Benzodiazepine Addiction: 10 Things Doctors Want You to Know
Although prescribed frequently, benzodiazepines like Xanax or Valium are not a quick fix for anxiety, seizures, insomnia and other ailments. In fact, due to possible benzodiazepine side effects and the propensity for not only physical tolerance but also possible addiction, benzodiazepine drugs should not be considered for long-term treatment regardless of condition. That’s why doctors are adamant about closely monitoring intake of benzodiazepines to help prevent negative results during treatment. Find out what doctors who treat benzodiazepine addiction want you to know about benzo overdose treatment, benzodiazepine withdrawal symptoms, and how to spot warning signs of benzo addiction.
1. “Benzos should not be the immediate choice for treatment.”
Patients should think twice before starting benzodiazepines as their first treatment option, says Dr. Lawrence Weinstein, chief medical officer at American Addiction Centers based in Brentwood, Tenn. “For most patients, benzos should be a second or third line of defense, one that has a clear end in sight,” he says. If your doctor does prescribe benzodiazepines, Dr. Weinstein recommends talking at length with your doctor to learn about all possible side effects and signs of increased tolerance or even addiction. “Education will be the safety net that helps you through a short-term treatment plan.”
5. “Cognitive impairment and memory problems can result from benzodiazepine use.”
With regular use of benzodiazepines, there is a risk of memory and cognitive impairment even when taken in low doses and without addiction. “The primary health concern I discuss with people is regarding cognitive impairment and memory problems,” says Christopher Johnston, M.D., chief medical officer for Pinnacle Treatment Centers based in Mount Laurel, N.J. “With a gradual taper, the cognitive impairment improves, but studies have shown that the risk of dementia later in life is strongly associated with exposure to benzodiazepines. The longer people live, the greater the risk of adverse health effects as the body is slower to eliminate these medications.”
6. “It’s important to know the possible side effects of taking benzodiazepines.”
When considering a treatment that includes benzodiazepines, discuss the negative side to taking these drugs with your doctor. “It is important to be aware of not only the benefits of any medication, but also all the risks, side effects and potential interactions,” says Dr. Jawad Daud, medical director and addiction psychiatrist at Transformations Treatment Center in Delray Beach, Fla. “Side effects can include drowsiness, grogginess, dizziness, impaired movement and coordination, headache, and depression. When mixed with other CNS (central nervous system) depressants like alcohol, barbiturates, opioids and certain types of antidepressants, overdose can occur, which can be fatal.”