Withdrawal from Benzodiazepines

Benzodiazepines are the cause of some very serious addictions around the world. Benzodiazepines like alprazolam (Xanax), clonazepam (Klonopin), diazepam (Valium), and lorazepam (Ativan), are a sedating class of prescription drugs used in the treatment of anxiety and panic disorder, and have sedating properties that come from their effect of increasing the activity of GABA, which is an inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain that relaxes the central nervous system. Benzos are commonly abused because in addition to the sedative effect they have on the brain, they release dopamine in the pleasure centers of the brain, which are located in what is called the survival brain, close to the brain stem.

Benzos are highly addictive, and can result in debilitating withdrawal symptoms. These withdrawals are no joke, and are known by their horrible symptoms of headaches, blurred vision, muscle pain, tremors, diarrhea, sensitivity to light and sound, loss of appetite, insomnia, heart palpitations, sweating, anxiety, panic, paranoia and seizures. Extreme cases of withdrawals from benzos can even result in death, so it is paramount that you seek immediate medical attention if you are suffering from these symptoms as a result of prolonged benzo use.

Even in light of having very dangerous withdrawal symptoms, benzos are very commonly prescribed in the United States, with Xanax being the 11th most prescribed drug in the US in 2011. It is prescribed for its effective treatment of panic disorder and severe anxiety, but there are other treatments that are less dangerous, and drug seekers around the United States are drawn to benzodiazepines because they are so easy to get prescriptions for. In the healthcare world, doctors are going to take what a patient says to them at face value, unless there is a reasonable suspicion of drug seeking activity. Especially in the psychiatric world, where it is the brain that is under scrutiny, a patient’s description of their so-called symptoms are the only real source of information for a psychiatrist, so it is very easy for drug seekers to act like they need controlled substances to treat symptoms that are very easy to fake. As the brain is sort of the “final frontier” of medical science, there are no effective ways to verify what a patient is saying, especially in ways that are cost effective to providers and insurance companies. That being said, there are cases where benzo prescription IS a necessity, but it is safe to say that benzos are highly over prescribed in the United States and around the world. 

Benzos are without question some of the most addictive substances on the planet, both physically and psychologically. As with any psychotropic medication, it is very easy to confuse legitimate use with addiction, especially if you are actually experiencing anxiety and panic disorder. It may require a very honest look at why you are taking the drug. Is it for your debilitating anxiety? Or is it because you like the way it makes you feel?    

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