Home Health New Study on the Long-term Effects of Benzodiazepines

New Study on the Long-term Effects of Benzodiazepines

627
0

An internet survey conducted by the Alliance for Benzodiazepine Best Practices, the Benzodiazepine Action Work Group, and Benzodiazepine Information Coalition have found that the popular drug benzodiazepine causes long-term consequences to a person’s brain, including suicidal thoughts and brain damage.

Advertisement

The study, entitled “Long-term consequences of benzodiazepine-induced neurological dysfunction…”, was co-authored by Dr. Christy Huff, the director of Benzodiazepine Information Coalition, Bernard Silvernail, the president of the Alliance for Benzodiazepine Best Practices, and Alexis D. Ritvo, the medical director for the national non-profit the Alliance for Benzodiazepine Best Practices.

The survey was conducted with 1,207 participants from benzodiazepine support groups and health/wellness sites. The subjects were those still taking benzodiazepines, those who are reducing their dosage (tapering), and those who completely stopped taking the drug. Some of the participants are part of the professional team who conducted the research, including experts from the University of Colorado and Vanderbilt University Medical Center who shared their experiences and perspectives while also guiding the survey questions. 

According to a 2019 study in the journal Psychiatric Services, 30.6 million adults in America used benzodiazepines annually. A significant amount of those users, according to the study, are abusing the drug. It’s now widely recognized that benzodiazepines cause serious physical and psychological problems to users. According to the National Center for Health Research, using this kind of psychiatric drug for more than 3 or 4 weeks will potentially make a person addicted. More importantly, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) suggests that “getting off from benzodiazepines requires a gradual process for the safety of the person”.  

Benzodiazepines, which include Xanax, Valium, Ativan, and Klonopin are prescribed to allegedly treat anxiety disorders, insomnia, muscle spasms, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, seizures, and epilepsy. This drug has been on the market since the 1960s, with the introduction of Valium and Librium. According to the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), “Benzodiazepines are a class of drugs that act as central nervous system depressants by slowing brain activity. They produce sedation and hypnosis, reduce seizures and relieve anxiety and muscle spasms…”. The Brazilian Journal of Psychiatry reported in 2020 that benzodiazepines were the most prescribed medications worldwide”.

The American Addiction Centers claims that about 10% of people who abuse benzodiazepines continue to experience withdrawal symptoms even though it’s already been years since they stopped taking the drug. It includes “anxiety, panic, insomnia, muscle spasms, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, blurred vision, seizures, hallucinations, memory loss, trouble concentrating, clouded thinking, mood swings, agitation, drug cravings, twitching, loss of appetite, and thoughts of suicide”. In 2021, the Addiction Resource published a report on benzodiazepines. Talking about the overall effects of the drug on mental health, they wrote:

“Although benzodiazepines are prescribed for short-term relief of anxiety and panic disorder, there’s not significant evidence to suggest there are benefits of long-term use. Some research suggests the opposite: that chronic benzodiazepine use could potentially have harmful effects on mental health, including depression, rebound anxiety, and thoughts of suicide.”

The authors of the study have noted that “literature regarding the benzodiazepine-induced neurological injury that may result in enduring symptoms and life consequences is scant”. This is the main reason why not many people know about the dangers of this drug. The FDA requires that all benzodiazepines should have a “black box warning”. This means that benzodiazepines are very dangerous, with long-lasting symptoms including “low energy, difficulty focusing, memory loss, anxiety, insomnia, sensitivity to light and sounds, digestive problems, symptoms triggered by food and drink, muscle weakness and body pain”.

According to the conclusion of the study:

“Many prolonged symptoms subsequent to benzodiazepine use and discontinuation (benzodiazepine-induced neurological dysfunction) have been shown in a large survey of benzodiazepine users. Benzodiazepine-induced neurological dysfunction (BIND) has been proposed as a term to describe symptoms and associated adverse life consequences that may emerge during benzodiazepine use, tapering, and continue after benzodiazepine discontinuation. Not all people who take benzodiazepines will develop BIND and risk factors for BIND remain to be elucidated. Further pathogenic and clinical study of BIND is needed.”

And finally, as explained in the New York Post report:

“54.7% reported suicide attempts or suicidal thoughts…. Other negative life impacts included being fired or loss of employment, marriage and relationship problems, lower income or loss of income, increased medical costs and violent thoughts or actions.”

References:

https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0285584

https://nypost.com/2023/06/30/popular-benzo-drugs-linked-to-suicide-brain-damage-study/

https://www.aafp.org/pubs/afp/issues/2013/0815/p224.html

Featured image: https://www.yellowstonerecovery.com/what-are-benzos/