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.
[irp posts=”1015″ name=”Anxiety: 15 Ways to Feel Better Without Medication”]
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Yes you’re absolutely right. It’s so important to get some sort of support to come off them.
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.
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!
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.