Benzodiazepines: Disempowering and Dangerous

I recently read an article by Fredric Neuman, MD, Director of the Anxiety and Phobia Center at White Plains Hospital, NY.  The article is titled The Use of the Minor Tranquilizers: Xanax, Ativan, Klonopin, and Valium, and was published in June 2012 by Psychology Today.  Thanks to Medicalskeptic for the link.

Dr. Neuman opens by telling us that benzodiazepines are “…very commonly prescribed for any sort of discomfort.”

“They are called anxiolytics, and they are prescribed for any level of anxiety and more or less to anyone who asks for them.”

Dr. Neuman has been working at the Anxiety and Phobia Center for 41 years, first as Associate Director and then as Director.  So when he says that benzos are routinely given to “anyone who asks for them,” it’s probably safe to say that he’s being accurate.

He tells us that the benzos have a “modest tranquilizing effect” in the doses at which they are “usually prescribed.”  But –

“…I see patients all the time who feel they cannot manage ordinary situations in life without taking one of these pills.”


“…I think these individuals suffer a loss of self-confidence. Their ability to rely on themselves has been undermined by their reliance on these drugs.”

Dr. Neuman asserts that benzos

“…are the most commonly prescribed drugs in the world. They are for the most part safe, but even safe drugs can sometimes cause problems.”

He provides a list of those adverse effects that concern him most.

  1. They are addicting.
  2. They effect coordination, particularly in the elderly.
  3. They compound the effect of other drugs and alcohol.
  4. They interfere to some extent with memory. 

And to this list he adds the dangers of abrupt discontinuation and

“…the fact that I think something is lost, as I indicated above, when someone relies on something make-believe to get through the day.”

Dr. Neuman concludes:

“…these drugs are sometimes helpful a little, and in some ways hurtful a little.  But I don’t wish to give the impression that they are really bad. If a patient demands them, I will usually acquiesce, assuming the dose is small. I always encourage patients to take less as time goes on.  If they won’t, I don’t usually argue with them.”


“I know most doctors give these drugs much more readily than I do.”


In the article Dr. Neuman comes across as a reasonable and helpful person.  He prescribes benzos, but he recognizes and articulates the disempowering aspect of relying on drugs, and I think it is reasonable to assume that in his practice he encourages people to pursue genuine resolution of fears and anxieties rather than chemical masking.  But what struck me most forcibly in the article was the sentence:

“If a patient demands them, I will usually acquiesce, assuming the dose is small.”

Dr. Neuman is to be commended for his honesty, but it is a truly amazing admission – particularly his use of the word “demand.”  It has long been my contention that there is very little essential difference between psychiatric “prescribing” of psychoactive drugs and the illegal selling of drugs on the street.  Dr. Neuman’s use of the word “demand,” his admission that he usually acquiesces, and his credible assertion that most doctors prescribe these drugs more readily than he does, lends support to this contention, at least as far as benzos are concerned.  It is difficult to reconcile his statements with the notion that these drugs, when used in a psychiatric context, are medications being prescribed to treat illnesses.


The same day that I read Dr. Neuman’s piece, I also read an article in the BMJ:  Effect of anxiolytic and hypnotic drug prescriptions on mortality hazards: retrospective cohort study, by Weich et al.  Here are the conclusions:

“In this large cohort of patients [34,727 participants and 69,418 matched controls]  attending UK primary care, anxiolytic and hypnotic drugs were associated with significantly increased risk of mortality [hazard ratio: 3.3] over a seven year period, after adjusting for a range of potential confounders. As with all observational findings, however, these results are prone to bias arising from unmeasured and residual confounding.”

The increased risk for those participants who had taken only benzodiazepines was slightly higher at 3.68.  Risk ratios were adjusted for age, gender, and the following health problems:  “arthritis, asthma, cancer, ischaemic heart disease, stroke, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, diabetes, epilepsy, gastrointestinal disorders, hypertension, musculoskeletal disorders, anxiety disorders, sleep disorders, other (non-anxiety), psychiatric disorders, and prescriptions for non-study drugs.”  The association followed a dose-response pattern.  Participants who had taken benzos at the highest doses had a hazard ratio of 5.1.

Even allowing for the standard disclaimer, the study raises serious doubts as to the oft-claimed safety of these products, especially as other studies have produced similar findings.  It should also prompt us to question Dr. Neuman’s somewhat cavalier approach to these products – an approach which in my experience is widespread in psychiatry.  A three-fold increase in mortality rate over seven years is not a trivial matter.

  • Francesca Allan

    I’m certainly aware of the dangers of benzos but I must admit that used cautiously they can be a tremendous help. I try to be as drug-free as I possibly can but the risk/benefit ratio of occasional benzos versus prolonged crazy-making insomnia is clearly in their favour.

    Years ago, during a manic phase, I requested them (and only them) but I was turned down as this treatment plan was “not realistic” and instead I was given antipsychotics.

    Strange how the doctor talks about patients “demanding” them. I can only assume he’s talking about voluntary patients. In my experience, it’s the psychiatrists who do the demanding.

  • Anonymous

    So long as they aren’t forced into the cowering bodies or psychiatry’s detainees, it’s none of my business. Of course, in an ideal world, there wouldn’t be billions of people who think “anxiety” is a “medical problem” that they should go to a “doctor” for.

    Interesting that the man can I.D. that the drugs are sending a disempowering message, but he doesn’t see that by hanging out his shingle 40 years ago and donning a white coat and telling all comers, even tacitly, that their problems are “medical” in nature, is disempowering in and of itself.

    When the masses are trained to cede their personal power to the pseudomedical authority of psychiatry, dependence, and lack of personal power to address the problems in their lives is of course, the inevitable result.

    It’s safe to assume that someone has ended their own life since I started writing this passage. Maybe they were someone who was told their problems lied in their neurons, and they were powerless at the hands of their “disease of despair”. And what colossally mistaken pseudomedical ideology could have possibly told them that?

    I give the man points for being honest and referring to the drug class as the minor tranquilizers. For decades, the major tranquilizers were called major tranquilizers too.

    Now, psychiatry’s brainwashed the world to use the word “antipsychotic” to refer to that drug class. Possibly the most diabolically brilliant masterstroke of PR psychiatry has pulled off in recent decades.

    Getting the public mindlessly parroting the notion that these drugs are specifically “antipsychotic”, was a coup for the ages. It achieved a brilliant mystifying of the real action and purpose of these drugs, and ensured that the false notion that psychiatry has drug compounds that act on real disease, would get free advertising from everyone.

    Hitching their wagon to the real doctors, as ever, real doctors who have drug classes like “antibiotics” (THAT ACTUALLY DO COUNTERACT REAL BACTERIAL INFECTIONS)…. psychiatry saw an opening, to say ‘me too’, in the public’s eyes.

    “antidepressant”, “antipsychotic”, the free ad for the existence of the fake disease, is right there in the drug class name. Brilliant. Opponents of psychiatric quackery really got snookered there.

    Think of the endless ink spilled in the press, by journalists who unquestioningly use the term “antipsychotic”. It’s diabolically brilliant.

    Anybody who spends a life messing with their neurons, or ‘fixing them when they ain’t broke or can’t be demonstrated to be broke), should not be surprised when they get dementia. It’s a scandal of global proportions.

    Another horror show, in the global iatrogenic neurological damage pandemic, unleashed by the bought and paid for fanatics, that sit in leather chairs in the boardroom of the APA skyscraper. Red in tooth and claw.

    A vending machine shows more discernment in providing access to Mountain Dew, than a pseudo-bio-shrink shows in littering the public’s neurons, infant, child, young adult, middle aged, elderly, with a blanket dose of neurotoxic waste. One wonders why they don’t just cut to the chase and dose us all up using the water supply, oh wait, there has for decades been some psychiatrists advocating the adding of lithium to the water supply. Adding this crap to the fetuses of pregnant women, adding this crap to the bodies of innocent children, violently forcing it into the nonconsenting, they literally believe their fairy dust, is something the world should embrace, they see absolutely nothing wrong with manipulating human beings using drugs, it is the cornerstone of their ideology. Feel unhappy? Drugs. Feel obsessed? Drugs. Feel like you’re not yourself? Drugs.

    I don’t think the Mexican drug cartels go around looking for kids to forcibly drug. I think on that score, psychiatry is objectively more evil than the Pablo Escobars of the world. You won’t see severed heads hanging from a highway overpass here, but our graveyards are full of psychiatry’s dead. The brainwashed parents of psychiatry’s dead sometimes donate their severed heads to “science”, so, in reality, many of the people psychiatry’s killed have their remains desecrated.

    And the media has the gall to let all of this pass by, but is happy to work itself into a lather for a few weeks of Bird Flu panic, meanwhile the greatest man-made threat to the neurological integrity of the citizenry is allowed to run rampant, and the media just acts as approving stenographer.

    The most important lesson I ever learned, was that the media, the government, and the pseudo-bio psychiatric profession, do not have our backs. Trusting them in any way, expecting any decency or responsibility from them, can quickly turn LETHAL.

    Putting your life in their hands, and failing to educate yourself, on the facts, is dicing with death. You must come to expect incompetence, danger, lethality, lies, fraud, from these institutions. It’s the only way to stay safe.

    I once heard a psychiatrist complain that the profession’s critics painted them as a “menace to their patients”. I don’t accept for a moment that the word “patient” can be legitimately used by a bunch of fake doctors that seem to buy Hippocratic Oath toilet paper in bulk, but it is interesting to see how mortified he was at the suggestion that he was a public menace.

    This is a profession that has been vilifying millions of people with psychiatric labels for the crimes of a relative few extreme criminals, for hundreds of years, bear in mind.

    Every day, opposition to psychiatry’s lies grows.
    Every day, new people come across information that smashes their blind faith in this pathetic pseudoscience.

    One day, their bald arguments from authority, will become transparent to the public, and it will all be over. The free ride they’ve enjoyed, on the pyramid of skulls they’ve built with the dead bodies of those they’ve slaughtered or destroyed, will collapse beneath them.

    Every day, this is a profession that shovels soil on its own grave.

    When it is finally buried alive, I say we pay it about as much attention is it paid the millions that tried in vain to scream out and refuse consent to their brutal “treatments” being forced on them by these brain mutilating human rights destroying chemical rapists. That is to say, none at all.

    And to anybody who objects to my labeling forced psychiatry a chemical rape…

    A date rapist is a criminal considered especially heinous because of the aggravating factor of plying his victim’s with mind altering drugs.

    I ask you, if a potential date rapist drugs his victim, and then is disturbed just before the sex act by a room-mate or some circumstance, and decides not to go through with the sexual attack, he’s still someone that violated the body of his victim by drugging them.

    Psychiatrists, are morally on the same level as the interrupted date rapist.

    In fact, take any given big city, on any given night, at 4am. There’s millions of people asleep in their beds. The only people that day, to have put mind altering drugs into the bodies of unwilling strangers, are, date rapists, and…. you guessed it, psychiatrists and their lackeys that make up the human rights abusing swarms of violent attackers meting out “involuntary treatment” to the helpless detainees labeled “brain diseased” by quacks that haven’t laid eyes on the inside of the human body their entire shift at the alleged “ward” they work on. Or the shift before that, or the thousands of shifts before that. Because psychiatry doesn’t examine bodies.

    Yet society’s so mindless it allows helpless, innocent, distressed citizens, in their weakest hour, to be handed over to these quacks for forced biological meddling. What a betrayal. Psychiatry violently imposed on people, into their bodies, against their deepest held personal beliefs and will and testaments, is the corroded black moral void from which psychiatry sprang, from its early days when they first declared themselves morally entitled to force themselves on other human beings. All the hundreds of aspects to the fraud of the world of voluntary psychiatry, such as this article on benzos, need to be seen in that light. This is a profession that was founded in violence and pseudoscientific social control, that is developed into a grotesque ideology of offering all of humanity a “pill for every problem in life” should not surprise. Any profession that doesn’t see a problem with initiating massive violence against their detainees in 1814, 1914 or 2014, is not going to see a problem with drugging kids or getting millions of middle aged adults hooked on benzos. Such is the nature of a destructive ideology once it takes root.

    Just as Mohamed Atta literally believed he was moments away from virgins in paradise as the World Trade Center loomed larger and larger in the cockpit windows, just as he was able to heartlessly ignore the screams of the passengers, psychiatry too, is able to ignore the screams of the people it forcibly drugs, and because most psychiatrists are indoctrinated fanatics, who will die old, rich, and content, believing the whole time that they have no victims, that the violence they carried out during their lives was “justified”, that they were real doctors, “treating” real diseases, because after all, “the brain can malfunction just as any other organ can”.

    It is very safe to assume, that Mohamed Atta screamed Allahu Akbar before he plunged the jet into the side of the building. Psychiatrists, have their own mantras they tell themselves when they plunge a needle into the side of an unwilling stranger’s body. “Just like diabetes”, “disease like any other”, “research breakthrough just around the corner”, “believed to be biologically based”, “obviously mentally ill”, “clearly something is wrong with the brain of someone that believes they are Jesus”, “incompetent to refuse treatment”, “a danger to self or others”, on and on the mantras go. And they lay out the prayer mat, emblazoned with Eli Lilly’s logo of course, and pray five times a day facing toward APA headquarters, while reciting passages from the holy book, the DSM.

    Who will protect the innocent from a psychiatry dangerous to itself and others?

    In a world run by governments that defer mindlessly to anything masquerading as a “science”, who even has the power to step in and stop psychiatry destroying lives?

    Or does it have free reign to search and destroy?

    I think the latter, is most definitely the case. We live in dangerous times.

  • Francesca Allan

    I’m glad to hear you think it’s none of your business what drug(s) I ingest. Many in our movement are not so reasonable.

  • Anonymous

    Your body, is your body, and what is ingested into it, is absolutely none of my business, and I would never vote for any government, that didn’t respect that truth. I would never take a job that involved violating the bodies of others, and I’ve never committed a violent crime against the body of another either. Consent, informed consent, all the way. The hypocrisy of a government that wages a war on drugs, while violently forcing drugs into the bodies of millions of people, is clear.

  • Anonymous

    Because I’ve been a victim of government biological violence, and because I know how it feels, to be terrorized in this way, I have an immense respect for the boundaries of other people’s bodies. You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone, and if we don’t as a society protect the boundaries of our bodies, the powers that be will enter those bodies and screw around, and it is not pretty. It is lethal, inhuman, and utterly a human rights crisis hiding in plain sight.

    But the world is more concerned with whales at Sea World.

  • maryann26

    Nothing has truly replaced benzodiazepines for the treatment of anxiety disorders. Studies show that people who take them for medically indicated reasons are not looking for a “high” and do not abuse them.

  • Francesca Allan

    I’ve known people prescribed SSRIs for anxiety but, you’re right, benzos are still the mainstay. I use them occasionally but I’m aware all the time how easy it is to rely on them unnecessarily. They seem to work best when at least a week goes by in between. The trouble with measuring prescription drug abuse is the line between use/abuse is an entirely subjective judgement. Determining what can properly be termed “medically indicated” is a rather grey area.

  • cledwyn bulbs

    It is categorically not true that they are prescribed for more or less anyone who asks for them. For example, I genuinely need them right now. They are the only drugs that give me respite from my tardive akathisia. Yet I’ve been denied them by this bureaucrat of the therapeutic state I saw recently (or GPs, as some people know them).

    It’s unbelievable. They hand them out to anyone who wants them, accept those who need them.

    Instead I now have to wait to see a psychiatrist. Irony of ironies! Why not just send rape victims to their rapists for therapy? Or victims of child abuse to those who prey upon them for counselling? The only person who I can turn to for help is the very species of predator that put me in this position. And they have the audacity to call suicide a “mental illness”, to pathologize the act of freeing oneself from the torment of coexistence with gangsters, bullies, idiots, tyrants, hypocrites, mountebanks and toxic quacks?

    As I’ve said before, in a world where evil prevails, evil comes to seem like its opposite, and its opposite like evil. Likewise, in a world where insanity prevails, insanity comes to seem like its opposite, and its opposite like insanity.

    These people are the direct descendants of the bureaucrats in totalitarian states who functioned like cogs (with all the inhumanity that simile suggests) in the machinery of state oppression. We are told not to dehumanize them, but they’ve done that themselves. They are automata. No matter how corrupt the system, how immoral the duties they must discharge, these people can be relied upon. Nothing can deter them from their duties, because in their moral universe, job efficiency and obedience to their superiors are all that matters.

    Like all faceless bureaucrats, they have surrendered their capacity for independent thought, and operate in relation to those whom they encounter in their work always in terms of the reflexes conditioned through their training.

    Such people place themselves, their humanity, their thinking, and their conduct, entirely at the mercy of the institutions they work in, becoming a bunch of evil, unthinking idiots in the process, deluding themselves they are free agents, because it feels better.

    Everything is about standardized procedure. If the standardized procedure is force electricity or neurotoxins into the body of another human being when they display such and such a behaviour, they will do so with the calm indifference of a bus-driver changing gear, a postman posting a letter, all the while congratulating themselves on their “normality”. If the standardized procedure (and like the foregoing example, this is something imparted to me through bitter experience) is throw antibiotics at someone dying of cancer, then that is what they do (in my country, it took me over a year to get a diagnosis of cancer, because of doctors mindlessly following the protocol, which is throw antibiotics at people with cancerous lumps who don’t present with any other symptoms, and if after numerous return visits and many months of taking drugs that you know are doing nothing doesn’t work, then, when the cancer has likely spread to distant regions, they’ll send you for a biopsy, but don’t blame the doctor, blame abstractions such as “the system”! Oh, and by the way, it is easy to distinguish between potentially cancerous lumps and infectious lumps, because the one is in contradistinction to the other).

    These people are everywhere. It’s getting like Invasion of the sodding Body Snatchers around here. Policemen who impound the marijuana of an old woman who uses it because it is the only painkiller that works. Doctors who deny morphine to terminally patients. They’re everywhere! Run for your lives! Arghhhhhhhhhh! There’s one now!

    They relinquish all responsibility for their actions. They are living in Sartrean mauvaise foi, deluding themselves that they are not free, that they act under the compulsion of forces outside themselves.

  • cledwyn bulbs

    All the while these people scratch their heads and wonder “why are some people so angry, why do some people kill themselves”? The answer is you, ya bastards

  • cledwyn bastardo

    When I said “deluding themselves that they are free agents”, of course, I meant, “deluding themselves that they are not free agents”.