Tag Archives: benzodiazepines

Akathisia

Melissa, a commenter on a recent post, asked if I would do a post on akathisia.

Akathisia literally means inability to sit.  People with this problem typically pace for long periods, and if they do sit down, they continue to keep moving and shifting their position in the chair.

In severity it can range from a generalized sense of uneasiness or agitation, to severe discomfort and even pain.  The discomfort tends to be located in the legs, but can also occur in the hip and pelvic area.  In severe cases, the victims pace to the point of exhaustion, but even then sitting does not relieve the discomfort.

CAUSE

The major cause of akathisia is the ingestion of neuroleptics and other drugs, including SSRIs and other antidepressants.

Akathisia also occurs in withdrawal from benzodiazepines (e.g. Valium, Xanax, etc.), opiates, and amphetamines.

TREATMENT

Akathisia is usually treated symptomatically with propranolol (Inderal), a beta-blocker widely used to treat high blood pressure.  Possible side effects include: congestive heart failure, insomnia, hallucinations, short-term memory loss, etc…

Benzodiazepines are sometimes used in the management of akathisia, but this, of course, can precipitate further problems on withdrawal.

Akathisia often stops when the drugs are discontinued, but in some cases can persist even years after the drugs are stopped.

Neuroleptic-induced akathisia is listed in DSM-IV-TR (under medication-induced movement disorders).  DSM states that “Akathisia may be associated with dysphoria, irritability, aggression or suicide attempts.” (p 801). [emphasis added]

It is widely maintained that akathisia is the “mechanism” linking SSRI’s with suicide and violence.  See, for instance, SSRI-Induced Akathisia’s Link To Suicide and Violence, by Evelyn Pringle.

It is not possible to communicate the profound horror of severe akathisia in a brief post such as this.  In the late 80’s, I worked for a while at a publicly-funded substance abuse unit in an Eastern state.  The unit was on the grounds of a state hospital, but was separate from the hospital physically and administratively.

During my lunch hour, I often walked in the grounds, and most days I encountered Betty (not her real name).  She had been resident at the hospital for years, and had extreme tardive dyskinesia and akathisia.  She was about 50, but looked more like 70.  She walked the grounds constantly in almost all weathers.  We would stop and chat, though her tardive dyskinesia made her speech almost unintelligible.  But even while she was stopped, she continued to pace on the spot.  She literally couldn’t stop.  And after a few minutes, she would move on.

I used to wonder what possible benefit outweighed the dreadful damage that had been done to this woman.  What risk had she posed to herself or to others that justified reducing her to this state of perpetual torment?

Sometimes I get tired of writing these posts; tired of sifting through the facile lies of psychiatric complacency; tired of reading about psychiatry’s fat cats wallowing in the corrupting bounty of pharma money.  And then, I remember Betty.  Poor old Betty, living as best she could in her psychiatry-fabricated Hell.

If you’ve never seen a person suffering from akathisia, there’s a video here.

Benzo Withdrawal: Another Story

There’s another benzo withdrawal story on Mad in America:  The 99th Mile: When Benzo Withdrawal Meets Parenthood  by Melissa Bond.

Melissa recounts that when her Down’s syndrome son was 18 months old and her baby daughter was three months, she consulted a physician because of problems with insomnia and consequent exhaustion.  He prescribed 2 mg of Ativan daily, which he increased to 6 mg within six months.

Melissa describes in detail the problems of withdrawal, and the extreme measures she had to take to cope with this.

Whenever I read these kinds of stories, the question that comes to me is:  Who do these doctors think they are?  How can they imagine that these pills are going to make a positive contribution to someone who’s trying to battle such daunting odds?

It’s essentially the same as saying:  “I really can’t do anything for you, but if you drink a pint of whiskey every evening, you’ll sleep fine!”

 

More on Benzodiazepine Withdrawal

In my earlier post on this topic, I mentioned that benzo withdrawal can be dangerous, but it’s been drawn to my attention, by Monica, that perhaps I didn’t adequately stress how dangerous it can be in some cases.

If you click here, you can read Monica’s own account of her experience in a detox center in Florida.  It’s a thought-provoking article.

Because for many years benzos were dished out so liberally, there is still a mistaken perception that they are relatively safe and benign, which is not the case.

You can read another personal story by anonymous (courtesy of Hersteltalent and Tallaght Trialogue on Twitter) at this link on KIP Central.  Here’s a quote:

“At my first visit to the shrink, and after ten minutes of talking, I was told I was mentally ill and would need drugs for life. Little did I know that set the course for my life. It is insane to me how that initial anxiety I had now seems so mild compared to all the hellish anxiety and all the other symptoms I’ve been through on these drugs and in recovery from them! I was a normal kid reacting to some things going on in my environment! Why did they do this to me? Why did they poison me and mess with my brain? Why did they steal my life?”

For decades these kinds of personal accounts were routinely dismissed by the psychiatric community as the rantings of a few disenchanted “non-compliants.”  Often the victims themselves accepted this kind of dismissive characterization, and kept their silence and their shame.

But within the Internet and social media, more and more victims are speaking out, and their voices are adding force and vividity to those of professionals who are no longer willing to go along with a spurious system that has destroyed and continues to destroy so many lives.

The APA’s medicalization of all human problems is a pernicious and destructive process that undermines people’s sense of worth and destroys their bodies.

 

Withdrawal from Benzodiazepines

Important updates on this subject can be found at the posts listed at the bottom of the post.

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I’ve recently come across an article by Matt Samet called Social Vacuum.  It’s dated March 2013, and was published on Robert Whitaker’s website Mad in America.

Matt had been taking a benzodiazepine for some time, and while on a tapering withdrawal, he experienced some distressing symptoms, including some acute social discomfort.  (For a full account of benzo withdrawal – click here.)

He describes the withdrawal symptoms in detail, and also outlines some of the strategies he used to cope with these.  I think the article would be helpful for people who are going through these kinds of withdrawals, and also for counselors, etc., who are helping/supporting clients through this.

When benzodiazepines were initially launched in the early 1960’s, the psychiatrists and the manufacturers stated categorically that they were non-addictive.  Eventually it became impossible to maintain this fiction, and the addictive potential of these products is now recognized.  Some people manage to come off these products, but large numbers of people worldwide continue to use these drugs as an integral part of their daily routine.  Benzos are sedatives and are sometimes called minor tranquilizers.

Withdrawal from these drugs is potentially dangerous, incidentally, and medical supervision is a good idea, especially if the dependence is marked.  Try to find a physician other than the one who got you hooked on them in the first place.  In severe cases, hospitalization is required.

The following drugs are in the benzodiazepine category:  Valium; Librium; Xanax; Ativan; and Klonopin.  For a more comprehensive list of brand names, see this site on Wikipedia.

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Important updates on this subject can be found at the following subsequent posts:

More on Benzodiazepine Withdrawal

Benzodiazepine Withdrawal

Benzodiazepine Withdrawal: A Dilemma

Business As Usual

Christopher Lane, author of Shyness has written an interesting post.  The gist of the matter is as follows.

There’s a class of drugs known as benzodiazepines (benzos for short) that are promoted by Pharma and prescribed by psychiatrists to “treat” anxiety.  (As if anxiety were an illness!)  See my post on the So-called Anxiety Disorders.

Benzos include such household names as Valium, Librium, Ativan, Xanax, etc..  When introduced in the 1960’s, these drugs were widely touted as “safe” tranquilizers.  Readers may remember Valium as “mother’s little helper,” so called because it was marketed to millions of harried housewives as they struggled to adapt to an increasingly complex and multi-faceted lifestyle.

Almost immediately it began to be recognized in certain circles that these products were strongly addictive, but Pharma consistently denied this, and the psychiatrists went on prescribing.  A psychiatrist I met in the 80’s once remarked: “You don’t take people off Xanax.  Once you’re on it, you’re on it.”  About the same time, I heard another psychiatrist say:  “The only difference between Xanax and true love is that Xanax is forever.”

Within the addiction “treatment” field, benzos are described as “dry alcohol.”  And indeed, they resemble alcohol in many ways.  They have a sedating effect, they produce intoxication, and in fact, in hospital settings benzos are widely used to detox cases of chronic alcohol abuse.

Now all of this is well known.  What’s new?

Well apparently in 1982, Malcolm H. Lader, Professor of Clinical Psychopharmacology, Institute of Psychiatry, University of London, demonstrated measurable brain shrinkage in individuals who had taken these products, and that the shrinkage was similar to that found in long-term alcohol abusers. Surprise!

But the plot thickens.  It has recently come to public attention that Britain’s Medical Research Council (MRC) agreed – back in 1982 – that further large-scale studies were needed to explore and confirm Dr. Lader’s findings.  But – and this is almost beyond belief – they marked the file “closed until 2014”!  And the further investigations were never done.

Why not, you might ask?

Well here’s a clue.  Britain’s Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) is funded entirely by fees derived from the very industries they are supposed to regulate.

Remember – there are no mental illnesses, and the products sold to “treat” these fictitious illnesses are drugs.  And the one abiding feature of all drugs – no matter how pleasant they may seem in the short run – is that they are dangerous.  Drug dealing – whether it’s on the streets or in the local mental health center – is a dirty business where human life and human welfare are routinely sacrificed on the altar of corporate profit.