One Gutsy Woman

The childhood and psychiatric abuse altered my neurological, hormonal and other bodily functions and it was difficult to say which abuse left what mark. The doctors used medication to fix the changes and the taking of prescription pills became a habit. I took pills to calm me, pills to sleep, and pills to make me happy. A few months after stopping all medications, I was a bundle of nerves and I opened the cupboard for a pill. Living on autopilot as I had been doing for so long had to stop. I switched gears from absentmindedly resorting to pills, to purposefully calming myself without using drugs by breathing the way the psychologist had taught me.
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Government Calls US Benzodiazepine Prescription Levels “Worrisome”

Despite the well-known risks of the drugs, especially for the elderly, prescription use of addictive benzodiazepine sedatives in the United States increases steadily with age, according to a large-scale study published in JAMA Psychiatry. Overall, as of 2008, 5.2% of American adults were taking the drugs. The study also showed that women were twice as likely to be taking benzodiazepines as men. National Institute of Mental Health director Thomas Insel called the findings "worrisome." More →

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Long-term Painkiller Use on Rise, 1/3rd Dangerously Mix with Anti-anxiety Meds

About 9% fewer Americans are using prescription opioids than were five years ago, but those people are taking more of the drugs for longer periods of time, according to a study by pharmacy benefits manager Express Scripts reported in FiercePharma. And nearly one-third are being put in serious risk of overdose death by taking the opioids alongside prescriptions for benzodiazepine sedatives, stated the New York Times. More →

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Assessing the Cost of Psychiatric Drugs to the Elderly and Disabled Citizens of the United States

ProPublica is well known for creating interesting data bases that allow anyone hooked up to a computer to see by name whether a physician is accepting Big Pharma payments — from dinners to speaking engagements to consulting services. What may be lesser known is that occasionally ProPublica will publish other data that when carefully mined can reveal even more about the use of psychiatric drugs especially when there is a public funding source available.
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On the Other Side

It was the first time in my Klonopin journey it occurred to me the problem might not be inherent in me. The problem might actually be the Klonopin. Convinced my very life was at stake, I made the firm decision to get off the stuff once and for all.
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Common Benzodiazepine Sedatives May Induce Aggression

Benzodiazepine medications that are commonly used for calming or sedating people can sometimes apparently cause violent or aggressive responses in some people, according to a review of the scientific literature in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry. More →

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Spiritual Bypass and the Chill Pill

I’ve wondered for a long time how I managed to get caught in the razor wire of benzodiazepines. I didn’t sleep for long enough to have me hovering around psychosis — true. My doctor had a dizzy insistence that benzos would resolve the problem — also true. The benzo wire was so low and sharp that I was caught before I realized I’d fallen. How could I have known? But still, the question lingers.
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More on Benzos and Cognitive Damage

There is mounting evidence that benzodiazepines are causing Alzheimer’s Disease. I cannot imagine any genuine medical specialty ignoring or downplaying information of this sort. But psychiatry, with the perennial defensiveness of those with something to hide, promotes the idea that they are safe when used for short periods, knowing full well that a huge percentage of users become “hooked” after a week or two, and stay on the drugs indefinitely.
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Benzodiazepine Use of 50% of Elderly Patients is Not Monitored

The American Psychiatric Association (APA) publication Psychiatric News has released an article about the recent British Medical Journal study finding strong links between long-term use of benzodiazepine drugs and increases in Alzheimer's. "Somewhere along the way, the message got lost, and patients were allowed to use benzodiazepines for months and years,” Mohit P. Chopra, M.D., a member of the APA’s Council on Geriatric Psychiatry, told Psychiatric News. More →

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Benzodiazepine Use and Risk of Alzheimer’s Disease

If a person in mid-life is feeling anxious, or depressed, or can’t sleep? No problem. No need to figure out the source of these concerns. No need to work towards solutions in the old time-honored way of our ancestors. Today, psychiatrists have pills. Pop a benzo! And by the way, you’ll have a 40% increased risk of Alzheimer’s Disease in your late sixties.
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A Discussion of Labels, Part One: Disability

When my son was born six years ago, the word “disabled” was suddenly all around me. It came from everywhere – the nurses, the doctors, the physical and occupational therapists, friends and family. I remember looking into his ice blue eyes and so marveling at the lines of white that extended so symmetrically from his irises that I began calling him Star Boy. I felt a new mother’s sense of protection. The label surrounding my Star Boy was a smoke so thick I felt I could barely breathe.
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Major Risks from Drug Interactions in Common Psychiatric Polypharmacy

It is very common for psychiatric patients, especially those diagnosed with schizophrenia, to be prescribed two or more psychiatric medications at once, and this confers significant health risks from rarely studied drug interactions, according to Turkish University School of Medicine researchers publishing in the Bulletin of Clinical Psychopharmacology. The researchers stated that theirs was the first such study to look specifically at the dangers of psychiatric drug interactions "in real life conditions." More →

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Stumble Biscuits and the Murk of Benzo Disability

Two years ago, when I first felt the dizzy confusion of benzo disability, I talked about it openly. I remember discussing it briefly with an older friend who found my plight strangely fascinating. He asked if I remembered Quaaludes, a sedative-hypnotic that was all the rage in the 1960s and ‘70s. “We called them ‘Stumble Biscuits,’” he told me, “because you’d stumble down the street and hit one car and then stumble over and hit something else and it was just happy and goofy. It’s too bad they took them off the market. Those things were great.”
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Social Justice and the Benzodiazepine Death Camp

Anne Hull and Dana Priest, of the Washington Post, received a Pulitzer prize for breaking the story of the horrid conditions at Walter Reed Army Medical Center where men were “afloat on a river of painkillers and antipsychotic drugs” Each morning, they were expected to rise at dawn for formation, though most of them were snowed under by benzodiazepines, opiates, alcohol – anything that would push Iraq and the pain away. A year later I too would be snowed under and would fight an invisible war of my own. It wasn’t until months later, deep in withdrawal tolerance that I realized my slide into disability was caused by the drugs.
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Benzodiazepines Linked to Increased Risk of Alzheimer’s: Causation or Not?

According to a study in the British Medical Journal, benzodiazepine use is associated with a significantly increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Some experts have argued in news reports that the findings simply indicate that people with Alzheimer's are more often prescribed benzodiazepines. However, the study authors have pointed out that there appears to be a dose-dependent response occurring. More →

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Doctors Rarely Warn about Benzo Withdrawal

The Boston Globe interviews people who became ever more severely dependent on sedating benzodiazepines without realizing it, because as they tried to stop taking the drugs they thought their withdrawal symptoms were actually symptoms of underlying anxiety problems. “My anxiety was getting worse; I was getting dizzy spells; I was getting sick more often, and my capacity to deal with stress was less,” Alison Page told the Globe. “I thought I had a worsening anxiety disorder.” More →

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Fish “Flourish” On Anxiety Drug

"Fish that have been exposed to a common anti-anxiety drug are more active and have better chances of survival than unexposed fish," reports Nature. According to the article, a study published in Environmental Research Letters noted that previous studies had only looked at the harms of pharmaceutical pollutants on fish. So a team led by Jonatan Klaminder from Sweden's Umeå University exposed Eurasian perch to the benzodiazepine sedative oxazepam and looked for "positive" effects. More →

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Weaning the Elderly off Sleeping Pills

In a follow-up to an earlier commentary on the topic, Paula Span discusses the widespread use and negative effects of sleeping pills among the elderly in long-term care in the New York Times, including falls and hospitalizations for adverse drug reactions. She also discusses a new study of tapering attempts. "Of the group that attempted to gradually stop the drug, more than half succeeded, and another 22 percent reduced their dosage," writes Span. "Among those who didn’t make the attempt, the greatest reason — get this — was discouragement from their physicians or pharmacists." More →

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The Cocktail Party

As a prescription drug and addiction expert for The O’Reilly Factor, Fox National News and many other news outlets, I am often called when a celebrity death occurs. While the loss of a talented actor or musician is tragic, I know from personal experience that the magnitude of devastation from legal drugs is happening to millions of innocent people – through psychoactive medications.
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Playing the Odds, Revisited

It is hard to believe that a year has gone past since I posted Playing the Odds: Antidepressant Withdrawal and the Problem of Informed Consent. The feedback I received underscored the more controversial aspects of SSRI toxicity.  Common themes concerned the abrupt onset of new symptoms 3 to 12 months after stopping the drug, reinstatement of the drug failing to help withdrawal related symptoms, the possibility that withdrawal-related symptoms can persist indefinitely and concerns about using benzodiazepines to help with tardive akathisia.
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After the Xanax Wears Off…

Many personal stories of people struggling with an addiction that they were never told could happen punctuate an article about indiscriminate benzodiazepine prescribing in Oregon's The Bulletin. “You take it for a while and it works, and you think you’ve got this miracle going on and then it stops working,” Carol Brainerd tells The Bulletin. “So the doctor ups it and ups it, and that’s where a lot of us get into trouble.” Ann Metcalf says, “The Xanax wears off after four hours. I would wake up even more panicked than when I went to bed.” More →

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Psychiatry: We Need a Truth and Reconciliation Commission in Mental Health

My name is Leah Harris and I’m a survivor. I am a survivor of psychiatric abuse and trauma. My parents died largely as a result of terrible psychiatric practice. Psychiatric practice that took them when they were young adults and struggling with experiences they didn’t understand. Experiences that were labeled as schizophrenia. Bipolar disorder. My parents were turned from people into permanent patients. They suffered the indignities of forced treatment. Seclusion and restraint. Forced electroshock. Involuntary outpatient commitment. And a shocking amount of disabling heavy-duty psychiatric drugs. And they died young, from a combination of the toxic effects of overmedication, and broken spirits.
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Cold Turkey

The other day I talked to a friend who I hadn’t seen for quite a while. She told me that she had been prescribed Seroquel for sleep problems about a year ago. But when she started to read about it a couple months ago she got really nervous that it was causing her long term health complications and she stopped taking it – cold turkey – without tapering. I wondered about our conversation afterwards and thought about the countless amount of people who don’t tolerate their psychiatric meds and quit cold turkey. This common experience often leads to horrendous withdrawal symptoms that are easily mistaken for underlying “mental illness”. This can lead to new diagnoses, increased dosages and polypharmacy. And then people get really stuck.
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Support for those in Withdrawal Who Struggle With Family & Friends Not Understanding

One of the most challenging and frustrating aspects of withdrawal is that feeling of being misunderstood, unsupported and isolated. If someone has diabetes, dystonia or other chronic illness or experiences a life event such as a bereavement, people will more often empathise and offer support. They understand these issues – the required dietary restrictions, medication, etc., and they will be able to tell you the stages of grief. Support of every kind is forthcoming because there is enough awareness, shared through every medium, on these topics.
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Sweeping Benzos Under the Carpet

Being an ex-accountant I am always interested in figures (not to mention that prescribed benzodiazepine drug addiction has played such a major part in my life). According to a yearly booklet released by the Home Office in the UK, benzodiazepine drugs accounted for more deaths than ALL the so-called hard drugs put together.
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