It seems like there’s a pill for everything these days. While prescription medications can be life-saving, they also come with a litany of side effects. In the case of benzodiazepines, scripts can lead to addiction.
Since the 1960s, different types of benzos have been top sellers in the pharmaceutical markets. Physicians currently prescribe benzos for sleep, anxiety, and seizures to over 12.6% of the population. Unfortunately, 17.2% of benzodiazepine users report misuse of this drug.
My family has a history of anxiety and substance abuse. I know there’s a fine line between using benzos as prescribed and benzo addiction. It’s a line far too delicate for me to cross. Here’s why I’m seeking alternatives to benzodiazepines for anxiety.
What is Benzodiazepine?
Over 30 million are prescribed benzodiazepine. We’ve been conditioned to listen to our doctors blindly. So, we oblige without really asking ourselves in the first place, “what are benzos?”
So, what are they? Benzos are slow-acting pills that cause us to feel more relaxed. Essentially, they’re sedatives.
These pharmaceuticals are prescribed to people who have a variety of mental health issues, including:
- Anxiety Disorders
- Panic Attacks
- Seizure Disorders
- Insomnia/Trouble Sleeping
- Muscle Pain
- Alcohol Addiction
While there are different types of benzos, they all start the process similarly. Benzos bind to α-subunits on our GABAA receptors, found at 20–50% of synapses in the brain. Our neurotransmitter, gamma-Aminobutyric acid (GABA), binds onto the β-subunits.
GABA is an inhibitory brain chemical that causes excited neurons in the brain to slow down. When benzos are bound to our GABAA receptors, it increases the efficacy of GABA. So, we feel less stress over an extended period.
Types of Benzos
Some people aren’t even aware that they’re on benzodiazepine. I know I zone out when I hear doctors saying mouthfuls like that. It doesn’t help that I can’t read the scribble on their prescription pad, either!
The most commonly prescribed benzos list includes:
- Alprazolam (Xanax) – #1 prescribed benzo for panic and anxiety
- Chlordiazepoxide (Librium) – prescribed for alcohol withdrawal
- Clonazepam (Klonopin) – treats seizures and anxiety disorder
- Clorazepate (Tranxene) – hypnotic for anxiety and sleep disorders
- Diazepam (Valium) – anticonvulsant sedative for alcohol withdrawal, panic attacks, insomnia, seizure conditions, restless leg syndrome
- Estazolam – short-term insomnia treatment
- Flurazepam (Dalmane) – used for mild-to-moderate insomnia
- Temazepam (Restoril) – short-term insomnia treatment
- Triazolam (Apo-Triazo, Halicon, Hypam, Trilam) – severe insomnia treatment
Obviously, there are severe cases where benzos for sleep, anxiety, or seizures are necessary. However, short-term and mild-to-moderate sleep issues might not require a prescription. Before getting on or off benzos, try discussing other options with your doctor and using all-natural supplements like Tranquility Labs’ Sleep Fast.
The Dangers of Benzos and Alcohol Use
There are many types of benzos prescribed for alcohol withdrawal syndrome. Unfortunately, up to 60% of people in alcohol recovery relapse in the first year. Those who are abusing benzos and alcohol can be playing with fire.
For one, alcohol mimics GABA in the brain. By mixing benzos and alcohol, you can become even more impaired. This pairing can even prove fatal.
I don’t take benzos for alcohol withdrawal. However, I am trying to cut back on my alcohol consumption. As a non-alcoholic, I don’t like the idea of mixing a good night out with benzos for anxiety. That’s why I’m going to talk to my doctors about alternatives to benzodiazepines.
Are Benzos Addictive?
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends short-term use of benzodiazepines. As we discussed, many of us are guilty of misusing these drugs. Plus, we do it over the long haul.
Over time, our bodies become tolerant to the effects of benzos. In turn, we use more, creating a dependency. Some of us will start feeling like we need something stronger. That’s why there’s such a substantial overlap between the use of benzos and opiates.
One government-funded analysis found that 30% of opioid overdose cases also have benzodiazepines in their system. Benzos and opiates are slippery slopes I am afraid to navigate. That’s one of the reasons why I’m seeking alternatives to benzodiazepines for anxiety.
Alternatives to Benzodiazepines for Anxiety
I trust my physician. However, I know they’re trained in conventional medicine. It’s in my best interest to come into my appointment informed and full of questions.
That’s why I looked into alternatives to benzodiazepines for anxiety. Here are some things I’ve done to help with my anxiety naturally and believe can one day be my answer to giving up benzos.
Diet and Nutrition
The first step I’ve taken to cut my dependency on meds is changing my diet. More times than not, I’ve successfully used diet and nutrition to combat my social anxiety disorder. Sure, anxiety always creeps its ugly head in there, but the symptoms have become much more manageable!
I’ve been getting a balanced diet of:
- Healthy fats – wild-caught salmon, nuts and seeds, extra virgin olive oil
- Complex carbohydrates – sweet potatoes, leafy greens, wild rice
- Lean protein – tofu, turkey, tuna
Part of the reason we feel anxious is that our body doesn’t have the energy necessary to power this whole body! It’s like when people call out of work at the call center, and the phone is ringing non-stop for the workers on-duty. Only select messages get through the pipeline.
Exercise and Stretching
Living a sedentary life will only set your body up for anxious behavior. Your body is not meant to sit still and support lousy posture all day. This adds stress to your body, which is manifesting as mental stress.
All of the types of benzos listed above are currently prescribed for the anticonvulsant activity for those who experience rheumatoid arthritis. By the way, rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that can be spurred by a poor diet. Once again, diet and nutrition are essential. Another reason to nourish your body.
Those who experience muscle spasms also benefit from these prescriptions. That’s why so many athletes can become dependent on benzos and opiates.
Yoga and deep breathing practices allow you to work out the kinks that cause chronic pain. You can become more in tune with what your body needs while breathing through the tension and promoting growth.
Also, make sure you move. It doesn’t matter what you enjoy doing, just get going. Exercise helps the body produce natural endorphins. These help us feel good, which, in turn, can help curb the development of benzo dependency and addiction.
Switch to Antidepressants
I know. Going from one pharmaceutical to another seems counterproductive. However, benzo addiction is a genuine fear of mine. While I believe that my case won’t require long-term medication treatment, others might.
That’s okay. Talk to your doctor about switching to serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) instead.
While SSRIs still have side effects that read like a long novel, they aren’t habit-forming like benzodiazepine. Most SSRIs won’t cause a dependency like benzo addiction and are intended for long-term use.
We got on medications because we needed assistance in the first place. One way to wean off of drugs is with the support of supplements. Your body is still performing the same tasks when you take a supplement as it does when you’re popping a prescription pill.
All-natural supplements can provide our body with the nutrients it needs to improve communication throughout the central nervous system. They give your system the nutrients missing from your diet so that your cells get the support they need to carry you through your day.
One of the best all-natural supplements for anxiety is Tranquility Labs’ Tranquilene. This product is formulated with GABA production in mind, just like benzodiazepines are!
For one, it contains GABA. However, Tranquilene is also enriched with all the components your body needs to make GABA naturally. This all-natural supplement has L-Theanine.
L-Theanine is an amino acid that serves as the building block for GABA. It also plays a role in dopamine, our reward center associated with addiction. Therefore, you can ease your benzo addiction withdrawal by naturally activating your dopamine receptors.
This anxiety supplement also facilitates serotonin production, which can help someone looking to wean off of SSRIs. It has tryptophan, the amino acid responsible for serotonin. Tranquilene also has Vitamin B3, which catalyzes the conversion of tryptophan into this beneficial brain chemical.
What to Know Before Stopping Benzos
Benzo withdrawals are real and should be taken seriously. Therefore, you shouldn’t cease the use of medications without the careful supervision and approval of your doctor.
About 25% of people who are chronic benzo users will experience withdrawal symptoms that may include:
- Panic Attacks
- Muscle Spasms
- Rapid Heartbeat
- Cold Sweats
Please talk to your doctor about tapering down your dose of benzos. If you have a benzo dependency, don’t lie about your usage. The doctor must know precisely how much to prescribe your next dose to avoid unfavorable symptoms.
If you still require medication, discuss other lower-dose options. For instance, diazepam is usually prescribed to people with benzo addiction who are weaning off the drug. It might be a better fit for your wellness routine.
- Benzos are effective but can become addictive
- Benzos and alcohol and benzos and opiates can become fatal
- Diet, nutrition, and supplements might help curb benzo addiction
- Don’t stop benzo use cold turkey or without the care of a doctor