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.

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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Anxiety is a sign that the brain has registered threat and is mobilising the body to get to safety. One of the ways it does this is by organising the body for movement - to fight the danger or flee the danger. 

If there is no need or no opportunity for movement, that fight or flight fuel will still be looking for expression. This can come out as wriggly, fidgety, hyperactive behaviour. This is why any of us might pace or struggle to sit still when we’re anxious. 

If kids or teens are bouncing around, wriggling in their chairs, or having trouble sitting still, it could be anxiety. Remember with anxiety, it’s not about what is actually safe but about what the brain perceives. New or challenging work, doing something unfamiliar, too much going on, a tired or hungry body, anything that comes with any chance of judgement, failure, humiliation can all throw the brain into fight or flight.

When this happens, the body might feel busy, activated, restless. This in itself can drive even more anxiety in kids or teens. Any of us can struggle when we don’t feel comfortable in our own bodies. 

Anxiety is energy with nowhere to go. To move through anxiety, give the energy somewhere to go - a fast walk, a run, a whole-body shake, hula hooping, kicking a ball - any movement that spends the energy will help bring the brain and body back to calm.♥️
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#parenting #anxietyinkids #childanxiety #parenting #parent
This is not bad behaviour. It’s big behaviour a from a brain that has registered threat and is working hard to feel safe again. 

‘Threat’ isn’t about what is actually safe or not, but about what the brain perceives. The brain can perceive threat when there is any chance missing out on or messing up something important, anything that feels unfamiliar, hard, or challenging, feeling misunderstood, thinking you might be angry or disappointed with them, being separated from you, being hungry or tired, anything that pushes against their sensory needs - so many things. 

During anxiety, the amygdala in the brain is switched to high volume, so other big feelings will be too. This might look like tears, sadness, or anger. 

Big feelings have a good reason for being there. The amygdala has the very important job of keeping us safe, and it does this beautifully, but not always with grace. One of the ways the amygdala keeps us safe is by calling on big feelings to recruit social support. When big feelings happen, people notice. They might not always notice the way we want to be noticed, but we are noticed. This increases our chances of safety. 

Of course, kids and teens still need our guidance and leadership and the conversations that grow them, but not during the emotional storm. They just won’t hear you anyway because their brain is too busy trying to get back to safety. In that moment, they don’t want to be fixed or ‘grown’. They want to feel seen, safe and heard. 

During the storm, preserve your connection with them as much as you can. You might not always be able to do this, and that’s okay. None of this is about perfection. If you have a rupture, repair it as soon as you can. Then, when their brains and bodies come back to calm, this is the time for the conversations that will grow them. 

Rather than, ‘What consequences do they need to do better?’, shift to, ‘What support do they need to do better?’ The greatest support will come from you in a way they can receive: ‘What happened?’ ‘What can you do differently next time?’ ‘You’re the most wonderful kid and I know you didn’t want this to happen. How can you put things right? Do you need my help with that?’♥️
Big behaviour is a sign of a nervous system in distress. Before anything, that vulnerable nervous system needs to be brought back home to felt safety. 

This will happen most powerfully with relationship and connection. Breathe and be with. Let them know you get it. This can happen with words or nonverbals. It’s about feeling what they feel, but staying regulated.

If they want space, give them space but stay in emotional proximity, ‘Ok I’m just going to stay over here. I’m right here if you need.’

If they’re using spicy words to make sure there is no confusion about how they feel about you right now, flag the behaviour, then make your intent clear, ‘I know how upset you are and I want to understand more about what’s happening for you. I’m not going to do this while you’re speaking to me like this. You can still be mad, but you need to be respectful. I’m here for you.’

Think of how you would respond if a friend was telling you about something that upset her. You wouldn’t tell her to calm down, or try to fix her (she’s not broken), or talk to her about her behaviour. You would just be there. You would ‘drop an anchor’ and steady those rough seas around her until she feels okay enough again. Along the way you would be doing things that let her know your intent to support her. You’d do this with you facial expressions, your voice, your body, your posture. You’d feel her feels, and she’d feel you ‘getting her’. It’s about letting her know that you understand what she’s feeling, even if you don’t understand why (or agree with why). 

It’s the same for our children. As their important big people, they also need leadership. The time for this is after the storm has passed, when their brains and bodies feel safe and calm. Because of your relationship, connection and their felt sense of safety, you will have access to their ‘thinking brain’. This is the time for those meaningful conversations: 
- ‘What happened?’
- ‘What did I do that helped/ didn’t help?’
- ‘What can you do differently next time?’
- ‘You’re a great kid and I know you didn’t want this to happen, but here we are. What can you do to put things right? Do you need my help with that?’♥️
As children grow, and especially by adolescence, we have the illusion of control but whether or not we have any real influence will be up to them. The temptation to control our children will always come from a place of love. Fear will likely have a heavy hand in there too. When they fall, we’ll feel it. Sometimes it will feel like an ache in our core. Sometimes it will feel like failure or guilt, or anger. We might wish we could have stopped them, pushed a little harder, warned a little bigger, stood a little closer. We’re parents and we’re human and it’s what this parenting thing does. It makes fear and anxiety billow around us like lost smoke, too easily.

Remember, they want you to be proud of them, and they want to do the right thing. When they feel your curiosity over judgement, and the safety of you over shame, it will be easier for them to open up to you. Nobody will guide them better than you because nobody will care more about where they land. They know this, but the magic happens when they also know that you are safe and that you will hold them, their needs, their opinions and feelings with strong, gentle, loving hands, no matter what.♥️
Anger is the ‘fight’ part of the fight or flight response. It has important work to do. Anger never exists on its own. It exists to hold other more vulnerable emotions in a way that feels safer. It’s sometimes feels easier, safer, more acceptable, stronger to feel the ‘big’ that comes with anger, than the vulnerability that comes with anxiety, sadness, loneliness. This isn’t deliberate. It’s just another way our bodies and brains try to keep us safe. 

The problem isn’t the anger. The problem is the behaviour that can come with the anger. Let there be no limits on thoughts and feelings, only behaviour. When children are angry, as long as they are safe and others are safe, we don’t need to fix their anger. They aren’t broken. Instead, drop the anchor: as much as you can - and this won’t always be easy - be a calm, steadying, loving presence to help bring their nervous systems back home to calm. 

Then, when they are truly calm, and with love and leadership, have the conversations that will grow them - 
- What happened? 
- What can you do differently next time?
- You’re a really great kid. I know you didn’t want this to happen but here we are. How can you make things right. Would you like some ideas? Do you need some help with that?
- What did I do that helped? What did I do that didn’t help? Is there something that might feel more helpful next time?

When their behaviour falls short of ‘adorable’, rather than asking ‘What consequences they need to do better?’ let the question be, ‘What support do they need to do better.’ Often, the biggest support will be a conversation with you, and that will be enough.♥️
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#parenting #positiveparenting #mindfulparenting #anxietyinkids

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