The Pulse

Long Term Benzodiazepine Use for Anxiety

DANGER SCALE

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Unlikely
mortality risk
Highly likely
mortality risk

Long Term Benzodiazepine Use for Anxiety

Benzodiazepines are a class of drugs that induce a sedative effects. They work in much the same way as alcohol in how they interact with the Gaba receptor complex. Because of the close similarity of effects benzodiazepines are the Gold Standard for medical detox.

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Other Names:

Benzos, downers, candy, chill pills, Z bars

How do people get it?

Benzodiazepines are most commonly prescribed by doctors and other clinicians treating anxiety. It is widely researched and known that daily use beyond two months worsens anxiety and leads to diminished returns, however, prescribers often continue to prescribe them despite this fact.

How is it dangerous?

Perhaps the biggest risk is withdrawals from benzodiazepines when someone is severely dependent are life threatening. Physical dependence happens rapidly with this class of drugs and it is notoriously challenging and consequential to quit. Studies have shown that even a month long taper leads to worsening panic attacks, permanent deficits in cognitive functioning, and “significant new somatic symptoms such as malaise, weakness, insomnia, tachycardia, and dizziness, after alprazolam (Xanax) discontinuation.” In short, once people become dependent on this substance, it can be extraordinarily challenging to detox off of it.

Psychiatrically speaking, there is no doubt that the consequences outweigh the benefits. There is no doubt that benzodiazepines will stop a panic attack but long term daily prescriptions would be akin to a doctor recommending you drink alcohol every night to manage that panic or anxiety. The most compelling evidence for these drugs worsening mental health is that they increase risk for suicide 3 fold.

If you or a loved one is struggling with substance use, call Gallus at
(888) 306-3122.