Do Benzos Deserve a Major Role in the Treatment of Psychiatric Disorders?

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Researchers at the University of Milan and King’s College, London thoroughly reviewed the literature available on Medline and Cochrane regarding the use of benzodiazepines in anxiety, affective and psychotic disorders, as well as the available literature on benzos’ adverse effects. They conclude that the wide use  that benzos have achieved in psychiatric and non-psychiatric disorders is not supported by the scientific evidence. There is “robust” evidence for short-term use in panic disorder and generalized anxiety disorder, “intermediate” evidence for social anxiety disorder and “poor” evidence for PTSD and OCD. However, the side-effects found in long-term use, and the risks of abuse and withdrawal effects “recommend a more cautious use of BZDs (short-term) than previously achieved.” Results will appear in European Psychiatry.

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Mad in America hosts blogs by a diverse group of writers. These posts are designed to serve as a public forum for a discussion—broadly speaking—of psychiatry and its treatments. The opinions expressed are the writers’ own.

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Kermit Cole
Kermit Cole, MFT, founding editor of Mad in America, works in Santa Fe, New Mexico as a couples and family therapist. Inspired by Open Dialogue, he works as part of a team and consults with couples and families that have members identified as patients. His work in residential treatment — largely with severely traumatized and/or "psychotic" clients — led to an appreciation of the power and beauty of systemic philosophy and practice, as the alternative to the prevailing focus on individual pathology. A former film-maker, he has undergraduate and master's degrees in psychology from Harvard University, as well as an MFT degree from the Council for Relationships in Philadelphia. He is a doctoral candidate with the Taos Institute and the Free University of Brussels. You can reach him at [email protected]

2 COMMENTS

  1. I think if used wisely and under supervision Benzos are probably useful in hospital setting but long term- is a definite no-no. My mother was put on them by a kindly doctor to help her to get over my father’s death.They were supposed to be safe and non-addicitive in those days. A month later she wanted to come off them and couldn’t. She struggled for ten years and never succeeded.It was hell for everyone. The doctor thought at the time you could stop ativan just like that and could not understand why she couldn’t.

  2. And yet benzos are the only drugs that psychiatry has to offer that can actually help people to feel better. In fact, I’ve never considered them psychiatric drugs for that reason. When I was a kid, every single psychiatric drug I was given made me feel terrible at least, tortured me at worst. Yet every now and then when I’d get a benzo it would be a long overdue relief. To me, benzos were the corrective to psychiatric drugs and the only drugs you could get from a psychiatrist that had a straight-forward effect that you could feel come on and wear off.