Still Mistreating the Elderly with Psychiatric Drugs: Benzodiazepines

Justin Karter
27
976

After safety concerns about the use of benzodiazepines in older adults led to updated guidelines, researchers expected the use of these drugs to decline. According to a new study in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, however, these dangerous prescription practices have not changed. Instead, benzodiazepine use has increased among those most at risk of adverse effects like increased falls, memory problems, delirium, motor vehicle crashes, and death.

“Some of the most common reasons for which benzodiazepines are prescribed, especially for the oldest adults, have proven alternative treatment options, many of which have better side-effect profiles,” the study authors wrote. “Further efforts should be made to educate providers in all fields of medicine on the appropriate prescribing of benzodiazepines and alternative therapies.”

Despite safety concerns, a new study reveals that there has been no change in the use of benzodiazepines in the elderly from 2001 to 2010.

Benzodiazepines, or “benzos,” are a class of psychotropic drugs that augment the GABA neurotransmitters in the brain, which are thought to have inhibitory effects on the nervous system. They are most frequently prescribed for anxiety, insomnia, seizures, and pain but can have severe side-effects including psychological changes like cognitive impairment and emotional deadening in long-term use. Benzodiazepines are particularly dangerous, however, because of their addictive properties and severe and traumatic withdrawal effects.

Last September, the British Medical Journal (BMJ) reported that the use of benzodiazepines is associated with an increased risk for Alzheimer’s disease. In a similar analysis, researchers from China found that the likelihood of dementia increased 22% with every additional twenty daily doses of benzodiazepine medications that people took annually. Another study found that the rate of deaths among people taking the benzodiazepine Xanax (alprazolam) has increased 233.8% from 2003-2009- the second highest increase in mortality after Oxycodone (264.6%).

It has been repeatedly demonstrated that the elderly are at an increased risk for the adverse effects of benzodiazepines. As a result, prescribing guidelines, such as the Beers criteria and the Screening Tool of Older Persons’ Prescriptions (STOPP) criteria, have classified benzodiazepines as inappropriate for use with the elderly in many instances. Nevertheless, it is estimated that as many as one in four (25%) elderly people living, outside of hospitals or treatment facilities, in the United States are prescribed benzodiazepines.

A new study, led by Dr. Erin Marra of the Department of Emergency Medicine at the Long Island Jewish Medical Center, set out to test the hypothesis that these updated guidelines would reduce the rate of benzodiazepine prescriptions in emergency and ambulatory settings. Using publicly available data, Marra and her colleagues identified every ambulatory and emergency department (ED) visit from 2001 to 2010 where an individual over age 65 presented with complaints that could potentially lead to benzodiazepine use. All told the analysis included 133.3 million of these visits.

After analyzing this data, the researchers found that 12.4% – or 16.5 million seniors- in these situations received a benzodiazepine prescription. Overall, from 2001 to 2010, despite the changes to guidelines, there was no change in the use of benzodiazepines in the elderly in ambulatory clinics or emergency departments. Within this same period, prescriptions for individuals over the age of 85, those most at risk for ill effects, roughly doubled.

In ambulatory clinics, elderly patients presenting with anxiety were nearly five times more likely to be prescribed a benzodiazepine and in emergency departments seniors with anxiety received these drugs in forty-two percent of cases. The effectiveness of benzodiazepines for treating anxiety has been questioned, however. Some studies suggest that the drugs can interfere with learning and memory and can decrease the effectiveness of therapy, thus preventing non-pharmacologic reductions in anxiety.

Elderly patients in ambulatory clinics were also found to be two and a half times more likely to be prescribed a benzodiazepine if they presented with insomnia. Roughly 25% of those with insomnia were given such a prescription even though metanalyses reveal that improvements in sleep are small in magnitude and do not outweigh the risk of adverse effects in the elderly.

“Despite concerns regarding adverse events, several of the top reasons for which an individual received a benzodiazepine (anxiety, insomnia, vertigo or dizziness) at ambulatory clinic and ED visits have better first-line treatment options that do not have side-effect profiles like those of benzodiazepines.”

The researchers speculate that the high prescription rates may be because doctors and families are looking for alternatives to antipsychotic drugs, which carry black-box warnings of increased mortality in older adults.  They point out, however, that both anxiety and insomnia have safer treatment options than antipsychotics or benzodiazepines, including cognitive-behavioral therapy and antidepressants.

 

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Marra, E. M., Mazer‐Amirshahi, M., Brooks, G., Anker, J., May, L., & Pines, J. M. (2015). Benzodiazepine Prescribing in Older Adults in US Ambulatory Clinics and Emergency Departments (2001–10). Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. (Abstract)

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27 COMMENTS

  1. I’m afraid more “education” isn’t going to change anything, because most of these prescribers know very well what the risks are. They continue to do this because it benefits them either financially or professionally or both. What is needed is not education, but ACCOUNTABILITY. Doctors should not be able to get away with “standard and accepted practice” when that standard practice is harmful.

    How about a ban on off-label prescribing for starters?

    —- Steve

    • Agreed completely. And furthermore, what’s the point of even having that “prescribing info” label, if OFF-LABEL prescribing is even allowed at all?….
      In other words, any M.D. can prescribe any drug, for any person, for any reason, and that’s OK, because it’s just “off-label” prescribing.
      We don’t need an M.D. degree – just dice and a dart board.
      Roll the Rx, and shoot some hoops….hey, it’s all capitalism, and that’s good, right?
      M.D.’s know what they’re doing, and it’s all those ambulance-chasing trial lawyers that are driving up malpractice insurance costs. If we can’t pump dangerous drugs into millions of innocent victims, how are the 1% supposed to get richer?….
      You get where I’m coming from. I didn’t read Breggin’s “Toxic Psychiatry” until the mid-1990’s…. I’m kinda slow….
      &I’m gonna see your allcaps, and raise you some asterisks:
      ****ACCOUNTABILITY****
      (But, *how* do we hold *who* “accountable” to *whom”, and by what means?……
      Based on how we’re treated, we “mental patients” are seen as either drug zombies, or drug toilets. Personally, I think that the LIES of the pseudo-science of psychiatry, and the DRUG RACKET which it supports, need to be codified, and indicted in the Hague, as the pharmaceutical GENOCIDE which it truly is….
      (c)2015, Tom Clancy, Jr., *NON-fiction
      And seriously, dude, a ban on off-label prescribing? What kind of drugs are you on?….;)

    • Steve,

      The problem with banning off-label prescribing is that people who benefit greatly from that would suffer. For example, I know someone for whom amitriptyline (small dose) is the only thing that helps for pain and enables the person to sleep. I am sure she isn’t alone regarding this situation.

      Surely, there must be some type of accountability system that would stop this madness. I have no what it would look like unfortunately. But that would be great if someone could come up with something to stop these abuses while not penalizing folks who greatly benefit from off label prescribiing

      • I will repeat my call to ban so-called “off-label” prescribing, and agree with your position to NOT ban it, also! Here’s what I mean. As you suggest, many people ARE helped by off-label prescribing. I think we both agree that the entire regulatory infrastructure is dysfunctional. Marketing hype, propaganda, and outright LIES from Pharma’s marketing folks fuels this sad state of affairs. For Pharma, the “capitalistic” imperative is to maximize short-term corporate profits, and maximize short-term returns to investors. Both Wall St., and the Global Banksters drive this process. That works fine for widgets, cars, and building supplies, for example. But, when that same logic is applied to agriculture, food products, and pharmaceuticals, which are all for HUMAN CONSUMPTION, then we have problems. Getting your car repaired, or recalled to fix some manufacturing defect, or having to return defective merchandise are NOT comparable to requiring emergency surgery, getting some iatrogenic medical condition, or illness resulting from bad medicine resulting from excess profit motives and sheer greed. The asinine, bass-ackwards, illogical regulatory schemes and “schedules” of BOTH the FDA & DEA in America, and the ICD etc.,
        globally, are at root of the problem. We have such a sad state of affairs, because corporate lobbyists have been allowed TOO MUCH access and control over the political, governmental, and regulatory process. Yes, both the FDA, *AND* DEA, etc., >sometimes< need to take actions which will reduce, or eliminate, corporate profits, and in some cases, actually *FINE* and sanction corporations, and *PERSONS*. Recently, a VA doctor nick-named "Candy Man" was *fired*. Fine. Great. But, he should also be indicted, tried, convicted, and incarcerated. Yes, JAILED. IMPRISONED. To set an example, and prevent further abuses by others. By eliminating the current "scheduling" SCAM, and replacing it with a more chemical-formula based system, we will move forward. "Potential for abuse" / "addiction", are FAR MORE SOCIAL issues, than chemical-formula issues. The above comments ALSO apply to the practice of medicine, and the "business" of healthcare, also. Personal HEALTH insurance is NOT the same as car, house, or widget insurance. But, it's financialized, monetized, and marketed as IF it is…..
        There have been some technical, IT-type issues with the comment section recently, so for all you boneheaded idiots such as myself out there, I'm sorry for the appearance of this comment……with all due respect to my Mother and Father…..
        (c)2015, Tom Clancy, Jr., *NON-fiction
        Yes, I know. It's all well and good to say what I've just said. But, *how* do we get *there*, from *here*….????……Hey, I just drew a map, now YOU follow it….

      • The real culprits to be held accountable are Big Pharma and the necessary funding for treatment should be in the form of a 20% annual tax on Gross Profits, which would hit them in the place they hurt most…..their pockets.

        A ‘sugar tax’ of 20% is being advocated to solve the problem of obesity…so why not the problem of prescribed benzodiazepine drug addiction.

        Barry.

  2. The UK guidelines are for benzodiazepines to be prescribed for 2 to 4 weeks only and that includes tapering off. This should be amended to 1 to 2 weeks only.
    Certainly the guidelines should be made mandatory on the prescribers and enforceable, in order to stop new prescribed addicts from being created.

    In the UK benzodiazepine drugs are a controlled Class C drug and in my opinion they should be reclassified to A status, as they present a clear and present danger to patients and society.

    Barry Haslam.

    • I respectfully disagree. I don’t know the details of the U.K.’s DRUG regulatory scheme, but it’s clearly just as asinine, dysfunctional, and irrational as what we have here in America.
      The whole “scheduling” scheme is re-arranging deck chairs on the Titanic.
      Both McCrae & Gilbert, in comments above and below, respectively, get much closer to the actual problem and solution. There’s far too much profit motive involved in DRUGS, regardless of their “classification” or “schedule”. There is far too little oversight and ACCOUNTABILITY. And, as a society, we do NOT respect our elders as we should.
      A large part of the insanity and chaos in society is the direct result of the gross over-use and abuse of ALL DRUGS. As one tiny example, in 2013, Walgreens’ paid an $80MILLION civil “penalty” to the U.S. Federal Gov’t, without admitting either criminal or civil wrongdoing or responsibility, for making NARCOTICS too freely available at their pharmacies. In plain English, they got caught red-handed filling bogus and fraudulent prescriptions. It’s a small tax to pay, for business as usual…. Walgreen’s just announced they are now buying Rite-Aid for how *MANY* *$Billions*….????….
      We need to hit Pharma *HARD*, and hit them where it hurts. We need to hit them in Wall St. There’s nothing wrong with the idea of making a reasonable business profit, but that’s not what Pharma is, or does.

      (c)2015, Tom Clancy, Jr., *NON-fiction

  3. So, what does this tell you?

    What it very well shows is that older people are not important and it’s perfectly okay to give them drugs that endanger their lives. And yes, it does add up to profits for many people all the way around. I worked in a large retirement/ nursing home center, one of the best in the state where I live. But I saw this done to people over and over again, day after day, week after week, and the old people fell and broke hips and died from pneumonia in large numbers. Of course, they also ended up tied to Gerry chairs in large numbers, so that they wouldn’t fall, and the drugging continued.

    Any resident of a nursing home who is non-compliant in any way is going to get drugged. You better do exactly as the staff want and tell you to do and you’d better not complain. Otherwise, you will be drugged to the gills. And if your family or friends complain about your being drugged they are told that they can always find another nursing home to put you in. And of course this shuts most people up because it’s so damned difficult to find an good nursing home.

    Our old people have become expendable. Our society has lost the respect that our old ones deserve and merit. And we don’t give a fat damn about the wisdom that they contain that could be passed on to the younger generations, generations that seem lost and wandering these days. Who gives a damn about old people, they just need to die and let the rest of us get on with life.

    • I agree totally with you. I worked in a convalescent hospital at 18 years of age, and although I knew nothing about pharma pills back then, I certainly was astounded at the number of pills patients were given during each round. And as you said, they were drugged up if noncompliant. Just a very difficult thing to see when young, and it’s made an immense impact on me now that I’m in my 60s. I will do everything in my power to not be put in one of those homes. The patients lose their sense of self, their dignity, their quality of life, their freedom. And they’re forced to take the pills. Very sad.

      • It’s not always possible to avoid. Most of the people in these places would rather be home. But either they don’t have family to arrange out-patient treatment for them–and they are declared incompetent and appointed a “guardian” who puts them in a nursing home. OR they do have family. Their adult children don’t care about their freedom or quality of life. They figure they are “safer” in a nursing home. Which is true in narrow sense–they are less likely to wander around and fall and break a bone. If they die sooner, it seems natural so the family is happy.
        I have talked to people in nursing homes. I have never heard of any who are not on “anti-psychotics”– neuroleptic drug–, which are probably more harmful than benzos. Not only do they cause many undesirable effects(eg diabetes) but with elderly population they invariably cause tardive dyskinesia, a disorder with symptoms like Parkinson’s that make patients shake uncontrollably–they also significantly shorten life span.

        So any patient on benzos is not on them as alternative to neuroleptics like Zyprexa but in addition to neuroleptics. The problem with benzos is that like alcohol patients like them and they make patients more garrulous–harder to control.

        The new findings that benzos are likely to increase risk of dementia means that alternatives to drugs must be found for treatment of anxiety and insomnia. This would entail therapy or herbal or vitamin supplements. But this would be a radical shift in paradigm—and a major threat to the pharmaceutical industry. Thus it won’t happen. There are probably les malignant drugs but nursing homes will not stop prescribing atypical neuroleptics, for the reason I mentioned and also because they are the most powerful way to shut up an ebullient patient. Nursing staff wants docile quiet patients, not people who are enjoying life. The latter presents too much of a threat. Such a patient may want to talk to other patients, or take a walk–but the more mobile a patient is, the greater the risk of breaking a bone. Thus patients will continue to be prescribed Zyprexa AND Xanax.
        Seth Farber, Ph.D.

        • Thank-you, Seth, for your comments, and I want to ask: You say that you have “talked to people in nursing homes”, and that you “have never heard of any who are not on “anti-psychotic” – neuroleptic drugs”. I’m NOT challenging your honesty and truthfulness here, Seth. Judging from my reading of your OTHER comments here, I’d say we’re in 99% agreement about what I call the :lies of the pseudo-science drug racket known as psychiatry”. BUT, I’m having trouble making sense of the idea that ALL persons in nursing homes are essentially considered to be “psychotic”, and in “NEED” of “neuroleptics”. Seth, are we people REALLY that ignorant, greedy, uncaring, and unfeeling, that we would treat our parents, Grandparents, and Great-Grandparents this way? Say it ain’t so, Seth. I’m really depressed now!
          Can’t we call the unholy alliance between Pharma/Wall St./the APA&AMA what it truly looks like? GENOCIDE? “PHARMACEUTICAL GENOCIDE”? How is such indiscriminate mass-drugging, with such a high MORBIDITY, *NOT* GENOCIDE….????….
          Thank-you, for all you do.

  4. One aspect of benzos which is no talked about much is its role in impulsive actions including violence and suicide as well as its role in road accidents due to it and to a slowing down of reaction time to external cues. I have known an accidente of an adict to alprazolan which caused the death of three women, two of them in the incoming car. He survived, an is supposed to have quit the drugs,

  5. Spinoff,
    You are perfectly right. Benzodiazepines turned me into a violent person who looked for fights and this was completely alien to my normal, quiet character. I was an Accountant and broke my right hand hitting a filing cabinet.

    In the UK it is estimated that benzodiazepines are responsible for 100 deaths per annum due to road traffic accidents. Add this to the 300 deaths per annum due to benzo poisoning and since 1960, these drugs have accounted for over 20,000 lost lives and grieving families and loved ones.

  6. I have thought about what I would put in my living will in case the day ever comes where I can’t explain how I would want to be treated.

    I have been though severe benzodiazepine withdrawal so I know that if was to get started in my elderly years my chances of surviving withdrawals undamaged or alive would be small.

    It would have to be an all I can eat sort of agreement, none of that I can only give you 4mg a day and have you stuck in withdrawal half the time deals.

    I think benzodiazepines work better for agitation and psychosis and its a pleasant little high vs the zombified I cant think stuck in stupid effect of neuroleptics.

    My living will have to say give me the good stuff and don’t torture me with withdrawal ‘for my own good’ if you decide I am drug seeking , addicted or some bullshit like that. I am old so be nice and Ill take the pain pills without the stupid acetaminophen thanks.

    ” They point out, however, that both anxiety and insomnia have safer treatment options than antipsychotics or benzodiazepines, including cognitive-behavioral therapy and antidepressants. ”

    Anti depressants for anxiety and insomnia, ya right that rarely works and when it does its a placebo effect combined with real good luck of not getting worse from side effects.

    I think the real mistreating the elderly with benzodiazepines is failing to tell them what they are getting into and then making them endure withdrawals , or worse making them endure withdrawals then labeling the withdrawals an new condition and starting the heavy neuroleptics or just the half ass dose and living in constant tolerance withdrawals.

    I have been though all this hell, this mistreating the elderly with benzodiazepines is evil.

    • Making them pay for any treatment related to addiction and withdrawal – that would be great except for the fact that until medical begins even acknowledging that these drugs’ effects can last for years instead of not more than a month, nothing of substance will come about. I would think that treatment for those in withdrawal would be the best thing, but medical staff would find out very quickly that it’s not like heroin addiction. No, benzo withdrawal lasts far, far longer than that.

      This has been swept neatly under the rug. I’m betting that many doctors know how dangerous these drugs are but won’t say anything that would upset the “status quo.”

  7. I’m saddened that this keeps happening to the elderly. For one thing, drugs make it easier for the staff to handle their patients. Give the patient in room whatever an Ativan to quiet her down. Pills come in very handy for control purposes, and since they work so quickly, why not just keep up with a steady supply so that day and night shifts will be easier to deal with.

    Benzos are an insidiously dangerous drug. I’ve learned that the very hard way, being addicted to both Ativan and Klonopin. In the U.S. they ought to be a Schedule I drug, but instead marijuana is in that category. For some reason doctors continue to give their spiel to patients of “withdrawal shouldn’t last past a month at the most.” However, talk to a pharmacist and the story is usually very different. My next door neighbor, a pharmacist, clearly told me that benzodiazepine withdrawal can last for years. Why the disconnect between doctors and pharmacists? I feel that the truth is being hidden from the public. Few doctors want to part with this dirty little secret. Best keep the lid shut tight.

    Pressure from the public will be the only way to change doctors’ outdated and dangerous orthodoxy. Everyone else in the medical field seems too frightened to take a step, which I can understand since other colleagues may blacklist them.

    Why do doctors keep prescribing benzos to their elderly patients? Because they can.

    • You mention both Ativan, and Klonopin. I forget the trade name for Ativan, but for Klonopin, it’s clonazepam. I was given both, and literally over 50 OTHER different drugs, starting over 4 decades ago…. No Ativan in over 2 decades, but on a sub-clinical, long, slow taper off / down from only 1.5mg.’s/day of clonazepam, at .5mg, 3xday. In recent years, many if not most days, I take NOTHING.
      The issues of “violence, &etc.” mentioned here sound strange to me. Sure, I’ve had to work VERY
      HARD on my own personal therapy and recovery. But it’s the WHOLE “medical-industrial-financial complex” that has HURT ME WORST. Doctors and drugs have done me far more HARM than good….
      And, clonazepam hasn’t almost KILLED ME, in the same way that some other prescribed drugs almost did, over 20 years ago. I’m living proof of the LIES of both medicine in general, and the pseudo-science of psychiatry in particular. “Benzos” aren’t your typical, classic “psychiatric drug”,
      but we ALL know how the SCAM works…. Funny, but the ONE “branch” of “medicine” which is most vocal in its’ organized opposition to legalized medical cannabis is psychiatry. JAMA Psychiatry, for example, recently published another”Reefer Madness”-style hit piece, supporting
      the fantasy of “marijuana use disorder”. Gee, are we gonna have to wait for the DSM-V(R), for more “m.u.d.”, or is the APA gonna do a DSM – V(TR)….????….
      Benzos are NOT the problem. Ignorance, and a lack of oversight and accountability ARE the problem…. The IGNORANCE is maintained by a LACK of EVIDENCE, and no organized, coordinated effort to compile, analyze, and USE what evidence there might be….
      It’s all well and good for WE USERS to come here to Mad In America, and share our brief
      personal anecdotes, but *WHY* does the FDA, Pharma, NIH, NIMH, CDC, etc, all IGNORE US….????….
      We who KNOW what’s wrong with the system are not in a position to effectively CHANGE it,
      and those of us who ARE in a position to change it, either DO NOTHING, or else you WANT things to be this way….????…..
      **WE** ARE **NOT** *”GUILTY”* *FOR* taking the DRUGS THEY GIVE US…..
      But, sadly, they treat us like we are….
      Benzos are NOT the problem, only a symptom of it……
      (c)2015, Tom Clancy, Jr., *NON-fiction

      • I agree with you on some points, Bradford, but I do not IN ANY WAY agree that benzos are not the problem. They cause immeasurable harm to the central nervous system, yet patients don’t realize this until they’re tapering and have actually gotten OFF the drug entirely. Nerve problems can continue for YEARS after discontinuance. This is a problem that is conveniently shoved under the rug. I’m wondering if one of the reasons it’s being shoved under the rug is that benzos are very convenient for doctors to prescribe.

        I absolutely agree with Barry that benzo use ought to be only 1-2 weeks max. That’s it. Unfortunately, doctors keep prescribing these pills because patients are unaware that they’re so terribly insidious. They can eventually suck the soul out of a person. Certainly that’s what I’ve been experiencing. And it’s an absolute travesty that the elderly are given cocktails of drugs. As I mentioned, the dizziness and vertigo I’ve experienced while on a cocktail of drugs besides benzos has been debilitating to the point of being housebound.

        Read “Psychiatry Under The Influence,” and you’ll get a history of psychiatry and the rise of the DSM, which is a way for psychiatrists to gather ever more “customers” to the Big Pharma “family.” I read about the marijuana use disorder. The ridiculousness of disorders cropping up each time a new DSM comes out would be entirely laughable if it weren’t so very sad. Will there be, at some point, a happiness disorder? I wouldn’t put it past the APA.

        Benzos remain a tremendous problem because they lull patients into thinking that they’ll solve problems and that people can lead better lives while on them. God help someone who decides to taper off or get off completely cold turkey (which I would NOT EVER suggest anyone do – extremely dangerous – taper slowly, by all means). Then you will find how difficult these drugs are to wrestle with. No one can imagine the living nightmare that awaits. I’ve heard over and over again that most people get off easily the first time. If that’s the case, then STAY OFF. Don’t go back on. The risks of kindling are very, very great.

        I wouldn’t be saying this if I hadn’t been going through absolute hell myself. And I’m STILL going through it, at 27 months out counting tapering (thought it was 28 months, but it’s 27). It’s been like a prison sentence. The months keep piling up. I’m getting better, and sometimes I have “windows,” thankfully. But most of the time it’s a true mental and physical battle.

        Anyway, I could go on and on about this because it’s been the worst thing I’ve ever dealt with in my life so far (and I’m 63). I’ve learned my lesson in spades to stay far, far away from these drugs for the rest of my life. The term “anti-anxiety benzo drugs” is a laughable oxymoron. You’ll get more anxiety than you ever dreamed after discontinuance of these drugs. Yet remaining on them is also difficult as tolerance builds up. In the end, I’m extremely grateful that I’ve gotten off the drugs no matter how torturous it’s been. Getting off the drugs is doable, but it’s very, very hard.

        • We are both agreeing with each other! It only *looks**like* we are “arguing”!…. When I wrote that “benzos are not the problem”, that wasn’t as clear as it could have been. Benzos are only one of many classes or “families” of drugs, and each has unique effects and dangers, and also ALL drugs can be seen as having effects and dangers. I’m saying that as much as drugs *themselves* are the problem, there’s also a different problem that is not only the drugs themselves. There’s also greed, and ignorance.
          Your own story here, in your comments, is very different from my own personal experience. And, it’s the medical community as a whole, that has most hurt me, and also been AWOL for me in recent years. That’s the problem. It’s easy to write a prescription, and the drug store loves to sell the drugs, but where’s the SUPPORT infrastructure? There is none. If cars were drugs, there’d be broken and abandoned cars all
          over the place! At least we make *some* attempt to fix old cars. Older drug addicts, even PRESCRIPTION addicts, are on their own…. We allow that….
          You and I, “drt”, are only *2* out of MILLIONS who have been harmed.
          So, yes, when I wrote, “Benzos are NOT the problem”, I was really saying there’s more to the issue than just that one class of drug – benzos.
          I’m not convinced that tinkering with prescribing rules is really the answer to benzo abuse, or any other drug issue….. Yes, tinkering with rules may be a needed step in the process, but it’s only one small step of many other necessary steps…..
          And, let me add another reinforcement to your thoughts….
          You wonder if adverse reports of benzos are “being swept under the rug”. Yes. It’s called “cover-up”, and it’s a propaganda tactic / technique. I just watched a 12-minute video about Columbine. Funny,
          NOT ONE mention of either the shrinks, or the psych drugs (SSRI’s) that BOTH Eric Harris & Dylan Klebold were on….as were MOST so-called “mass-casualty school shooters”…..
          That’s CENSORSHIP by omission…..
          I haven’t YET purchased & read all of “Psychiatry Under the Influence”, but I’m familiar with it, and other similar books and authors. I started over 20 years ago, w/Breggin’s “Toxic Psychiatry”. …..

          • Thanks for your reply, Bradford. I think reading what Robert Whitaker, Peter Breggin, Dr. David Healy, Dr. John Abramson in “Overdosed America,” and others have to say about the medical/psychiatric bedfellow system that’s going on would be helpful. I think any positive changes that are made will have to be done by regular, everyday people not wanting to take it anymore and marching, doing whatever we can to change the system so that we can all feel like human beings, that we’re listened to instead of in and out of the doctor’s office within 10-15 minutes.

            For me, no more benzo drugs. They’ve messed up my life considerably. I want to feel whole again, able to do what I used to without mental and physical torture.

            Good luck to you, Bradford!

  8. I need to add that I’m in my 60s, so I can understand what the elderly must go through while being on a cocktail of drugs plus benzos. I was prescribed Ativan for a PTSD issue. On Ativan my blood pressure fluctuated so wildly that I was kept on three blood pressure drugs. Less than 10 months after being prescribed Ativan as needed, I suffered horrific tolerance withdrawal and panic attacks. During these times I thought I was having a stroke. I’d had a mini-stroke less than a year prior to this, so it was particularly scary for me to go through this. I was switched to Klonopin, and at that point daily dizzy spells began as well as extreme vertigo (with the room spinning out of control for 20 minutes at a time). I thought for certain that I was going to die, but I made up my mind to continue with tapering no matter what. The decision to taper from Klonopin was easy, but doing so was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life.

    The dizzy spells have lasted for over two and a half years. That, and vertigo (which last less frequently after awhile, thank God) were so debilitating that I’ve had to taper off all of my blood pressure drugs while still going through benzo withdrawal. I still have one bp pill to finish tapering off of and remain dizzy most of the time. Altogether, counting tapering, I’ve been at this for 28 months. Gradually, symptoms have improved, but cognitive problems still remain as well as bad physical pain. I’m certainly not done with withdrawal yet and wonder if my joy and excitement about life will ever come back. Interests I used to have are no longer. In other words, there’s a blank space in my brain when I think of activities I used to be very involved in. I’ve remained agoraphobic and prefer being alone, still a shell of my former self. NO ONE UNDERSTANDS. Since doctors refuse to address the issue of benzo withdrawal lasting past a month, family and friends feel that those of us in continual suffering must be making it up or it’s all in our heads.

    Because I’ve experienced the dangers of being on a cocktail of drugs as well as benzo pills, I feel that elderly patients suffer tremendously from the numerous drugs they’re given. The combination of all the drugs can be a deadly cocktail, causing falls, fractures, immobility, and loss of exercise. I remember vividly going out and walking, how frightening that was. During dizzy spells while out walking, I’d have to lean against buildings for 20 minutes at a time. Intersections became dangerous to cross, not knowing if I would collapse or not. After awhile the fear of going out was so tremendous that I only did what I had to do and that was it. The dizziness is mostly gone while walking now, but I still suffer from dizziness at some point during most days.

    Will doctors ever come around to understanding that benzos are a particularly dangerous drug to keep giving to the elderly? Why has this been going on for OVER 50 YEARS with nothing being done?? I cannot understand this and am very angry.

    • Thank-you for writing, “drt”…. I’m on YOUR side, but there’s a couple of points here….
      As for benzos, you say you were prescribed Ativan for PTSD issues. Well, first question is
      “What dose?”. When I was given Ativan, 4mg.s/day was TOO MUCH!. That was when I was started on 1.5mg.s/day of clonazepam (“Klonopin”), with the idea of a long, slow taper off….
      I’ve been lucky, personally, as far as serious side-effects. But, it’s an incompetent, crooked, and corrupt “healthcare system” that’s hurt me worst….
      You mention being on “3 different blood pressure medications”. Like me, you must have much more to your story. And, like me, too often, you find that NO ONE UNDERSTANDS.
      Imagine how it is to be frail, elderly, basically alone, and in a “care facility”….
      There’s a *LOT* wrong with this picture, and benzos are only a very small part of it….
      >more below<

      • Bradford, I was prescribed .5 mg. of Ativan as needed. I didn’t take it every day at all, but I started noticing right away that around 4 in the afternoon I would begin feeling anxious and didn’t know why. It was like the Sundown Syndrome or something. The bottom line is that I didn’t realize that I’m one of those persons who is extremely sensitive to pills.

        I landed in the hospital initially because I had a mini-stroke, extremely high blood pressure, extremely high platelets, and a bulging blood vessel on the right side of the back of my head due to the high blood pressure. These were caused by taking NSAIDS and stopping, starting and stopping. And I didn’t bother to check my blood pressure, which was terrible on my part. I was in a state of denial, really naive that OTC drugs could cause such a terrible thing. When I got out of the hospital, my bp still didn’t go down below 200, and my platelets were over a million, so I had to be admitted right back again. PTSD followed me around because no matter what doctor I went to, none of them were able to tell me what was happening. I ended up doing a lot of research on my own.

        Benzos, unknown to me, also made my bp swing like a pendulum. My bp would go very, very high, then would be normal. This was even after being on 3 bp pills, 2 at the maximum dose. Again, NO doctor told me that benzos could cause such a vast fluctuation in bp. It’s like they either don’t know anything about these drugs or they’re hiding the truth. I had so much dizziness and vertigo from the cocktail that I’ve had to get off the bp drugs just to feel that I could walk without immense fear of collapsing from the dizziness. I finally was able to get over the anxiety spikes and panic attacks that the benzos caused for so long (till probably month 20 out).

        Like you, I feel that doctors aren’t giving us the answers we need. I do research on my own, but I can say that I’m really afraid to see another doctor. I went to one in April, and she told me that I’d need to be put on a statin even though I don’t have a problem with high cholesterol. Without even taking any blood tests, she was pushing the drug. I’m going to need to choose another doctor. It’s a scary jungle out there with the medical community these days, and I wonder how much Big Pharma has proliferated and has really influenced doctors to a tremendous degree.

        • I’ve been thinking about your post….
          Your experience with benzos has been different from mine, but our stories are similar in many ways, also…. I don’t really know how you feel, but I hear you! One thing that I have learned – writing in blogs like this CAN BE part of our healing and recovery. We want to be HEARD. I can listen, at least…. You’re correct about the Docs not giving us enough information, and the corrosive effects of $$$$, and the drug companies. And I support YOUR efforts to self-educate yourself….
          Another thing that I have learned, is that exercise and meditation are HUGE helps in attaining and maintaining a healthy life and lifestyle…. more later….

          • AGREED, Bradford. Exercise and meditation are huge. Absolutely. Also a diet with lots of vegetables. Like Michael Pollan’s “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”