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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Behaviour is never from ‘bad’. It’s from ‘big’. Big hungry, big tired, big disconnection, big missing, big ‘too much right now’. The reason our responses might not work can often be because we’ve misread the story, or we’ve missed an important piece of it. Their story might be about now, today, yesterday, or any of the yesterdays before now. 

Our job isn’t to fix them. They aren’t broken. Our job is to understand them. Only then can we steer our response in the right direction. Otherwise we’re throwing darts at the wrong target - behaviour, instead of the need behind the behaviour. 

Watch, listen, breathe and be with. Feel what they feel. This will help them feel you with them. We all feel safer and calmer when we feel our people beside us - not judging or hurrying or questioning. What don’t you know, that they need you to know?♥️
We all have first up needs. The difference between adults and children is that we can delay the meeting of these needs for a bit longer than children - but we still need them met. 

The first most important question the brain needs answered is, ‘Is my body safe?’ - Am I free from threat, hunger, exhaustion, pain? This is usually an easier one to take care of or to recognise when it might need some attention. 

The next most important question is, ‘Is my heart safe?’ - Am I loved, noticed, valued, claimed, wanted, welcome? This can be an easy one to overlook, especially in the chaos of the morning. Of course we love them and want them - and sometimes we’ll get distracted, annoyed, frustrated, irritated. None of this changes how much we love and want them - not even for a second. We can feel two things at once - madly in love with them and annoyed/ distracted/ frustrated. Sometimes though, this can leave their ‘Is my heart safe?’ needs a little hungry. They have less capacity than us to delay the meeting of these needs. When these needs are hungry, we’ll be more likely to see big feelings or big behaviour. 

The more you can fill their love tanks at the start of the day, the more they’ll be able to handle the bumps. This doesn’t have to be big. It just has to be enough. It might look like having a cuddle, reading a story, having a chat, sitting with them while they have breakfast or while they pat the dog, touching their back when they walk past, telling them you love them.

All brains need to feel loved and wanted, and as though they aren’t a nuisance, but sometimes they’ll need to feel it more. The more their felt sense of relational safety is met, the more they’ll be able to then focus on ‘thinking brain’ things, such as planning, making good decisions, co-operating, behaving. 

(And if this today was a bumpy one, that’s okay. Those days are going to happen. If most of the time their love tanks are full, they’ll handle when it drops a little. Just top it up when you can. And don’t forget to top yours up too. Be kind to yourself. You deserve it as much as they do.)♥️
Things will always go wrong - a bad decision, a good decision with a bad outcome, a dilemma, wanting something that comes with risk. 

Often, the ‘right thing’ lives somewhere in the very blurry bounds of the grey. Sometimes it will be about what’s right for them. Sometimes what’s right for others. Sometimes it will be about taking a risk, and sometimes the ‘right’ thing just feels wrong right now, or wrong for them. Even as adults, we will often get things wrong. This isn’t because we’re bad, or because we don’t know the right thing from the wrong thing, but because few things are black and white. 

The problem with punishment and harsh consequences is that we remove ourselves as an option for them to turn to next time things end messy, or as a guide before the mess happens. 

Feeling safe in our important relationships is a primary need for all of us humans. That means making sure our relationships are free from judgement, humiliation, shame, separation. If our response to their ‘wrong things’ is to bring all of these things to the table we share with them with them, of course they’ll do anything to avoid it. This isn’t about lying or secrecy. It’s about maintaining relational ‘safety’, or closeness.

Kids want to do the right thing. They want us to love and accept them. But they’re going to get things wrong sometimes. When they do, our response will teach them either that we are safe for them to come to no matter what, or that we aren’t. 

So what do we do when things go wrong? Embrace them, reject the behaviour:

‘I love that you’ve been honest with me. That means everything to me. I know you didn’t expect things to end up like this, but here we are. Let’s talk about what’s happened and what can be different next time.’

Or, ‘Something must have made this (wrong thing) feel like the right thing to do, otherwise you wouldn’t have done it. We all do that sometimes. What do you think it was that was for you?’

Or, ‘I know you know lying isn’t okay. What made you feel like you couldn’t tell me the truth? How can we build the trust again. Let’s talk about how to do that.’

You will always be their greatest guide, but you can only be that if they let you.♥️
Whenever there is a call to courage, there will be anxiety - every time. That’s what makes it brave. This is why challenging things, brave things, important things will often drive anxiety. 

At these times - when they are safe, but doing something hard - the feelings that come with anxiety will be enough to drive avoidance. When it is avoidance of a threat, that’s important. That’s anxiety doing it’s job. But when the avoidance is in response to things that are important, brave, meaningful, that avoidance only serves to confirm the deficiency story. This is when we want to support them to take tiny steps towards that brave thing. It doesn’t have to happen all at once.l and it doesn’t matter how long it takes. Brave is about being able to handle the discomfort of anxiety enough to do the important, challenging thing. It’s built in tiny steps, one after the other. 

We don’t have to get rid of their anxiety and neither do they. They can feel anxious, and do brave. At these times (safe, but scary) they need us to take a posture of validation and confidence. ‘I believe you, and I believe in you.’ ‘I know this feels big, and I know you can handle it.’ 

What we’re saying is we know they can handle the discomfort of anxiety. They don’t have to handle it well, and they don’t have to handle it for too long. Handling it is handling it, and that’s the substance of ‘brave’. 

Being brave isn’t about doing the brave thing, but about being able to handle the discomfort of the anxiety that comes with that. And if they’ve done that today, at all, or for a moment longer than yesterday, then they’ve been brave today. It doesn’t matter how messy it was or how small it was. Let them see their brave through your eyes.‘That was big for you wasn’t it. And you did it. You felt anxious, and you stayed with it. That’s what being brave is all about.’♥️
A relationally unsafe (emotionally unsafe) environment can cause as much breakage as as a physically unsafe one. 

The brain’s priority will always be safety, so if a person or environment doesn’t feel emotionally safe, we might see big behaviour, avoidance, or reduced learning. In this case, it isn’t the child that’s broken. It’s the environment.

But here’s the thing, just because a child doesn’t feel safe, doesn’t mean the person or environment isn’t safe. What it means is that there aren’t enough signals of safety - yet, and there’s a little more work to do to build this. ‘Safety’ isn’t about what is actually safe or not, it’s about what the brain perceives. Children might have the safest, warmest, most loving adult in front of them, but that doesn’t mean they’ll feel safe. This is when we have to look at how we might extend bigger cues of warmth, welcome, inclusiveness, and what we can do (or what roles or responsibilities can we give them) to help them feel valued and needed. This might take time, and that’s okay. Children aren’t meant to feel safe with every adult in front of them, so sometimes what they need most is our patience and understanding as we continue to build this. 

This is the way it works for all of us, everywhere. None of us will be able to give our best or do our best if we don’t feel welcome, liked, valued, and free from hostility, humiliation or judgement. 

This is especially important for our schools. A brain that doesn’t feel safe can’t learn. For schools to be places of learning, they first have to be places of relationship. Before we focus too sharply on learning support and behaviour management, we first have to focus on felt sense of safety support. The most powerful way to do this is through relationship. Teachers who do this are magic-makers. They show a phenomenal capacity to expand a child’s capacity to learn, calm big behaviour, and open up a child’s world. But relationships take time, and felt safety takes time. The time it takes for this to happen is all part of the process. It’s not a waste of time, it’s the most important use of it.♥️

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