Skip to comments.A Host of Anxiety Drugs, Begat by Valium
Posted on 02/24/2005 4:19:25 PM PST by neverdem
Among famous inventors, Leo H. Sternbach may not immediately leap to mind.
But this May in Akron, Ohio, Dr. Sternbach, who is 96, will be inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame. He holds more than 240 patents, but perhaps his most famous invention, in collaboration with colleagues, is a chemical compound called diazepam, better known by its brand name, Valium.
One of the earliest benzodiazepines, Valium was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 1963 as a treatment for anxiety, and it would become not only the country's best-selling drug, but an American cultural icon.
Referred to knowingly in Woody Allen movies, enshrined as "Mother's Little Helper" in the Rolling Stones song, condemned as poisonous in best-selling books, Valium reached the height of its popularity in 1978, a year when Americans consumed 2.3 billion of the little yellow pills.
But by the 1980's its reputation for creating abuse and withdrawal problems was well known, and the new selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors like Prozac were widely considered better treatments for anxiety and panic disorders.
Still, the benzodiazepines - there are now more than a dozen others available besides Valium - never disappeared. They are still widely prescribed and, in the view of many doctors, extremely effective in treating not only anxiety and panic disorder, but bipolar illness, insomnia, catatonia and alcohol and drug withdrawal.
"The key is to use them correctly," said Dr. Eric Hollander, director of clinical psychopharmacology at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York.
Using them correctly is not so simple. Benzodiazepines cause sedation, which can be either therapeutic or a side effect, depending on the patient's ailment. Dr. Steven Roose, professor of clinical psychiatry at Columbia University, said that for anxiety the "S.S.R.I.'s are still the first-line treatment, but they can initially cause an exaggeration of anxiety symptoms."
"Pretreating with benzos can prevent this," Dr. Roose continued, citing Ativan, which "can be used for the sleep problems that S.S.R.I.'s can cause, although it should be used only for a brief term."
The use of benzodiazepines in drug withdrawal may seem paradoxical, since they can be addictive themselves.
But the newer longer-acting benzodiazepines like Klonopin may have fewer withdrawal problems than the older drugs because they are metabolized more slowly and leave the body gradually.
Even though they don't usually induce euphoria, benzopiazepines can become street drugs of abuse for their sedating effect, and some cocaine users like them to "chill out."
The benzodiazepines can also impair motor function, especially during the first weeks of treatment, and cause temporary memory impairment. The drugs do not help with depression, so those with both anxiety and depression, a common combination, may be better off with the double effect of the S.S.R.I.'s.
People who use alcohol as self-medication for anxiety are not good candidates for benzodiazepines, which can be deadly when combined with drinking.
Perhaps most notoriously, there is the danger of addiction, but some believe that may be exaggerated.
"My view is that the risk of dependency and tolerance is overblown," said Dr. Michael Craig Miller, assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard and editor in chief of The Harvard Mental Health Letter. "People being treated for anxiety are not looking for a high; they're looking for relief from their anxiety symptoms, and if benzos give it to them, that's good."
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The benzos are very nice for treatment of certain illness.
benzo's can be the worst and hardest drug to get off of and then you can get severe protracted withdrawl....much worse than Heroin.....I know cause some jerk put me on Klonopin about 14 years ago cause of some situational panic attacks. Well i moved alot so just stayed on them......when going off several years ago, I almost died and suffered severe neurological, adreanal, brain and immune system problems. In bed for almost a year and 3 years to recover. I finally found websites that others went thru this severe protracted withdrawl......this crap is nothing to fool with if on for longer than a few weeks.......
What went wrong with the adrenal gland dysfunction and immune system, if I may ask.?
FWIW I understand that some people experience adrenal exhaustion during withdrawal from these drugs. It is not commonly diagnosed as the symptoms are nebulous but some think it is fairly common especially if the person has been under long term stress.
I've been on Ativan for 3 weeks now, prescribed by my doctor as a way to get off of Effexor. He prescribed 2-3 a day, but most days I'm only doing one, mostly to help me sleep. Boy, do I sleep solidly when I do. But out of fear of addiction, I'm trying to avoid more use than that.
Three years ago, I was taken to the emergency room for a back injury. After three hours of morphine (iv) not even putting a dent in the pain, the attending m.d. gave me valium and toradol mixed together. Within 25 min. 80% of the pain was gone. Within 45 min. I was pain free and released the next day. I realize some have addiction problems, but I found valium (mixed with toradol) to be nothing short of a miracle.
ativan and xanax are the shortest acting......i'm not trying to scare anyone but being on this crap longer than a couple of weeks is playing with fire.......google benzodiapzipine protracted withdrawl and I can give you sites that you would read horror stories on......and I mean horror stories......not what you see on tv when an addict is kicking.....i mean ruined devastated lives cause you can't function......not everyone goes thru this but if you are in the 15% that do.....you will never, and I mean never go thru anything worse.........not even 9/11 was worse than this
Ativan can tackle severe anxiety and catatonia in one hour.
yeah.....but soon you will build tolerance and up regulate your receptor sites, need more and possibly it can become toxic......this is NOT a long term solution......I don't want to ponificate, but I'm an expert in this stuff and know more about it than most doctors.....unless someone is in the less than 1% that actually have a chemical imbalance, this stuff is trouble at least long term
I know nothing about either of the maladies your mention, but I do know that when my back pain was kicking morphine's a$$, valium came to the rescue.
Valium is known to be much less effective when given IM (into the muscle), but works well orally, intraveneously, and even rectally. In fact, many kids with seizure disorders have a syringe of Diastat at home (valium that is given rectally). The rectal route is almost as well absorbed as the IV route. The problem with IV valium is of the high risk of respiratory arrest. However, I'm glad the combo of Valium and Toradol worked for you.
Not a long term solution, but in the short term, some of the best pychoactive meds around.
I am sincerely glad you made it through okay. I have read the horror stories of protracted benzo withdrawal. This is coming from somebody who has been through full blown opiate withdrawal before, and despite how agonizing that was (so painful, you can't even imagine it unless you've lived it) I was always deathly afraid of (and thankfull that it wasn't) benzos because of what I knew about them.
I can't beleive the irresponsiblity of doctors who let that happen to a patient. Some doctors are just plain ignorant about the drugs they give.
Hope that you're feeling better now, and I wish you the best, I honestly do. Even though opiates is a whole different ball game, I know what it's like to feel something that there are just no words to describe and nobody could even come close to understanding unless they'd lived it.
And with opiates you start to feel better in a few days, I shudder to think of going through something like that for MONTHS.
It's no picnic living with her and my gyn. gave me ativan this summer - a fifteen pill Rx with half left. My sister is at the point that she can hide her own Easter eggs. We used to be able to have discussions, but her train of thought is constantly derailed these days.
What do you think, is it possible the benzo drugs are contributing to her anxiety? And what would be the alternative, since without the drugs she's self destructive?
thanks Bones......and opiates are recognized as the 2nd worse wd......but you are right......it was months of agony, I couldn't walk around the block for 10 months, and it took me 18 months to go back to the gym (and I was a natural bodybuilder)....I'm glad you realize the horrors of this sh**. I don't blame those that haven't lived it but like you said, it makes other withdrawls look like a day at the beach.....and it can go on for months and years cause the central nervous system is the slowest healing in the body....I am 90% now and thanks........I appreciate it, but it took alot of work on my part to get her, and yes, I blame the drug companies and the idiot doctors who throw pills out and not tell anyone about the risks......glad you made it too........
How much valium were you taking and how long had you been on it before you tried to withdraw?
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