Last updated: 05/31/2019
Author: Addictions.com Medical Review
Reading Time: 2 minutes
If you were to randomly start talking to people about the medications they take, you may be surprised how often you would hear about Xanax, Klonopin, and Ativan. These medications are prescribed for anxiety and are highly addictive—and dangerous—but the way doctors overprescribe them, most people don’t realize their dangers. With over 50 million prescriptions written a year in the US, people are getting addicted and not realizing it until it’s too late.
While many doctors write prescriptions “as needed” for people who are experiencing panic attacks or overwhelming feelings of anxiety, too many write the prescription as “one pill every four to six hours.” But the thing is, benzodiazepines aren’t supposed to be taken that way, it’s not how they work.
Benzos aren’t a daily medication nor a long term solution for anxiety issues. They’re designed to be used PRN to stop the effects of a panic attack as they’re needed. That means every once in a while, not every day, and by all means, not every four to six hours.
When you take these medications on a daily basis, they increase your level of anxiety and when you try to stop taking the medication, you begin to experience withdrawal. They are completely counter-productive as a daily medication for anxiety issues, causing you more anxiety in the long run then you had when you started them.
Now, millions of Americans are taking this medication, one that was given to them by their trusted family physician, and they’re taking it as prescribed, just as the label says, and these same people are dealing with benzodiazepine addiction.
Impacts of Benzo Addiction
Because benzodiazepines are so addictive, it doesn’t take long to build up a tolerance to the medication, needing more to get the desired effect. You may find that they’re not “taking the edge off” as well, and start doubling your dosage or asking your doctor for an increase in pill strength.
Here are some other side effects of benzo addiction:
- Mood changes
- Mood swings
- Insomnia without the medication
- Memory loss, especially with large doses
The Dangers of Benzo Addiction
The dangers of benzo addiction are not to be taken lightly and go well beyond the above list.
When these medications are combined with other drugs, either prescription or recreational, they make the effects of the other drug stronger, and each year thousands of people end up in the hospital with drug overdose issues because of benzos.
And then there’s benzo withdrawal. One of the few drugs that can cause death with withdrawal, stopping benzodiazepines on your own is dangerous. Do not stop cold turkey. Talk to your doctor about tapering down your dose or go to detox if necessary.
Benzo withdrawal needs to be monitored by a professional as it can cause seizures, extreme dysphoria, paranoia, psychiatric symptoms such as depersonalization, and psychosis, and even death.