Benzodiazepines are legal and widely prescribed by physicians. Estimates range from 10 – 50 million unique prescriptions in a year. They are prescribed for reasons ranging from muscle cramps to coughs to anxiety to seizures. They are often prescribed and used far beyond the recommended time frames as a matter of course.
Benzodiazepine addiction is the largest addiction problem in the world.
Benzos can be highly addictive with potentially fatal consequences. Let’s stop saying that we might develop a “dependence” on them. Let’s tell it using words that more accurately describe the danger. They are addictive, plain and simple. Dr. Heather Ashton, likely the world’s foremost authority on benzodiazepines states that the individual who uses benzodiazepines for 6 months has a 50% probability of addiction. After one year of use, the number jumps to nearly 100%!
Until the time comes that we systematically refer to this as benzodiazepine addiction, as opposed to dependence, we will never even begin to convince our government or medical community to deal with this problem properly.
Let’s stop using words that sound more benign to describe the problem.
Further, as opposed to accidental overdoses experienced in heroin detox, some benzodiazepine sufferers, while a distinct minority, find no way out of suffering and commit suicide. Suffering and suicide; this is serious business.
The vast number of symptoms in benzodiazepine addiction is staggering. Many people who try to withdraw from benzodiazepines experience 20, 30, 40, or even 50 or more symptoms, many of which are brutal all by themselves.
Benzodiazepine withdrawal lasts well beyond the typical 1–2 week detox that heroin addicts suffer through.
Once addicted, attempts to withdraw are often nothing short of a horrific, daily battle against symptoms that may last for months and even years, well past the last dose. According to heroin addicts themselves, withdrawal from this class of drugs makes heroin detox look like a “walk in the park”. It is fairly common practice for heroin addicts to use the tranquilizing effects of benzos to mitigate the “high” associated with their drug use. Therefore, this is a group of individuals who have experienced both benzodiazepine addiction and withdrawal as well as heroin addiction and detox.
They know which one is worse.
Benzodiazepines can produce permanent damage. Dr. Heather Ashton, widely regarded as the world’s preeminent expert on benzodiazepine addiction, has recently published papers that indicate permanent brain damage is possible in 15 – 25% of those who become addicted.
Commonly accepted protocol about how to withdraw once someone is addicted is outdated, in some cases nothing short of cruel, and severely increases the probability of protracted withdrawal. The medical community as a whole in the U.S. has not yet latched on to what is clearly the safest and best method known, the Ashton slow taper. The currently accepted inpatient model can only be described as brutal, a “cold-turkey” stoppage with Phenobarbital to stop seizures.
List of common benzodiazepines frequently prescribed in South Africa, but that have well known and documented habit forming properties.
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