Withdrawals from Benzodiazepines (colloquially called “Benzos”), prescription depressant drugs that cause sedation, hypnosis, and relieve anxiety as well as muscle spasms, are coming under scrutiny from its users. Intended for short-term use only for sedation, anxiety, amnesia or prior to anaesthesia, the effects can be devastating for long-term usage, even after these Class IV drugs are discontinued.
Benzos such as Valium and Xanax work by raising the level of the inhibitory neurotransmitter GABA in the brain. (Neurotransmitters are substances that nerves use to send messages to one another). Tolerance can develop, causing risk for physical dependence and harm.
In a new article published in Therapeutic Advances in Psychopharmacology, May 4, 2022, authors Alistair J. Reid Finlayson and his colleagues explored benzodiazepine use, tapering, and discontinuation. In an online survey of 1207 participants, users reported numerous adverse effects of using and discontinuing benzos. Their findings about Benzodiazepines:
- Between 80% and 90% of respondents claimed that their anxiety and uncontrollable anger caused problems with work, social interactions, and free time/hobbies.
- 3% reported severe or worse problems with their ability to walk and drive.
- More than 50% of respondents reported significant suicidal thoughts or attempts (54.4%) due to their use and discontinuation of these drugs.
- 8 % reported being fired from a job or becoming unable to work.
- 9% experienced significantly increased medical costs.
Most of the 100 million prescriptions for Benzodiazepines written yearly are for long-term use. The Food and Drug Administration now acknowledges that physical dependence can result from taking “benzos “for just a few days. Even when taking as prescribed, you can’t stop “cold turkey” due to life-threatening effects.
Those who use “benzos” for more than a year have shown deficits in working memory, processing speed, recent memory, expressive language and mood swings. If you are actively using the drug, withdrawing from it, you can still experience these shortcomings for up to THREE and a half-YEARS after discontinued use
What does this mean for “Kids on Drugs?” Abuse is common among adolescents, either with pills , injecting it or crushing and snorting the drug. Heroin and cocaine users may use “benzos” to enhance euphoria.
For alternatives, here are some good non-addictive alternatives to benzos:
- SSRIS (antidepressants)
- SSNRIS (anti-depressants)
- Beta-Blockers ( blood pressure meds)
- Buspirone (anti-anxiety)
- Hydroxyzine (prescription antihistamine)
Here are healthy ways to calm anxiety, courtesy of abcnews.go.com:
- Avoid alcohol
- Avoid caffeine
- Write it out
- Use fragrance
- Talk to someone who gets it
- Find a mantra
- Walk it off
- Drink Water
- Follow the 3-3-3 rule for anxiety: Find 3 things you see, 3 things you hear, and move three parts of your body like fingers or toes.
And most importantly, talk to your child’s doctor about the dangers of benzos, its long-term usage and the possibility of using safer alternatives for anxiety.
Wesley Cullen Davidson
Wesley Cullen Davidson is an award-winning freelance writer and journalist specializing in parenting. Currently, she is targeting her writing about recovery to parents whose children have substance abuse disorders.