5 Reasons to Rethink a Benzodiazepine Prescription
Benzodiazepines such as Xanax, Valium, and Ativan have been prescribed for decades for a variety of purposes. In modern times, they are most often used for either severe anxiety or seizures. Although these prescription drugs, colloquially called benzos, can be very effective, there are also good reasons to think twice before taking them.
1. Benzodiazepines can quickly be habit-forming
Benzodiazepines hit the same receptors in the brain as alcohol, causing a dramatic and immediate flood of the neuotransmitter dopamine. When taken over a period of time, even a short period, the brain alters dopamine production and the number of receptors for this neurotansmitter. This means that people who stop taking benzodiazepines even after a few weeks or months of use can suffer painful and dangerous withdrawal symptoms from tremors and cravings to seizures.
2. They have frightening side effects
Benzodiazepines are depressants, which means they will make people sleepy and slow. This is the intended effect of the drug. However, there can be a wide range of unintended effects as well. Life threatening side effects such as irregular heart beat and lower rate of breathing are common. In addition, many people develop confusion and even psychosis.
3. They stop working after a short time
Because of the effects on dopamine production and receptors, the human brain develops a tolerance to benzodiazepines rapidly. Users find that the dose that used to help them now isn’t sufficient. Many people will then increase the dose, putting them at increased risk of addiction and overdose. At best, benzos are a very short term solution.
4. It is scarily easy to overdose
Benzodiazepines are responsible for around 350,000 emergency room visits every year. Because people often need escalating doses to get a therapeutic effect, it is very easy to unintentionally take enough of this medication to fall into a coma and ultimately to die. Benzodiazepine overdose kills 6000 to 7000 people a year, usually accidentally.
5. Benzodiazepines make it difficult to function
Many people assume benzodiazepines will make it easier for them to function. However, just the opposite is true. Benzos make most people sleepy and depressed, with slurred speech and other signs of being high. You cannot legally drive or operate simple machinery while under their influence. As a result, people who use this drug are often left completely unable to function.
Although there are legitimate uses for benzodiazepines, the risks and dangers are all too real. It is important to rethink their use and reserve them for times when they are worth the risk.