About 30 million Americans are taking benzodiazepines like Xanax, Valium, and Klonopin- about 12.5% of the adult population. Doctors and psychiatrists have prescribed these drugs for decades to treat anxiety. But a new study reveals "benzodiazepine usage and discontinuing usage" can create "nervous system injury and negative life effects."
Researchers from the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus said as patients enter the discontinuation phase of Xanax, Valium, and Klonopin, they face significant withdrawal symptoms.
"Despite the fact that benzodiazepines have been widely prescribed for decades, this survey presents significant new evidence that a subset of patients experiences long-term neurological complications," said Alexis Ritvo, M.D, M.P.H., an assistant professor in psychiatry at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and medical director of the nonprofit Alliance for Benzodiazepine Best Practices. She said the medical community must reevaluate how it prescribes benzodiazepines.
The study was a collaborative effort between CU Anschutz, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, and several drug advocacy that specializes in raising awareness of benzodiazepine harms.
"Patients have been reporting long-term effects from benzodiazepines for over 60 years. I am one of those patients. Even though I took my medication as prescribed, I still experience symptoms on a daily basis at four years off benzodiazepines. Our survey and the new term BIND (benzodiazepine-induced neurological dysfunction) give a voice to the patient experience and point to the need for further investigations," said Christy Huff, MD, one of the paper's coauthors and a cardiologist and director of Benzodiazepine Information Coalition.
About 76.6% of the respondents had long-lasting symptoms after discounting the use of benzodiazepines. Almost half of the respondents had these ten symptoms for more than a year:
- low energy
- difficulty focusing
- memory loss
- sensitivity to light and sounds
- digestive problems
- symptoms triggered by food and drink
- muscle weakness
- body pain
The most alarming part of the study was the symptoms listed above were new and distinct and weren't experienced before respondents used Xanax, Valium, and Klonopin. Many respondents reported damaged relationships, job loss, and increased medical costs. Also, 54.4% of the respondents reported suicidal thoughts or attempted suicide.
But don't worry because doctors and the government tell us benzodiazepines are safe, just like they said OxyContin wasn't addictive in the 1990s.