Benzodiazepines, also known as benzos, are medicines with a calming and relaxing effect. Most people also know these as sleeping pills, tranquilizers, or muscle relaxants. Benzodiazepines are often prescribed for anxiety or restlessness, or when there is trouble sleeping but are also prescribed by doctors for other reasons, such as to relax the muscles, if they are causing pain due to cramping, or after surgery.
Benzodiazepines are highly addictive. This means that the body becomes dependent on it quickly, a higher dose of medication is needed for the same effect or withdrawal symptoms occur when the medication is stopped. That is why it is written in all the different package leaflets that this medication should be used as short as possible. The guideline on the duration of use is not specifically named and varies from 2 weeks to 2 months. Always use these medicines in good consultation with a doctor, discuss it with the doctor if you want to stop, and taper off very carefully. If you want to explain to the doctor what you want, you can offer The Ashton Manual to your doctor. You can download the Ashton Manual here.
Many people experience side effects from taking benzodiazepines. These are the most common side effects:
• drowsiness, sleepiness
• less alert, concentration problems
• reduced or no emotional connection with the environment
• flaccid muscles
• no sense in contact
• memory problems
• decreased libido
• an empty feeling
• underestimate dangerous situations
• don't feel like doing anything
• are easily irritated by the environment
• shortness of breath
• tripping, falling faster
• coordination problems phasing out
To avoid dependence, it is crucial to use benzodiazepines for a short period only. You may have been taking this medication for a long time already and your doctor has not warned you about the consequences.
Always consult your doctor if you want to stop taking any medication. It is safest to taper very slowly. Never stop taking benzos abruptly! This can lead to seizures and in the worst case to cardiac arrest. Also, an attempt to stop too quickly often leads to relapse anyway, and the symptoms of withdrawal symptoms are more severe and last longer.
"Reducing very slowly" is a relative term, but usually means a process that takes months, and sometimes years, depending on the dose you take and how your body reacts. So it is personal.
Common physical withdrawal symptoms:
• muscle weakness
• muscle strain
• neck and upper back pain
• gastrointestinal problems
• flu-like symptoms (without fever)
• headache/pressure in and around the head
• visual problems
• trembling, sometimes mainly felt by yourself, sometimes also visible on the outside
• sensory problems in which hypersensitivity to sound or light develops, the taste is changed, or image and/or sound hallucinations
• intense dreams
Here are some common psychological withdrawal symptoms:
• anxiety (sometimes extreme)
• nervousness and restlessness
• memory and concentration problems
• depressive complaints
Withdrawal symptoms usually cause a lot of uncertainty and can lead to wrong diagnoses if the doctor mistakes them for (original) conditions, and can therefore create the situation that
• this medication is used longer than necessary
• tests are done without finding answers
• new medication is prescribed for worsening complaints
• receive medication for new complaints, which arise as a result of the withdrawal and which will also go away on their own.
Scientific research shows that the effect of the benzodiazepines decreases drastically within 2 weeks and that discontinuation is the most logical and healthy choice. Unfortunately, doctors and users are not well informed. When signs of tolerance withdrawal are interpreted as a new condition or worsening of the original complaints, the opposite happens and continuation is advised. Increasing the medication is often the result of the decision to reduce it.