Benzodiazepines : Socially Acceptable Drowning

As many people reading this have been with their families long enough at this point to start taking sedatives or hypnotics to cope, I figured that Black Friday’s harm reduction post should focus on benzodiazepines. They were developed early in the history of pharmaceuticals, with the first going on sale in 1960, becoming the most prescribed medication in 1977, with numbers dropping since.Benzos have a long  history. Which I have no part in, so I won’t be taking time to explain it here. As some of the people reading this have giant chunks of those memories voided by said benzos.

They’re essentially chemical sledgehammers, enhancing the effect of GABA a central neurotransmitter, globally across the brain. This pervasive shift causes the relaxation & lowering of energy we’ve come to associate with Xanax, Valium Klonopin, Ativan and others. This a rudimentary paradigm to work around, and has been the source of a lot of controversy because of it. Instead of getting into a back and forth about the effectiveness of Xanax as a recreational drug or prescription, I wanted to make sure that you knew what’s been going on with Benzos in the research world, and hopefully give you a better understanding of the risks so you can make whatever choice is best for you or the people you know taking the stuff.

Firstly, a paper from 2014, published in the British Medical Journal in 2014 showed that long-term benzo usage was associated with a 43% increase in risk for Alzheimer’s. I’m not kidding.  When most people interviewed on the subject recommend transitioning patients to other, more modern drugs, I think we can all start safely saying these things shouldn’t be taken casually.

Something I’d not heard of at all, heavy use of benzos like Xanax are strongly correlated with treatment resistant depression. A study published in The Journal of Nervous & Mental Disease less than 2 months ago, implicates heavy benzo use as one of the only real strikingly correlated features of the treatment-resistant depression population. So next time your mopey friend wants to take 5 bars of Xanax to deal with the doldrums, maybe let them know about this recent finding.

If you only take away one piece of wisdom from this article, please let it be this. Multiple sources report that PTSD & Benzos/Xanax do not mix. To the point where they’re actually “contraindicated” for PTSD. Meaning, not only does it not help, it actually hurts in some cases. A meta-analysis, published in the Journal of Psychiatric Practice, evaluated 18 different trials, totaling more than 5200 patients. They found that Benzos are not recommended for either PTSD or recent trauma. This is a finding from July of this year, so if you know anyone that is still coping with trauma, make sure they’re not making it worse by slamming Valium, especially if their doctor has recommended against it.

Additionally, we are starting to notice the epidemic of use that many recreational drug users seem to joke about weekly. Many depression sufferers take it as well, and we can only wonder how if it helps them, given what we know now. We’re giving the elderly benzos at a somewhat terrifying rate, so at this point, we can only be cautious.

They are fabulously useful when it comes to dealing with overtly tripping or psychotic states, in addition to muscle pain. But the point of these 600 words is really to use these drugs very carefully if you choose to use them at all. Recreational use can lead to dependence, and dependence looks to be associated with a bunch of garbage. The odd, occasional use probably is harmless, but if you’re one of those people who can’t get on a plane without red wine & valium, maybe it’s time to think about using a newer, safer drug. Or maybe we should stop letting our friends socially drown in environments and situations that require taking these things, hours and days need to be voided from memory. But, that’s just a thought of course.

If you have questions, or want to keep the conversation going, join Ravelrie, Stay Safe Seattle, New York DanceSafe & I on Twitter using #BenzosFF at 1:30p PST.

8 comments on “Benzodiazepines : Socially Acceptable Drowning

  1. Pingback: History Of The User & Society: An Introduction | Burners.Me: Me, Burners and The Man

  2. Just to put this in perspective, folks between the ages of 65 and 80 have a 7.14 chance of developing Alzheimer’s. A 43% percent increase would up that figure to a 10.24% chance.

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