ProPublica uses federal data and its online "Prescriber Checkup" tool to reveal that in 2013, when Medicare officially lifted its ban and started paying for benzodiazepine anti-anxiety drugs such as Valium, Xanax and Ativan, more than 40 million prescriptions worth more than $377 million were doled out. More →
A meta-analysis of scientific studies found that the risk of dementia increased 22% with every additional twenty daily doses of benzodiazepine medications that people took annually, according to a study in PLoS One. More →
It took surviving all of the symptoms of benzodiazepine withdrawal, including derealization, gastritis, auditory hallucinations, wasting, dementia, panic attacks and profound depression, for me to come to understand that not only had I really been a cool person before all that shit, but also that nothing was wrong with me. I was smart and a little neurotic at times, but that was it. Drugs caused me to be mentally ill where I had not been before.
I’ve been working steadily on Cracked Open, a book that chronicles my experience being a mother suffering terrible insomnia to a mother desperately dependent on benzodiazepines. I am not alone. I live in a state that ranks at the top for anti-depressant and anti-anxiety meds and we love to give them to women. But I’m not writing this book simply for mothers or for women. I’m writing it for anyone who has gone into a doctor’s office, desperate and sick, and come out with a prescription that led them down a path to illness and/or disability. It happens so often.
This is the second of a series of excerpts from Cracked Open, a book whose unintentional beginning came after I became physically dependent on Ativan in 2010. After a year of following my doctor’s orders for daily use to treat insomnia, my body and mind began to fall apart. I’m serializing the book here – before sending it out into the world – because MIA became a lighthouse for me. I want this community’s feedback because I want to help make a difference. I want my words and message to be clear and strong.
Pneumonia cases in the elderly are strongly associated with use of anticholinergic medications, according to research in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. Some anticholinergics are used for treating psychiatric conditions, including benzodiazepines and tricyclic antidepressants. More →
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.
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 →
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 →
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.
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.
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 →
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.
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.
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 →
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.
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.
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 →
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.”
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.
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 →
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 →
"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 →
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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