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Dangers of Using Benzos for Anxiety

January 22, 2019

Anxiety is a normal part of life. Teens and young adults in particular may need support to find healthy options to manage life’s challenges. Sandstone Care takes a holistic treatment approach combining medical intervention with experiential and cognitive based therapies (CBT) to treat the whole individual and family instead of symptoms of a problem.

When you or a family member feel anxious and uncertain as how to find relief, it’s natural to want a quick fix to remove these feelings. Some providers may recommend or prescribe benzodiazepines (also known as “benzos”) to manage anxiety. However, this class of drugs, should be taken with great caution — almost half of all individuals prescribed benzodiazepines ultimately become physically and psychologically addicted. Benzodiazepines include drugs like Valium, Xanax and Klonopin. They should be used only for acute circumstances and no more than a month. Unfortunately, you cannot stop taking these medications cold turkey. Also, tolerance is easily developed, in which more and more of the drug is needed to provide the same relief as before.

Already addictive on their own, when benzodiazepines are mixed with alcohol or other drugs, it’s far more difficult to stop taking them. There’s an increased risk for addiction and complications when detoxifying. Benzodiazepine users will need to follow a treatment plan to taper off the medication. Withdrawal can cause hand tremors, potential seizures, psychosis and re-ignite or compound the original feelings of anxiety. The brain stops manufacturing its own “feel good chemicals” such as Gaba and dopamine when benzodiazepines are in the system.

Fortunately, safer medical alternatives exist to manage acute or long-term anxiety. Anti-depressants that are Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SRRIs) are proven to help youth manage anxiety without the risk of addiction. Anxiety relief is relatively quick, experienced in the first week or two of use. A variety of SSRI anti-depressants are proven effective for anxiety relief, including Prozac, Paxil, Lexapro, Zoloft, Luvox and Celexa. The need for medication is determined based on an assessment of a person’s medical history and how much anxiety is interfering with one’s ability to cope with daily life. Although antipsychotics may be prescribed to young adults and teens experiencing anxiety, research does not back-up their effectiveness as it does anti-depressants.

While anti-depressants can cause some side effects, these generally go away in a matter of weeks. Side effects could include changes in weight, headaches, drowsiness and gastrointestinal upset.

If your medical provider recommends a benzodiazepine to treat anxiety, insist it be used only for acute, short-term care–or consider other options. The short-term benefit of benzodiazepines to manage a crisis may not be worth the risk when other evidence-based solutions, such as anti-depressants and cognitive-based therapy, are proven to be safe and effective.

If your medical provider recommends a benzodiazepine to treat anxiety, insist it be used only for acute, short-term care–or consider other options. The short-term benefit of benzodiazepines to manage a crisis may not be worth the risk when other evidence-based solutions, such as anti-depressants and cognitive-based therapy, are proven to be safe and effective.

If you or your teen need help in moving forward from benzodiazepine or other addictions, contact Sandstone Care. We will develop a full treatment plan with medical, psychological and social support from our caring team. Rather than judge, we’ll help your family find the strength to cope and replace unhealthy patterns with proven methods to manage anxiety and substance abuse disorders

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