Xanax and Klonopin: Are They Hurting You?

xanax and klonopinJ.T. Junig, MD, PhD, has been writing about the dangers of Xanax and Klonopin, as well as other benzodiazepines for quite a while.[1] According to him, and many studies, the drugs are terribly over-used by patients, due to the over-prescribing of psychiatrists for patient complaints of anxiety.1

However, when benzodiazepines (like xanax and klonopin) are prescribed to treat anxiety, it is often not told that they will often aggravate the symptoms if taken regularly.1 Patients develop a physical and psychological dependence to benzodiazepines very quickly—they are very addictive drugs—and once they become physically tolerant on the drug, the withdrawal symptoms that they experience when a dose is missed are miserable.1 The withdrawal symptoms actually manifest as symptoms of their own anxiety disorder.1 In fact, after physical tolerance is developed, symptoms that were once considered manageable by the patient become part of the unmanageable symptoms of the anxiety disorder.1

Anxiety means different things to different people, and it doesn’t always require a prescription pad.1 Junig once has a patient who came to him with anxiety, and when asked to describe it in detail, he said, “I will pace around the house, looking for something to do. I will turn on the TV and change channels, but there is nothing interesting. I feel restless and bored. I need to get out of the house, but there is nothing for me to get outside to do. I’m like a caged animal. You know, anxiety!”1

When Junig asked if he meant that he was bored, the patient responded, “No. Boredom is where this is something to do that isn’t interesting. This is just having nothing to do at all. It makes me uncomfortable.”1

When therapy was prescribed instead of a benzodiazepine, the patient went to see another doctor who prescribed him 10mg of Valium to be taken three times per day.1 However, this patient did not have the amount of anxiety that may warrant a prescription for a benzodiazepine, but he will become physically tolerant and wind up experiencing the withdrawal and anxiety symptoms from the medicine.1

Junig states that patients who do suffer from clinically severe anxiety may not even benefit from benzodiazepines due to their significant side-effects.1 Benzodiazepines, like xanax and klonopin, cause amnesia and cognitive impairments.1 They prevent people from learning to deal with the sources of their anxiety.1 It leads them to rely on the medicine to live comfortably.

Patients and their clinicians should take a more open-minded look at the role of medicines in treatment for anxiety.1 Stopping a benzodiazepine is physically and psychologically challenging, as it can cause seizures and death if done too abruptly.1 No one should ever try cold-turkey detox with these medicines.1 For even slow tapering is often very uncomfortable with sleepless nights and irritable days.1 However, the reward is worth it: mental clarity, less anxiety, and less fatigue.1 Unfortunately, the odds for so many to successfully stop is so low that efforts are instead focused on preventing dose escalation over time.1

There are other treatments out there for anxiety, which should all be tried before a prescription for a benzodiazepine is begun.1 Benzodiazepines should be a last resort.

[1] Junig, J. (2014). Is Xanax or Klonopin Killing You?. Psych Central. Retrieved on April 1, 2014, from http://blogs.psychcentral.com/epidemic-addiction/2014/03/is-xanax-or-klonopin-killing-you/

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