Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Benzodiazepines: Toxic Truths

This may not be what people want to hear, but it's true:  benzodiazepines (Xanax, Valium, Klonopin, etc) are a toxic class of medications.  The way they're currently prescribed by many doctors--as a long-term solution for anxiety, insomnia or other non-life threatening ailments--is dangerous.  Benzos can cause mania & depression in people who are neither bipolar nor depressed & can worsen these disorders to the point of suicide in those who are.  They affect cognitive function in a manner similar to alcohol, which is to say, not positively.  And the withdrawals can kill you.  Even heroin or crack can't make that claim.  Withdrawals can stretch on & on for months or even years and include hideous symptoms like panic attacks, psychosis, seizures, depression & severe cognitive impairment.  (I know because I experienced 2.5 years of my own withdrawal hell after a short course of benzo abuse).  Nearly every system of the body is affected by benzos, including the endocrine system, bowels & immune system.

Benzos cause brain damage similar to alcohol
As usual, doctors in the U.S. seem to be lagging behind the rest of the world when it comes to recognizing the problems with these drugs.  Dr. Heather Ashton has dedicated her career to helping benzo addicts get clean & has written the Bible of Benzo Withdrawal--"The Ashton Manual".  She is an octogenarian based in the UK and all her works are available online for free.  The woman is a pioneer in her field and it's a shame no one else has caught on least here in the States where benzos are still Schedule IV (aka one step away from "over-the-counter"). 

This documentary that was recently posted to Youtube features Dr. Ashton & does a great job of showcasing the risks of benzodiazepines.  Check it out below:

I'm not advocating a ban on benzos--like opioids, they have their place in modern medicine.  It's just that their rightful place is much smaller than is currently believed.  Short-term use for severe panic or anxiety is fine; daily use for 6-8 weeks is considered "long-term" and should be avoided if you care about your cognitive functioning, mood stability or overall health.  We drone on about our "Opioid Epidemic" but fail to acknowledge the role benzos have played in many of these overdoses.

There's been some controversy over whether benzodiazepines cause cancer, but since that hasn't been definitively proven I'll leave it alone for now.  What HAS been shown in several meta-analyses of depressant drug users is a greatly increased risk of death from all causes (some of which include cancer).  See below.

Hypnotics' Association With Mortality or Cancer: A Matched Cohort Study

Mortality Associated with Anxiolytic and Hypnotic Drugs - A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis

Hypnotic Drug Risks of Mortality, Infection, Depression, and Cancer: But Lack of Benefit

If that doesn't scare you, check out this lengthy Wikipedia page on the Effects of the Long-Term Benzodiazepine Use

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