RED FLAGS THAT YOUR BZ MAY BE YOUR PROBLEM

Patients taking benzodiazepines (BZs) often dismiss the dangers and physical dependence issues by rationalizing that they do not abuse or misuse their prescription and have no intention of ever coming off the drug or facing withdrawal.  Compounding these false conceptions, many doctors are not fully educated on the depth of problems surrounding this class of drug.

Unfortunately, the reality is that a percentage of patients run into serious problems while taking their prescription exactly as prescribed by their doctor. Adverse effects, interdose withdrawal, and tolerance are a few of the issues that may begin to surface. These issues can present relatively quickly after starting the drug, or it can take months or even years for obvious problems to manifest.  The symptoms may hit suddenly like a “ton of bricks” or may start to gradually build over time. The patient may find themselves deteriorating, feeling worse and worse, leading to more difficulty in functioning and sometimes even eventual disability.

Most often the doctor and patient will not connect the problems back to the benzodiazepine. This critical oversight can easily lead to a myriad of independent diagnoses, and all too frequently, an increase in dosage and/or additional prescriptions being added to the mix.

If you or a loved one are taking a benzodiazepine, it is crucially important that you familiarize yourself with the potential signs, symptoms and red-flag warnings. Because of the “spellbinding” and sedating nature of these drugs, and the fact the individual’s situation may slowly worsen over a longer period of time, it can be difficult to fully recognize the escalating problems and make the connection. This, combined with the lack of benzodiazepine education among medical professionals, may cause the patient to truly believe their health is declining for “no apparent reason” or that they are “going crazy.” For many, it took years of suffering and a downward spiral of health before putting the pieces together that it was the drug causing damage and increasing cognitive/mental and/or physical health deterioration.

We’ve compiled a list of symptoms that benzodiazepine patients reported experiencing while still on their prescription, as well as the ultimate reasons people decided to come off the BZs.

(NOTE:  These patient-reported signs and symptoms were either nonexistent prior to the benzodiazepine prescription, or exponentially worsened while taking the drug.  For instance, those put on these drugs for anxiety may begin experiencing intensifying anxiety and panic attacks like they’ve never before experienced.  Often, this is incorrectly attributed to the original, pre-existing condition worsening.)

THESE ARE JUST SOME OF THE MANY REPORTED SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS INDICATING YOU OR SOMEONE YOU CARE ABOUT MAY BE HAVING PROBLEMS WITH A BENZODIAZEPINE PRESCRIPTION:

 MENTAL/COGNITIVE/BEHAVIORAL SIGNS 

  •  Aggressive Behavior
  • Agitation/Irritability/Short Tempered/Rage Outbursts
  • Agoraphobia
  • Anhedonia
  • Anxiety/Panic/Terror Attacks/Development of Various Fears and Phobias
  • Apathy
  • Cognitive Impairment/Fog
  • Confusion
  • Crying
  • Depression
  • Depersonalization
  • Derealization
  • Dysphoria
  • Emotional Lability
  • Feeling numb or like a “zombie on autopilot”/Feeling over-sedated
  • Hallucinations
  • Hearing Voices
  • Impaired Judgment
  • Intrusive thoughts/Excessive negative thinking and feelings of doom
  • Irrational Thoughts and Behavior
  • Loss of Creativity
  • Mania
  • Memory & Concentration Issues
  • Monophobia
  • Mood Swings
  • Neurocognitive problems
  • Obsessive compulsive or other “odd” behavior
  • Paranoia
  • Personality Changes
  • Reckless Behavior
  • Self-Harming Thoughts and Behavior
  • Stress Intolerance
  • Suicidal Ideation

 PHYSICAL SIGNS 

  • Adrenaline Rushes
  • Akathisia/Restlessness
  • Allergies & Sensitivities increasing or developing
  • Appetite changes
  • Aura
  • Blood Pressure Issues, fluctuations
  • Cardiac Symptoms – Bradycardia (slow heart rate), Tachycardia (rapid heart rate), Heart Palpitations, Pounding heart
  • Clenching jaw, especially during sleep (TMJ)
  • Chills
  • Increased susceptibility to illness, stress on the immune system
  • Diminished Motor Skills – Clumsiness, Coordination Problems, Difficulty walking, Dropping things, Falling down
  • Dizziness/Vertigo/Balance Issues (General vestibular disturbances)
  • Drooling
  • Dysautonomia Symptoms
  • Dysphagia (swallowing difficulty)
  • Earache
  • Exhaustion
  • Fainting
  • Fasciculations (benign)
  • Fatigue/Lethargy/Weakness
  • Flu-Like Symptoms
  • Frequent Urination
  • Gastrointestinal Symptoms
  • Grinding Teeth / TMJ problms
  • Hair Loss
  • Headaches
  • Hearing loss or changes
  • Hormonal Issues
  • Hyperacusis (sensitivity to sound frequency)
  • Inner Vibrating or Buzzing
  • Intolerance to cold and heat
  • Itching/Skin Rashes/Hives
  • Joint Pain (And other joint issues)
  • Lightheaded
  • Loss of Coordination
  • Malaise
  • Menstrual Issues
  • Migraine with or without aura
  • Motion sickness susceptibility
  • Muscle Symptoms – Clenching, Cramping, Loss of muscle tone, Over-or under-active muscle reflexes, Pain, Spasms, Squeezing, Stiffness, Tension, Twitching
  • Nerve Pain
  • Paresthesia – Tingling, tickling, prickling, numbness, burning of skin
  • Perceptual disturbance (feeling of being on a boat, feelings of unreality, deja vu, etc.)
  • Peripheral Neuropathy
  • Photophobia
  • Phonophobia
  • Respiratory – Shortness of breath, Can’t get deep breath, Labored breathing, Over-breathing
  • Sensitivity to light and sound
  • Sensitivity to smells, including naturally occurring smells or chemicals such as fragrance
  • Sensitivity to temperature, weather and pressure changes
  • Shaking/Rigors/Tremors
  • Sleep Issues – Excessive sleeping, Insomnia, Myoclonic jerks, Sleep paralysis, No dreaming, Vivid dreaming, Nightmares
  • Slurred Speech
  • Sweats
  • Tachycardia between doses or in the morning, or generalized
  • Tight Throat/Ball-in-throat sensation
  • Tinnitus (Ringing or pulsatile effects in ears)
  • Tremors
  • Vision Issues – blurred vision, seeing spots, grainy visions, after-images, sensitivities
  • Weight Loss
  • Withdrawal symptoms that will intensify between doses or near dosing times

 IN GENERAL

Increasing trips to the doctor and Emergency Room

THE FOLLOWING ARE A FEW OF THE PATIENT-REPORTED REASONS FOR DISCONTINUING BENZODIAZEPINE PRESCRIPTION:

  • Increasing symptoms and declining health due to adverse effects of the drug
  • Tolerance and inter-dose withdrawal issues causing patients to face more frequent dosing and/or escalating dosage amounts
  • Emergence of true paradoxical effects when dosing
  • Desire to get pregnant
  • Not wanting to be physically and mentally dependent on a drug for the rest of their lives
  • Fear of increasing legal restrictions being implemented on benzodiazepines thereby risking being “cut off” and facing coming off the drug down the line – potentially via dangerous cold turkey or rapid taper
  • Advised by doctor to stop taking it – necessitating taper