Open Letter to Jerry Brown Part II:
Benzodiazepines Are The Most Dangerous
Prescribed Dangerous and the Most Dangerous Drugs Period
“Discharge prescription of benzodiazepine hypnotics should not exceed three days duration and preferably be avoided altogether.”
-Drug and Alcohol Resource Unit, Royal Adelaide Hospital, Adelaide, South Australia, 5000, Australia.
Hospitals like prisons are overcrowded today. Many hospital admissions are due to prescribed medicines (as much as 20% according to some studies) just like many prisons are filled because of drugs which are basically self-prescribed medicines. Wrongly prescribed benzodiazepines result in sickness, death, suicide, drug addiction and insanity. They are easily the worst set of drugs in the medical pharmacopeia. And hundreds of ER visits and hospital stays are do to their use. Yet innocently patients gobble these drugs like candy on the advice of ill-informed medical doctors. Governor Brown if you want to do something about drug usage and drug abuse start here. Stop worrying about plants that grow in the garden. Synthetic chemicals are far more dangerous.
In 2008 one study documents that over 112 million scripts were written for benzodiazepines in the United States. Recently it was determined that 10 to 20 percent of all people in the Western world get one or more benzodiazepine scripts per year. It is not clear if this includes the active military, the VA, and or possibly other sources for the drugs. But at least enough scripts were and are written to boggle the mind. This is despite the well-known facts that benzodiazepines are horribly addictive, unsuited for treatment of the mentally ill, emotionally unstable and/or those with substance abuse histories. So that begs the question: who are these drugs for? Studies show that after only two weeks patients become addicted and can suffer serious withdrawal symptoms. Other studies suggest the time period is four weeks or four months. But there is no doubt that they are addicting and quite quickly create chemical dependency and cause after a short time the symptoms they are supposed to be treat. Shockingly benzodiazepines along with alcohol cause death when patients stop using them They are the only two drugs that do this. Both act on GABA receptors in the brain and cause seizures when patients/addicts stop using them. Seizures cause death. Halcyon, triazolam, is believed to cause patients to experience withdrawal symptoms after one dose. It is banned for that reason and others in many countries but of course not in the USA. Anything that makes a profit is fine in this country.
Since not a lot of money is spent on looking for reasons why profitable drugs should not be sold, a complete understanding of the harmful effects of the over 3000 variations of the basic benzodiazepine molecule has yet to be achieved. But it is simple for the non-scientist to understand when you realize that benzodiazepines act on the same receptors as alcohol. If you observe people, you will note that the same people who unwind by taking a drink, love their Valium and Xanax. That is because essentially you are getting the same kind of high. Are these drugs really any more therapeutic than alcohol is? They may have some limited therapeutic benefit for epilepsy and severe psychosis, but rarely are they prescribed for that purpose. Most often the are prescribed for normal people who are not sick. Doctors should not be allowed to prescribe medicines to people who are not sick. There is no such thing as wellness drugs and really benzodiazepines are not unlike Soma, a drug to mollify an uneasy population.
In addition most dangerously, most if not all medical doctors are strangely unaware of the contra-indications of these drugs.
Medical literature abounds with unscientific claims about benzodiazepines. They are “safe” and “non-addictive” with few side effects. This is the general consensus of medical doctors who prescribe the drugs. Yet scientists who study them have an entirely different conclusion. Scientists rightly state that benzodiazepines should not be prescribed to anyone with a history of substance abuse, mental illness, or emotional instability. So again who are they for? Valium was given in buckets to the bored house wives of the seventies. They were given to treat essentially a normal condition to normal people. People who become frustrated with their lives experience anxiety. That is not a treatable condition. That is normal life. Scientists also state that the therapeutic benefit (if any) benzodiazepine is short lived. Alprazolam is marketed as being more effective for anxiety and panic disorder than a placebo after four weeks of use. However, the marketing materials don’t say after eight weeks another test reveals their effectiveness is no different than a placebo. Nonetheless people take these drugs for years. If a more thorough study were done it might show a placebo is more effective in the long run. But no one studies drugs to disappoint the people paying for the study.
Responsible medical doctors educate their patients. They make it clear these drugs are for short term use only. In France you won’t get a benzodiazepine for more than a couple weeks. But here people take them for years. That is what you should stop. Forget about weeds or mushrooms, these plants have been used by humans for millenniums. Our bodies can deal with them. Benzodiazepines were discovered inadvertently in the 1950’s by a laboratory. They are completely synthetic and our bodies don’t know how to react to them. Some have half lives of over 250 hours. This means they build up in the body and their effects get stronger as time goes on. This make the very dangerous.
I strongly suggest for the safety of Californians and people in general you stop the “off-labeling” prescription of drugs by physicians. This means simply that Doctors should only prescribe drugs for which there is a scientific proof of their use. Currently drug companies can market their drugs as a cure for anything without proof. They only have to convince Doctors to prescribe them. By expanding the use of drugs through “off labeling” sales increase dramatically and so do profits. Psychiatrists are the kings of “off labeling”. While as much as 20 percent of all drugs prescribed have no science behind them, “off labeling”, psychiatrists give out nearly one third, 33 percent, of their prescriptions based on “personal experience” and intuition. This is troubling because psychoactive drugs that cross the blood brain barrier are inherently the most dangerous. They should be the least prescribed on a trial, personal feeling, intuition, discussion with salesman, anecdotes or experimental basis. Yet they are the least regulated. And there should be no wellness program that involves prescription drugs. If you are not sick a doctor should not be prescribing medicine. Treating normalcy with drugs is the sign of a sick society is it not?
Strikingly, their is no benefit to the mentally or emotionally ill patient by prescribing benzodiazepines that are contraindicated for their conditions by scientists who have researched this molecule. Further that patient is harmed because they are not getting either the right drug for their problem or being given an opportunity through psychoanalysis or cognitive therapy to explore just what their problem really is. All they are getting is a drug that has been most successfully marketed for their condition. Benzodiazepines all effect the brain, spinal column and nervous system the same way. The only difference is the speed at which they work, the length of time they stay in the body, strength of dosage and speed at which they become addicting. In essence every benzodiazepine is like a different kind of liquor. Some are like 4 shots of whisky and others are like a glass of wine. Emphatically scientists state that using two or more benzodiazepines amplifies the effect of both and is inherently dangerous. And this should not be done. Yet millions of people take one benzodiazepine for sleeping, one for anxiety and one for panic attacks. The panic attacks are inevitable when people are taking that high of doses of benzodiazepines. If history showed that people are taking more than one benzodiazepine or have other contraindications for the drugs responsible doctors could place their patients in the hospital to get them off benzodiazepines. Note again that death can result from stopping any benzodiazepine on your own. I find it stunning that doctors totally ignore the scientific research on these drugs and prescribe them to people who use alcohol, the mentally ill, the emotionally unstable and commonly prescribe more than one benzodiazepine when it is clear that this is a contraindication in and of itself.
Benzodiazepines are essentially alcohol in pill form. That is why so many people get addicted, have to go through withdrawal, and take them when they don’t need them. Taking a benzodiazepines is like having a drink of wine, spirits or grain alcohol.
Please take steps to aid all Californians and protect them from the pharmaceutical industry. The industry sells and persuades. It does not cure. I suggest to begin a California for All health care system, you place records of all patients on databases so doctors can access all medical records when needed. This way they will stop prescribing benzodiazepines to people who are sick. Scientists state clearly that these drugs are not to be given to anyone who is emotionally ill, addicted to any substance, currently using alcohol (which would be a large percentage of society), that have a history of using alcohol or substance abuse, mental instability and or a history of emotional problems. If databases were available to all doctors to see all prescriptions and the history of a patient they would know quickly when these dangerous drugs should not be used.
Please read the chapter on benzodiazepines in the book “Concepts of Chemical Dependency” by Harold E. Doweiko. This will give you a realistic view of benzodiazepines.
Thanks for your consideration.