The Dangerous Effects of Benzodiazepines

Posted by | Alcohol and Drug Use, Co-Occurring Disorders & Mental Health, Treatment Programs | July 07, 2015

If you’ve ever experienced anxiety, you might have been prescribed Xanax, Valium, Ativan, or Klonopin. Each of these drugs are known as benzodiazepines, which are highly effective in treating a variety of disorders, including anxiety.

In fact, benzodiazepines for all sorts of disorders, including:

-Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

-Phobias

-Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

-Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

-Insomnia and other Sleep Disorders

-Epilepsy

-Cerebral Palsy

-Multiple Sclerosis

-Impulse Control Disorders

In addition to those disorders listed above, benzodiazepines are also commonly prescribed for and are very effective in treating the symptoms of alcohol and/or withdrawal. Regardless of the reason benzodiazepines are used, it’s easy to fall into an addiction with them. They are highly addictive and have severe withdrawal symptoms. Some people become dependent on tranquilizers inadvertently. If they have been taking them for more than a few months, it’s easy to develop an addiction. This is even true if they’ve followed all of their doctor’s orders and did not abuse the prescription they were provided. However, if they stop taking them suddenly, there’s a good chance they’ll experience withdrawal symptoms.

The side effects of taking benzodiazepines, such as Valium or Xanax, include slower brain activity, uncoordinated sensation, drowsiness, constipation, difficulty breathing, and depending on the amount taken, can even cause death. For those who abuse benzodiazepines for the high, the experience of taking the drug is similar to getting drunk. Plus, if taken along with alcohol, the combined effect is an enhanced and more pronounced high. Long-term abuse of benzodiazepines can be severe including memory loss, hallucinations, difficulty breathing, slowed pulse, and comatose state.

There is also a significant risk of seizure, strokes, heart attacks, or hallucinations if the withdrawal from tranquilizers happens suddenly. The irony of tranquilizers is that they’re prescribed for anxiety and sleep. But the longer you take them the more they increase your anxiety and disturb your sleep.

In fact, in 2010, the emergency room visits related to the use of Benzodiazepines, whether from side effects or from withdrawal symptoms, include:

-Xanax (alprazolam) = 124,902

-Ativan (lorazepam) = 36,675

-Klonopin or Rivotril (clonazepam) = 62,811

-Valium (diazepam) = 26,860

It’s been known since the 1980’s that there is a strong potential of addiction with the use of Benzodiazepines. These anti-anxiety drugs have a relatively high dependence rating of 1.89 on a 3-point scale. Furthermore, 95% of US hospital admissions for Benzodiazepines also reported abusing other substances. In 2010, there were 6,507 deaths due to Benzodiazepine overdose in the United States. According to DualDiagnosis.org, approximately 20.4 million Americans ages 12 and older have misused Benzodiazepines.

If you’re taking any form of this drug, it’s important that you stay closely monitored by a doctor and/or a psychiatrist. Too many people put themselves at risk and then find themselves with an addiction. Slowly weaning off the drug is an option but the experience can be physically and emotionally challenging.

If you find yourself in this situation, it’s best to contact a mental health professional today.

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