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Doctors turning patients into drug addicts, admit too many patients addicted to tranquilizers


(NaturalNews) For the first time, a major British doctors' association has admitted that too many patients are being prescribed dangerous and addictive benzodiazepine tranquilizers, also known as "benzos."

These benzos include Xanax, Restoril and diazepam – a generic drug formerly marketed as Valium and nicknamed "mother's little helper" for its widespread prescription to housewives in the 1960s and 1970s. The drugs are clinically indicated only for extreme nervousness and anxiety, as they depress the brain activity responsible for consciousness. As a side effect of that primary result, the drugs are strong tranquilizers and sedatives. They are also potent muscle relaxants that can be used to control severe pain.

Addiction is easy, severe

In the United Kingdom – a country with less than a quarter the population of the United States – there are 12 million benzo prescriptions written every year. An estimated 260,000 people are taking the drugs for six months or more, even though the drugs are so addictive that they are supposed to only be given for two to four weeks. Others estimate that more than a million people may be addicted to the drugs.

It is possible to become addicted to benzos even if you follow your prescribed dose exactly. However, the body becomes used to them so quickly, that many people find themselves needing to increase their dose just to get any effect.

In the United States, about 5 percent of adults are using benzos at any given time. The rate of use increases with age, from 2.6 percent of 18- to 35-year-olds all the way up to 8.7 percent of 65- to 80-year-olds. Long-term use also becomes more likely with increasing age. Women are twice as likely to use the drugs as men.

Side effects of benzos include depression, insomnia and – ironically – anxiety. The withdrawal symptoms are even worse, and include panic attacks, nightmares and muscle spasms. They have been described as worse than the effects of heroin withdrawal. The combination of side effects and withdrawal symptoms leaves many patients feeling trapped taking a drug that is making them miserable and ill.

Entire system broken

For years, addiction experts and patient groups have tried to raise concerns about how freely benzos are prescribed, given their powerful addictive potential. In the United Kingdom, these groups have called for patients seeking to end their addiction to be provided with specialist assistance.

Instead, patients' concerns are usually ignored or met with a prescription for a different benzo. Those referred for treatment are usually sent to programs designed for those addicted to illegal drugs.

Andrew Green of the British Medical Association (BMA) noted that when patients admit to benzo addiction, they feel like their doctors blame them for their own situation. Yet, it is the doctors who wrote the prescriptions in the first place who are to blame, since, in most cases, the patients simply followed them as written.

The BMA recently concluded a two-year consultation with patient groups, after which it became the first British doctors' group to publicly admit the scale of the benzo addiction problem. Green said the association had known of benzo addiction problems for "quite a long time ... but until this consultation exercise, what we didn't realise was the scale of the problem or the depth of feeling it causes in those affected."

The BMA is now calling for a national helpline for prescription drug addiction, as well as specialist assistance for those seeking help to get off the drugs.

Maureen Baker, chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners, supported the BMA's call. She went further, suggesting that long-term benzo prescriptions be given only "in exceptional circumstances," such as for psychiatric patients with severe, chronic anxiety.

Baker noted that doctors' prescribing habits are only one part of the problem.

"The drugs are far too easily available over the Internet once the prescribed course has ended," she said.

A growing number of British patients have now begun suing their doctors, alleging that the doctors committed malpractice by getting them addicted to benzodiazepines.

Sources for this article include:




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