Take This, Not That
Replacing one addiction with a reliance on another prescription drug is nothing new. Doctors have been prescribing Methadone to treat the effects of Heroin withdrawal for decades, but over the past 20 years, it has also become popular for doctors to prescribe Benzodiazepines in the treatment of former Cocaine and Amphetamine users.
Benzodiazepines, or “Benzos” as they’re commonly called, were first introduced in the 1970’s to treat seizures, and used as general tranquilizers. They work by mimicking the action of a natural brain chemical called GABA which works to quiet the brain. Popular Benzos like Klonopin have not only seen a rise in popularity among doctors, but are also one of the top five most abused drugs in cities like Los Angeles, and Atlanta.
With their calming effect on the brain, it may seem logical that physicians would prescribe them to help patients suffering from Cocaine or Amphetamine withdrawal symptoms like anxiety. Drugs like Klonopin however, may be even more dangerous than the user’s original drug of choice. With a recommended maximum usage of nine weeks, it’s easy for the patient to become dependent on the drug quickly, and then be faced with a new addiction while they’re still recovering from the first.
Singer Stevie Nicks has been extremely candid about her addiction to Cocaine, and has publically blasted her doctors’ use of Klonopin as a means to alleviate her anxiety after a stay at the Betty Ford Clinic. She told Oprah Winfrey in 2013 that the drug turned her into a couch potato for three years, and that for her, the addiction to Klonopin was much stronger, and harder to shake than her original problem with Cocaine. Eventually it would take a 47-day stay in a residence recovery program to fully detox from the drug.
Long detox experiences like Stevie’s are not uncommon for those recovering from Benzodiazepine addiction. Benzos like Klonopin are known for intense withdrawal symptoms such as panic attacks, prolonged insomnia, heart palpatations, paranoia, suicidal thoughts and depression. All of which can be experienced without going off the drug completely, but by simply decreasing the dosage of medication.
While other drugs like Cocaine and Amphetamines may carry their own set of unpleasant withdrawal symptoms, Benzodiazepine withdrawals are especially nasty as they can continue on a long-term basis. Some even report the effects of Benzodiazepine withdrawal years after recovery, while others have died due to extended use of these drugs.
So is it worth the risk to take Benzodiazepines in the treatment of other withdrawal symptoms? The answer to this question is no doubt different for each individual. However, the physical and long-term dangers of Benzodiazepines should be taken seriously, and not sold to the patient as an entirely “safe” option to treat their symptoms.