The Danger of Benzos
I think we all agree that it is very important to weigh the pros and cons when considering a new medication. Today, I’d like to share my experience with a class of anti-anxiety medications called benzodiazepines. Benzos for short. You are probably more familiar with their common names: Xanax, Ativan, Valium and Klonopin, to name a few. While many people realize the dangers of taking these drugs on a long-term basis, it has recently come to my attention that many do not. People trust their doctors and want to feel better. Therefore, we will take things that seemingly ‘work’ regardless of the side effects or potential for trouble. With no intent to over-dramatize what I have recently been through with this drug, I feel as though I should share my story in the hopes that I can save anyone the pain that I went through.
The power of benzodiazepines for stress and anxiety
Benzos are prescribed for anxiety, panic, sleep disorders and a handful of other psychiatric difficulties. I am sure that a least a handful of people who suffer with IBS take this medication to ease anxiety and stress. I have struggled with very bad anxiety for most of my life and I can tell you that I have tried almost every medication available to combat it. I have honestly never taken anything that works better for anxiety than benzos. As I have mentioned before, I work with people who struggle with mental illness. Many of the people I meet take benzos as part of their regular regimen of medications and have been taking them for a long time. To be clear, benzos are MEANT to be prescribed for SHORT-TERM relief from intense anxiety and stress-related disorders. Short-term means two to six weeks (some literature says four weeks). I was prescribed the benzo Xanax about six years ago to help me with my anxiety issues. It worked so well I thought it was a miracle drug. I was absolutely willing to risk the ‘chance’ of addiction to experience an anxiety-free life. This was a terrible mistake for me.
Dependence on benzodiazepines
I took Benzos for six years, all legally prescribed by a doctor. I think I knew after a year or so that I had developed a physiological dependence on the drug. I would experience withdrawal symptoms if I waited more than 24 hours to take my medication. If I left it at home, I would be very, very uncomfortable. So, I started carrying it in my go bag with all of my other medications and food and things. Recently, my bag was stolen from my car and I was left without this drug that I was addicted to. Because it is a controlled substance, doctors will not just write a refill for it. You are then left without the medication and are in danger of seizures and a withdrawal experience that is one of the more painful things a person can endure. No drama, no exaggeration; this is very real.
You might think that having your medication stolen couldn’t happen to you. If you are smarter than me, you probably wouldn’t carry it with you. What is more likely these days, is that you will find yourself without a doctor who will prescribe it at all. This has become more common as the years go by due to drug regulations and liability issues. Doctors are starting to catch on that people probably should not be on benzos for more than a few weeks because it can be dangerous.
Just a word to the wise, research this medication before you decide to take it. If you are taking it and don't want to anymore, speak to your doctor about coming off the medication slowly and safely. Be careful and know what you are getting in to. It is ultimately your choice, but I felt it my responsibility to share my story.
Do you live with any sleep disorders (eg. insomnia, RLS, sleep apnea) in addition to IBS?