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Benzodiazepines Addiction

Millions of American are prescribed benzodiazepines each year in order to help with sleep issues. Of those millions, thousands are pregnant mothers depending on the prescribed drug to help them sleep or lesson high anxiety.  It is now understood by many that benzodiazepines are highly addictive and can cause severe withdrawal symptoms.  Unfortunately, many prescribed patients are unaware of the effects of these drugs before they become addicted or pregnant.

Benzodiazepines such as Ativan, Klonopin, Valium and Librium and Xanax are prescribed for insomnia, anxiety, seizures, muscle spasms and sleep issues.  They aid in producing sedation, inducing sleep and relieving anxiety by slowing down the central nervous system.  In general, benzodiazepines are safe and effective in the short term although aggression or impulsivity may be present as a side effect.  In addition, it is quite easy to build up a tolerance to the prescription leading to increased dosages and usage.  Most concerning is the long-term affect and addictive quality of the drug.

The withdrawal effects that people experience while trying to decrease dosages are extremely uncomfortable and may include increased anxiety, muscle pain or burning, depression and prolonged insomnia.  These symptoms may last from days to months, depending on several factors such as the length of time the drugs have been taken and the dosage.

Since these drugs are passed through the placental wall to the newborn during pregnancy, all newborns are affected by withdrawal symptoms as they are essentially quitting the drug cold turkey.  It is never advised to quit using benzodiazepines suddenly. To do so would put you at risk for withdrawal seizures resulting in death, coma, psychotic episodes and panic reactions.

Complications during recovery in newborns include breathing problems, sucking difficulties, poor body temperature control and poor muscle tone. The passing of the drug can continue through breastfeeding and may offer a better alternative to forcing them into abrupt withdrawal symptoms if dosages can be tapered off.

There are qualified professionals and support groups who can help you through the long recovery process.  In particular, Sleep Psychologists work closely with primary care providers to implement Cognitive Behavioral Therapies while gradually weaning patients off benzodiazepines.  If you are having sleep or anxiety issues, be sure to understand side effects of any drug you are prescribed.  In addition, knowing about the long term effects and possible withdrawal issues will help you to communicate with your psychologist and care provider in a more effective manner.

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