Benzodiazepines: The Gifts That Keep on Giving

how do benzodiazepines work

How to calm anxiety? How to manage panic attack symptoms and stress? A gift of relief would be wonderful. Unfortunately, the gift often given, and accepted, may unpleasantly keep on giving. The benzodiazepine chat is ongoing…

Cognitive effects can include short-term memory loss from the moment you start taking benzos, which is heightened with larger or longer-term doses. There may also be a greater dementia risk.

Received an email from staff at London’s KlearMinds expressing interest in presenting a guest post.

She even asked for my preferred subject matter. So, I requested a piece on long-term benzodiazepine use.

The primary reason for my request was seeing more and more cases of inexplicable cognitive and physical symptoms in folks who’ve used benzos for extended periods of time. The other reason was knowing there’s much more emphasis on the dangers of long-term benzo use in the UK vs. the US.

‘Nuff said. KlearMinds: your dime, your dance floor…

Negative Side Effects to Excessive Benzodiazepine Use

We’re all looking for that little pick me up to keep things ticking over, especially when we are at our most vulnerable. Many individuals turn to medicines to curb their emotions and, often, these treatments have been at least mildly successful in calming users down and giving them a more level head.

Benzodiazepines (as well as Z-drugs) are known for their use in anxiety sufferers, as well as those with sleep issues or other emotional/mental disorders. The thing about these drugs is they may work incredibly well in the short-term, often only being prescribed for two to four weeks.

Taking the drugs for any longer than is necessary can have a number of unwanted side effects. This can range from small things like occasional drowsiness to bigger issues such as full-blown addiction. Abuse of this medicine can make you worse off than you were before you started taking it!

A number of studies on these drugs have taken place by names including Professor Malcolm H. Lader of King’s College London. Many share similar views on the use of benzos and how damaging excessive use can be in the long-term.

The effects of these medicines can be categorised into three different topics: psychological, cognitive, and physical. The psychological symptoms of overuse tend to show up as paradoxical problems, meaning that all the symptoms you had prior to treatment get exacerbated, giving you bigger issues than you started with. You may also become more uncharacteristic in your actions, which may be made worse with alcohol.

Cognitive effects can include short-term memory loss from the moment you start taking benzos, which is heightened with larger or longer-term doses. There may also be a greater dementia risk.

Physical symptoms that indicate you may have taken too much of the medicine include rashes, weight gain, and impaired sexual function. If spotted early the effects of these symptoms can be managed and resolved in short order, but not everyone gets treated in time.

The Backstory

Benzodiazepines were first marketed back in 1960. Their original intended use was for those with debilitating anxiety or insomnia and even those suffering from seizures and epilepsy. And by 1988 advice from officials limited the marketing of these drugs as guidelines were put firmly in place.

It was during this same year that it was claimed that misuse of benzos was “of little or no consequence.” By 1991 it was reported that children between the ages of 13 and 14 were using the drugs for recreational use alongside MDMA and LSD, which is around the same time it gained popularity with alcohol and drug rehabilitation patients. People were exaggerating health conditions to their doctors to gain surplus tablets.

The street value of benzos around 2002 was about £1 ($1.36) a tab, making them one of the cheapest alternatives to hard drugs.

From 2004 to 2005 there were just under 20 million prescriptions for benzos and Z-drugs in England.

When 2014 rolled around it was already clear that these drugs were a cause for concern and became much more concerning when studies discovered that people who had used benzos in the past increased their chances of developing Alzheimer’s by up to a staggering 51%.


When suffering from anxiety, down with depression, or having sleepless nights there are many solutions out there for you. Yes, tablets may be a short-term option. If you think you need medication for your condition speak with your GP or psychiatrist and discuss the options. But before and after the discussion, do your due diligence. Of course, therapy needs to be #1 on your to-do list.

That’s a Wrap

Thanks for the guest post, KlearMind. Lots of important info. By the way, the link in the previous paragraph will take you to a page on KlearMind’s website. While you’re there, browse. I think you’ll find some helpful tidbits. And if you live in the London area, be sure to check-out their services.

Okay, so more insight pertaining to benzodiazepines and their use. No way can we grab too much info.

How to calm anxiety? How to manage panic attack symptoms and stress? When it comes to benzos, the gift of relief may well unpleasantly keep on giving – for many years to come.

If you’re considering using benzos – or have been using them for an extended period of time – please take this article into consideration.

The Chipur benzodiazepines articles…

Benzodiazepines: The Need-to-Know Series

Benzodiazepines: The Need-to-Know Series | Dependence

Benzodiazepines: The Need-to-Know Series | Withdrawal

What to Do for Anxiety? “Benzodiazepines, of course.” Hold on There, Partner!

Benzodiazepines: The Gifts That Keep on Giving

Benzodiazepines: Time to Say Goodbye?

Plenty more where these came from. Check-out the Chipur titles.

  • JAnn January 21, 2015, 10:22 pm

    Benzos are so dangerous and so deceptively gentle at first. I’m doing the slow benzo withdrawal now and am seriously courting neuroplasticity for my damaged gray matter! Thanks for keeping this topic going, Bill!

  • Chipur January 22, 2015, 9:34 am

    And thank you for helping Chipur perpetuate the benzo discussion, JAnn. Your visits and participation are always appreciated. “Deceptively gentle at first…” You express that perfectly. Wishing you the best re your withdrawal, and here’s to neuroplasticity. Update us along the way, if you’d like…


  • Chipur January 22, 2015, 2:36 pm

    Special thoughts for those who are currently using benzos, many for long periods of time. Please don’t receive this piece as one of judgment. I fully understand and respect how one could get stuck in the benzo cyclone. I just want to help you break free. And please don’t feel hopelessly/helplessly discouraged. You can overcome your circumstances. Please consider a taper/cessation protocol, should you believe you’re in over your head…


    • npeden January 23, 2015, 6:45 pm

      Fraid I can’t right now and I will pay a price for it.

  • Cathy | Treatment Talk January 22, 2015, 3:00 pm

    Good insights here Bill for anyone considering taking Benzos. The study that “discovered that people who had used benzos in the past increased their chances of developing Alzheimer’s by up to a staggering 51%” was startling. I would think that alone would be a huge deterrent. You always provide such excellent information!

    • Chipur January 22, 2015, 5:28 pm

      So how ’bout those potential cognitive issues?! And I’m telling you, most users – or those considering using benzos – have no idea it’s an issue. Not to mention other potential problems. I really wonder how much “informed consent” goes on at the prescriber’s office. Or maybe the prescriber doesn’t perceive a problem. That’s incredibly troubling! Sharing, learning, and healing are what Chipur’s about. Hence, the benzo chat will continue.

      Appreciate you, Cathy…

  • Lisa Frederiksen | BreakingThe January 23, 2015, 1:34 pm

    SUCH an important topic, Bill – and thank you KlearMinds for sharing this information. I know for me, it was very helpful to learn the science behind stress and how chronic stress can hijack the brain’s normal functioning, with one of the outcomes being sleep problems. The role and importance of sleep, mindfulness practices, therapy, nutrition and exercise as “things” a person can do to reduce stress, and therefore anxiety and sleepless nights, is coming to light with this new science, as well. Thanks for all you do, Bill, to keep us in the know….

    • Chipur January 23, 2015, 6:06 pm

      Hey. Lisa – welcome back. And thank you for your participation.

      Seriously important topic, it is. My heart goes out to folks who report such troubling, seemingly inexplicable, symptoms – and then it comes out they’ve used benzos for an extended period of time. What a waste! And my mind goes to “Damn, I wish we could have gotten to the sufferer before they filled that first script. Maybe we could have saved them tons of grief.” Right?

      And then you raise a great point – besides popping a pill, what’s a person to do when anxiety, stress, insomnia come a calling? As you say, that’s where sleep, mindfulness practices, therapy, nutrition, exercise, etc. come into play.

      Again, thanks for your insight here, Lisa. As our friend Dr. Herby Bell says, “Let’s save some lives!”


  • npeden January 23, 2015, 6:44 pm

    Ok, I am guilty. I take 3 mg. at night. A really dumb psych put me on klonopin to sleep and to detox during sleep is nearly impossible. I will have to start taking it during the day when I can take inositol or something else to calm myself. But I have very hi glutamate and klonopin is recommended for it. But I fear I will pay eventually.

    • Chipur January 23, 2015, 7:37 pm

      So glad you posted, Nancy. It’s really important to me that this article not generate guilt – not at all the intention. But I think you know that, right? Hey, you’re doing what you have to do just now to keep things cruisin’. You’ll get to it, should you choose, in time. Damn that glutamate, huh…


  • jeannieg84 April 7, 2015, 12:55 pm

    “We’re all looking for that little pick me up to keep things ticking over, especially when we are at our most vulnerable.” I almost stopped reading when I read that line. When I am in extreme distress, I’m not looking for a little pick-me-up. I’m looking for just enough relief to help me through the worst of acute panic, so that I can get back to the level on which I live most of the time – the level where anxiety is ever-present but I use other tools to continuously (and exhaustingly) manage, manage, manage it. I understand the dangers of regular and long term use of benzos. I rarely use the Klonopin that I won’t leave home without. I just need to know it is there, for those occasional moments when I’m experiencing full-blown panic and I don’t have the luxury of not going to work, or of leaving work, or of not having to work in the first place.

    • Chipur April 7, 2015, 6:46 pm

      Hey, jeannieg84!

      Thank you for your visit and contribution. I’m glad you hung in there and got by her bothersome observation. Now that I re-read, it does come-off as minimizing, disrespectful – insulting. My apologies.

      As one who’s life pretty much came to an end because of panic, GAD, dissociative states, and agoraphobia – I really do “get it.” Of course, I did the Valium and Klonopin things. And I sure as heck know what it’s like to carry a pocket-sized pill box – just so I know it’s there.

      I appreciate the hard work it takes for you to “continuously (and exhaustingly) manage, manage, manage it.” And I respect you for it.

      Please come back, okay? Thank You…

    • BCat April 9, 2015, 12:01 pm

      Jeannie, I know of what you speak. I can’t even get benzos from my docs because I used them in a suicide attempt when panic took over my life. But man, they are the only things that can bring me down from a panic attack. I’m fighting one off as we speak, and there’s little to help. All I can hope for is to manage, manage, manage it until this sucker passes, if it ever will. It’s not about abusing benzos, it’s managing them, eeking them out at times when nothing else works.

      “At least mildly successful”, in the article. No, they ARE successful and I don’t like being scared off by those who can’t offer any other solution. Meditation – hah! Try meditating during a panic attack. Try even closing your eyes during a panic attack! Try exercising when the whole world is screaming. Doing these things during the times I’m normal helps in general, but nothing staves off the panic and I will do ANYTHING that helps me get through it. I will deal with the future. Coping with this kind of stress is much more harmful than occasionally, not abusively, relying on a med. Sure do wish I had a benzo right now. Sure wish something worked.

      • Chipur April 9, 2015, 7:30 pm

        Great input, BC. Just wish you weren’t in the midst of a p.a. I’m glad Jeannie and you called-out the author of this GUEST post. Though, I approved and posted it, so I’ll take responsibility. But I guess on the upside, it evoked a justified response – things that needed to be said. And things I know many readers will agree with. “Coping with this kind of stress is much more harmful than occasionally, not abusively, relying on a med.” I respect that…


      • BCat April 10, 2015, 2:18 pm

        I think it’s very important to alert us on the dangers of benzos, Bill, as you have done. There’s backlash anxiety that can be worse than the original that most folks aren’t aware of or told of by their docs. Nothing can be taken in excess without big problemos. I am ALWAYS in the midst of a panic attack during daylight hours. Had 4 years of unbelievable unimaginable stress that my hubby and I are just recovering from in this past year. My amygdalae must be fried and will hopefully recover.

        Speaking of daytime anxiety, I’ve found that this is a very common thing – anxiety during the daytime that gets better by night. Nighttime comes and I’m fine, I think ‘Oh, I can do this!’. Until I wake up and there it is again. It must have to do with too much cortisol floating around, but then again, there’s pyroluria, a consequence of faulty heme production, that causes ‘vampire syndrome’ in those with a sensitivity to light and noise. My ancestry comes from Ruthenia, a little-known country in the Southern Carpathian mountains of Slovakia, so who knows? Maybe vampires ain’t so far-fetched. Have you done any pieces on daytime anxiety? It’s pretty interesting and no one can seem to offer an explanation or solution.

      • Chipur April 10, 2015, 5:00 pm

        You know, I have yet to do a piece on daytime anxiety. You’ve piqued my interest, thank you very much (have even written myself a note). Stay tuned. And the vampire thing – I mean, who knows?

        I learn so much from you, BCat. Appreciated…

      • Chipur April 10, 2015, 5:16 pm

        Got to thinking a bit about the daytime anxiety issue. Actually, have swirled it around in the past. Very simple concept, but it makes sense to me. Daytime light and increased potential for social interaction (daytime busyness) translates into a higher threat of exposure – being seen, if you will. And that doesn’t sit too well. It’s kind of along the same lines as folks whose anxiety intensifies as spring rolls around. I mean, the winter and its darkness and wrapping-up in clothing can be very comforting. And then spring/summer hits and exposure increases significantly. Boom!

      • BCat April 10, 2015, 8:43 pm

        That was interesting! Inner ear, huh! I don’t think my daytime anxiety has to do with psych perception, stressors or exposure as much as with chemistry. I’m sure it has to do with hippocampal memory and amygdala activation downstream, but there’s something chemical going on upstream. I’ve been in a windowless room (not good for panic disorder!) and as soon as it starts getting dark, without my being aware of the darkness, the anxiety ceases.

        It probably has to do with cortisol in my case (or maybe vampire blood) but I haven’t found much info on lowering cortisol that helps. Tried Relora, a supposed cortisol reducer for ‘belly fat’ but it didn’t help the anxiety or the belly fat. Gaba agonists don’t help either (gabapentin does a little in large doses but feels weird, and gaba supplements or passionflower extract not at all, ), so it’s a different pathway. Benzos help sometimes but I can’t get them prescribed. They’re not the answer, but studying their mechanism should help, except it always points back to gaba agonist, dang it.

        This is a major issue for me and if I can get to the bottom of it, I think my panic disorder will be lessened – at least daytime panic. With my luck it’ll probably shift into nighttime anxiety, I’ll continue the hunt and keep you posted.

      • Chipur April 11, 2015, 1:12 pm

        We’ll count on you to continue the hunt, BCat. And we’re fortunate that you’ll report back. That’s so valuable.

        Thank You…

  • raquel tucker October 9, 2015, 1:18 pm

    Thank you for this article. I struggle everyday between finding the right balance of meds and internal strength to fight this battle!

    • Chipur October 9, 2015, 6:59 pm

      You’re welcome, Raquel. And, as you know, the balance factor is huge. Certainly, we need to work on the internal little goodies that gum us up – cognitive distortions, maladaptive schemas, etc. – however, I could never deny someone that bit of oasis meds – yes, even benzos – may provide. Absolutely, no judgment here.

      By the way, if you ever want an objective opinion regarding meds, drop me a line. Just use the CONTACT link waaaay at the top. Would be happy to help. FYI, readers, here’s Raquel’s (and family) story