Their behaviour and feelings in that moment are a call for support - for us to help that distressed brain and body find the way home. 

The most powerful language for any nervous system is another nervous system. They will catch our distress (as we will catch theirs) but they will also catch our calm. It can be tempting to move them to independence on this too quickly, but it just doesn’t work this way. Children can only learn to self-regulate with lots (and lots and lots) of experience co-regulating. 

This isn’t something that can be taught. It’s something that has to be experienced over and over. It’s like so many things - driving a car, playing the piano - we can talk all we want about ‘how’ but it’s not until we ‘do’ over and over that we get better at it. 

Self-regulation works the same way. It’s not until children have repeated experiences with an adult bringing them back to calm, that they develop the neural pathways to come back to calm on their own. 

An important part of this is making sure we are guiding that nervous system with tender, gentle hands and a steady heart. This is where our own self-regulation becomes important. Our nervous systems speak to each other every moment of every day. When our children or teens are distressed, we will start to feel that distress. It becomes a loop. We feel what they feel, they feel what we feel. Our own capacity to self-regulate is the circuit breaker. 

This can be so tough, but it can happen in microbreaks. A few strong steady breaths can calm our own nervous system, which we can then use to calm theirs. Breathe, and be with. It’s that simple, but so tough to do some days. When they come back to calm, then have those transformational chats - What happened? What can make it easier next time?

Who you are in the moment will always be more important than what you do.
How we are with them, when they are their everyday selves and when they aren’t so adorable, will build their view of three things: the world, its people, and themselves. This will then inform how they respond to the world and how they build their very important space in it. 

Will it be a loving, warm, open-hearted space with lots of doors for them to throw open to the people and experiences that are right for them? Or will it be a space with solid, too high walls that close out too many of the people and experiences that would nourish them.

They will learn from what we do with them and to them, for better or worse. We don’t teach them that the world is safe for them to reach into - we show them. We don’t teach them to be kind, respectful, and compassionate. We show them. We don’t teach them that they matter, and that other people matter, and that their voices and their opinions matter. We show them. We don’t teach them that they are little joy mongers who light up the world. We show them. 

But we have to be radically kind with ourselves too. None of this is about perfection. Parenting is hard, and days will be hard, and on too many of those days we’ll be hard too. That’s okay. We’ll say things we shouldn’t say and do things we shouldn’t do. We’re human too. Let’s not put pressure on our kiddos to be perfect by pretending that we are. As long as we repair the ruptures as soon as we can, and bathe them in love and the warmth of us as much as we can, they will be okay.

This also isn’t about not having boundaries. We need to be the guardians of their world and show them where the edges are. But in the guarding of those boundaries we can be strong and loving, strong and gentle. We can love them, and redirect their behaviour.

It’s when we own our stuff(ups) and when we let them see us fall and rise with strength, integrity, and compassion, and when we hold them gently through the mess of it all, that they learn about humility, and vulnerability, and the importance of holding bruised hearts with tender hands. It’s not about perfection, it’s about consistency, and honesty, and the way we respond to them the most.♥️

#parenting #mindfulparenting
Anxiety and courage always exist together. It can be no other way. Anxiety is a call to courage. It means you're about to do something brave, so when there is one the other will be there too. Their courage might feel so small and be whisper quiet, but it will always be there and always ready to show up when they need it to.
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But courage doesn’t always feel like courage, and it won't always show itself as a readiness. Instead, it might show as a rising - from fear, from uncertainty, from anger. None of these mean an absence of courage. They are the making of space, and the opportunity for courage to rise.
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When the noise from anxiety is loud and obtuse, we’ll have to gently add our voices to usher their courage into the light. We can do this speaking of it and to it, and by shifting the focus from their anxiety to their brave. The one we focus on is ultimately what will become powerful. It will be the one we energise. Anxiety will already have their focus, so we’ll need to make sure their courage has ours.
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But we have to speak to their fear as well, in a way that makes space for it to be held and soothed, with strength. Their fear has an important job to do - to recruit the support of someone who can help them feel safe. Only when their fear has been heard will it rest and make way for their brave.
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What does this look like? Tell them their stories of brave, but acknowledge the fear that made it tough. Stories help them process their emotional experiences in a safe way. It brings word to the feelings and helps those big feelings make sense and find containment. ‘You were really worried about that exam weren’t you. You couldn’t get to sleep the night before. It was tough going to school but you got up, you got dressed, you ... and you did it. Then you ...’
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In the moment, speak to their brave by first acknowledging their need to flee (or fight), then tell them what you know to be true - ‘This feels scary for you doesn’t it. I know you want to run. It makes so much sense that you would want to do that. I also know you can do hard things. My darling, I know it with everything in me.’
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#positiveparenting #parenting #childanxiety #anxietyinchildren #mindfulpare
Separation anxiety has an important job to do - it’s designed to keep children safe by driving them to stay close to their important adults. Gosh it can feel brutal sometimes though.

Whenever there is separation from an attachment person there will be anxiety unless there are two things: attachment with another trusted, loving adult; and a felt sense of you holding on, even when you aren't beside them. Putting these in place will help soften anxiety.

As long as children are are in the loving care of a trusted adult, there's no need to avoid separation. We'll need to remind ourselves of this so we can hold on to ourselves when our own anxiety is rising in response to theirs. 

If separation is the problem, connection has to be the solution. The connection can be with any loving adult, but it's more than an adult being present. It needs an adult who, through their strong, warm, loving presence, shows the child their abundant intention to care for that child, and their joy in doing so. This can be helped along by showing that you trust the adult to love that child big in our absence. 'I know [important adult] loves you and is going to take such good care of you.'

To help your young one feel held on to by you, even in absence, let them know you'll be thinking of them and can't wait to see them. Bolster this by giving them something of yours to hold while you're gone - a scarf, a note - anything that will be felt as 'you'.

They know you are the one who makes sure their world is safe, so they’ll be looking to you for signs of safety: 'Do you think we'll be okay if we aren't together?' First, validate: 'You really want to stay with me, don't you. I wish I could stay with you too! It's hard being away from your special people isn't it.' Then, be their brave. Let it be big enough to wrap around them so they can rest in the safety and strength of it: 'I know you can do this, love. We can do hard things can't we.'

Part of growing up brave is learning that the presence of anxiety doesn't always mean something is wrong. Sometimes it means they are on the edge of brave - and being away from you for a while counts as brave.
Even the most loving, emotionally available adult might feel frustration, anger, helplessness or distress in response to a child’s big feelings. This is how it’s meant to work. 

Their distress (fight/flight) will raise distress in us. The purpose is to move us to protect or support or them, but of course it doesn’t always work this way. When their big feelings recruit ours it can drive us more to fight (anger, blame), or to flee (avoid, ignore, separate them from us) which can steal our capacity to support them. It will happen to all of us from time to time. 

Kids and teens can’t learn to manage big feelings on their own until they’ve done it plenty of times with a calm, loving adult. This is where co-regulation comes in. It helps build the vital neural pathways between big feelings and calm. They can’t build those pathways on their own. 

It’s like driving a car. We can tell them how to drive as much as we like, but ‘talking about’ won’t mean they’re ready to hit the road by themselves. Instead we sit with them in the front seat for hours, driving ‘with’ until they can do it on their own. Feelings are the same. We feel ‘with’, over and over, until they can do it on their own. 

What can help is pausing for a moment to see the behaviour for what it is - a call for support. It’s NOT bad behaviour or bad parenting. It’s not that.

Our own feelings can give us a clue to what our children are feeling. It’s a normal, healthy, adaptive way for them to share an emotional load they weren’t meant to carry on their own. Self-regulation makes space for us to hold those feelings with them until those big feelings ease. 

Self-regulation can happen in micro moments. First, see the feelings or behaviour for what it is - a call for support. Then breathe. This will calm your nervous system, so you can calm theirs. In the same way we will catch their distress, they will also catch ours - but they can also catch our calm. Breathe, validate, and be ‘with’. And you don’t need to do more than that.

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