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Side Effects of Anti-Anxiety Drugs (Minor Tranquilizers, benzodiazepines or sedative hypnotics)

November 7, 2007 7 comments

 “1997: A study in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) found that elderly people taking benzodiazepines for anxiety or insomnia are at increased risk for motor vehicle crashes. Brenda Hemmelgarn, M.N., Samy Suissa, Ph.D., and colleagues from McGill University and Royal Victoria Hospital, Montreal, Quebec, studied 224,734 drivers, aged 67 to 84 years and determined a 45% increased rate of motor vehicle crashes involving injuries for elderly patients during the first seven days of taking a long-acting form of benzodiazepine.91”

The below information is taken from a report which overviews the side effects of common psychiatric drugs and includes information on drug regulatory agency warnings, studies and other reports that may not appear in the packaging information for the drugs themselves.

ANTI-ANXIETY DRUGS
(Called Minor Tranquilizers, benzodiazepines or sedative hypnotics)

BRAND NAMES:

Atarax
Ativan
Azene
BuSpar
Centrax
Dalmane
Equanil
Halcion
Klonopin
Lexomyl
Lexotam
Lexotanil
Librax
Libritabs
Librium
Miltown
Paxipam
Reapam
Restoril
Rivotril
Rohypnol
Serapax
Serax
Serestra
Solacen
Stesolid
Temesta
Tranxene
Tybatran
Valium
Verstran
Vistaril
Xanax

SIDE EFFECTS:

Acute hyperexcited states
Aggressive behavior
Agitation
Agranulocytosis
(condition affecting white blood cells causing susceptibility to infection)
Akathisia
Amnesia
Anxiety
Coma
Confusion
Depression
Disorientation
Drowsiness
Epileptic seizures and death have resulted from suddenly stopping
Excitability
Extreme restlessness
Fear
Hallucinations
Hostility
Hysteria
Insomnia
Irritability
Jaundice
Lethargy
Lightheadedness
Liver problems
Memory impairment
Muscle tremors
Nausea
Nervousness
Nightmares
Psychosis
Rage
Sedation
Severe depression
Sexual problems
Sleep disturbances
Slurred speech
Suicide attempt
Transient amnesia
Tremors86

GENERAL WARNINGS AND STUDIES ON ANTI-ANXIETY DRUGS:

Daily use of therapeutic doses of benzodiazepines is associated with physical dependence. Addiction can occur after 14 days of regular use.87 The withdrawal syndrome is similar to that of alcohol withdrawal. Withdrawal “is more prolonged and often more difficult than [withdrawal from] heroin,” stated Dr. Conway Hunter, Jr.88

The typical consequences of withdrawal are anxiety, depression, sweating, cramps, nausea and even psychotic reactions and seizures.89

1990-1996: Benzodiazepines caused 1,810 deaths in Britain, making them more lethal than heroin, cocaine and methadone, which combined accounted for 1,623 deaths.90

1997: A study in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) found that elderly people taking benzodiazepines for anxiety or insomnia are at increased risk for motor vehicle crashes. Brenda Hemmelgarn, M.N., Samy Suissa, Ph.D., and colleagues from McGill University and Royal Victoria Hospital, Montreal, Quebec, studied 224,734 drivers, aged 67 to 84 years and determined a 45% increased rate of motor vehicle crashes involving injuries for elderly patients during the first seven days of taking a long-acting form of benzodiazepine.91

2001: A British study reported an “increase in hostility and aggression may be reported by patients taking benzodiazepines. The effects range from talkativeness and excitement to aggressive and antisocial acts.”92

February 2001: Cases of “baby-battering,” wife-beating and “grandmother-bashing” were attributed to benzodiazepines by a British professor, C. Heather Ashton.93

March 2005: The UK government House of Commons (Parliament) Health Committee released findings of its inquiry into benzodiazepines (minor tranquilizers) and reported, “The side-effects of benzodiazepine treatment are now known to include excessive sedation, decreased attention, amnesia and sometimes intractable dependence. Abrupt cessation can lead to severe withdrawal symptoms, including convulsions in some patients. Short-term treatment and a long tapering period is now recommended to limit these risks.”94

WARNINGS AND STUDIES ON SPECIFIC ANTI-ANXIETY DRUGS:

ROHYPNOL

Note: The United States has not approved Rohypnol (flunitrazepam) for medical use. Consequently, it is smuggled into the United States from Mexico and South America.

A 2000 Swedish study regarding 47 juvenile delinquents found that 40% were acute abusers of a minor tranquilizer, Rohypnol—known as the “fear reducer” and “date rape” drug—that enabled them to commit extremely violent crimes. Abusers showed no guilt about their violent offenses: “When I stabbed him, it felt like putting a knife into butter,” states the report. “I didn’t feel any emotion when I stabbed him five times,” a teenager reported.95

It is also known as a “club drug,” a general term for a number of illicit drugs, primarily synthetic, that are most commonly encountered at nightclubs and “raves.” The drugs have gained popularity primarily due to the false perception that they are not as harmful, nor as addictive, as mainstream drugs such as cocaine and heroin. The drug chemically induces amnesia and often causes decreased blood pressure, drowsiness, visual disturbances, dizziness, confusion, gastrointestinal disturbances, and urinary retention.96

XANAX:

December 1990: Dr. John Steinberg, medical director of the Chemical Dependency Program at the Greater Baltimore Medical Center and president of the Maryland Society of Addiction Medicine, confirmed that patients taking one Xanax tablet each day for several weeks can become addicted. After a patient stops taking the Xanax, according to Steinberg, it takes the brain six to eighteen months to recover. Xanax patients should be warned, he said, that it can take a long time to get over painful withdrawal symptoms.97
Drug experts say Xanax is more addictive than most illegal drugs, including cocaine or heroin, and once someone is hooked, getting off it can be a tortuous and even deadly experience.98

According to a 1984 study of Xanax, “Extreme anger and hostile behavior emerged from eight of the first 80 patients we treated with alprazolam [Xanax]. The responses consisted of physical assaults by two patients, behavior potentially dangerous to others by two more, and verbal outbursts by the remaining four.” The study reported that a woman who had no history of violence before taking Xanax “erupted with screams on the fourth day of taking alprazolam treatment, and held a steak knife to her mother’s throat for a few minutes.”99

In a later study, more than half of the Xanax study group experienced “dyscontrol,” meaning violence or loss of control of aggressive behavior. The violence included “deep neck cuts…wrist cuts…tried to break own arm…threw chair at child…arm and head banging…jumped in front of a car.”100
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The Citizens Commission on Human Rights investigates and exposes psychiatric violations of human rights. It works shoulder-to-shoulder with like-minded groups and individuals who share a common purpose to clean up the field of mental health. It shall continue to do so until psychiatry’s abusive and coercive practices cease and human rights and dignity are returned to all.

For further information consult the Physicians’ Desk Reference, which can be found at http://www.pdrhealth.com. It could be dangerous to immediately cease taking psychiatric drugs because of significant and dangerous withdrawal side effects. No one should stop taking any psychiatric drug without the advice and assistance of a competent, medical doctor. This report and CCHR does not offer medical advice or recommendations.