Long-term use of benzodiazepine may lead to increased suicide risk

Benzodiazepines are a class of drugs, which include Valium, Xanax, and Klonopin, that are commonly used to treat anxiety and insomnia. Unfortunately, these drugs have been associated with side effects such as increased suicide risk. This information is supported by a study recently published in the Annals of the American Thoracic Society, which showed that chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) patients that took benzodiazepines for a long period of time were more likely to commit suicide.

Although benzodiazepines are normally used to treat COPD and PTSD symptoms, many guidelines don’t recommend their use for patients with these conditions. This is because they have the potential to make things worse.

“Understanding the risks of benzodiazepines is difficult because the symptoms that prompt their use, including anxiety and shortness of breath, are themselves linked with poor outcomes,” said Dr. Lucas Donovan, one of the authors of the study

In this study, the researchers considered other characteristics of COPD and PTSD patients to help understand the consequences of taking benzodiazepines. These included factors like medical and psychiatric history, medication use, and health care utilization. When they analyzed the data that they had, the researchers found that the long-term use of benzodiazepines caused the suicide risk to double in COPD patients with PTSD. Patients taking these medications also had higher incidences of psychiatric admissions. However, one thing that they surprisingly didn’t observe is an increase in all-cause and respiratory problem-associated mortality risk due to long-term benzodiazepine use. Instead, they found that only short-term use, which was less than 90 days, was associated with increased mortality risk.

“More research will be needed to better understand this link with suicide, but in the meantime we would advise that clinicians reconsider prescribing benzodiazepines to patients who already are at high risk for self-harm,” said Dr. Donovan who is also a pulmonary, critical care, and sleep physician as well as a health services researcher at the VA Puget Sound Healthcare System.

From this study, the researchers concluded that long-term use of benzodiazepines should be avoided since it can increase suicide risk in patients with COPD and PTSD. (Related: Dangerous sedative drug still being prescribed to seniors despite warnings, according to new research.)

Other side effects of benzodiazepine

If this isn’t enough to convince you to avoid taking benzodiazepines, here are some of its other side effects that you should be wary about:

  • Depression
  • Fatigue
  • Diarrhea
  • Drowsiness and fatigue
  • Impaired motor skills
  • Changes in appetite
  • Memory loss
  • Acute anxiety
  • Inability to feel pleasure
  • Failure to think cohesively
  • Social phobias
  • Dementia

Long-term use of benzodiazepines has also been associated with tolerance and dependence. This means that you would have to take more of the drug to achieve the same effects. Moreover, if you decide to stop treatment, it can lead to withdrawal symptoms that are especially bad if you decide to stop cold turkey. These symptoms can include trouble sleeping, depression, excessive sweating, tremors, muscle cramps, and life-threatening seizures.

Natural benzodiazepine alternatives

There are many medicinal herbs that you can use as alternatives for benzodiazepines. Some examples of these include the following:

  • Kava — Among the different herbs with anxiolytic properties, kava is the most viable one since there are already multiple studies supporting it. Its effects have been shown to be comparable to Klonopin and Valium.
  • Chamomile — Chamomile has been used as a natural remedy for anxiety, insomnia, agitation, and irritability for centuries.
  • Valerian — Studies have shown that valerian, which belongs to the same family as chamomile, can also reduce anxiety levels and enhance sleep quality.

For more news articles on the health risks associated with pharmaceutical drugs, visit PharmaceuticalFraud.com.

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