Stopping Use of Benzos Might Cause Temporary Risk of Death Increase, Study Says

Benzodiazepines pills in RX prescription drug bottle

According to a study recently reported in JAMA Network Open, people who completely stop the use of benzodiazepines (benzos) after suffering from benzo addiction could experience a higher but temporary risk of death. Researchers from the University Medical Center Göttingen's Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy in Germany, led by Dirk Wedekind, MD, found that patients who discontinued benzo use after long-term therapy had an increased risk of death for about 12 months.

Importantly, the data was only able to create a connection, not a definitive causal relationship between discontinued benzo use and a higher mortality rate. Dr. Wedekind was quoted as warning, “Under no circumstances should it be concluded from the results of this study that it is appropriate to continue long-term benzodiazepine therapy. […] Long-term use of benzodiazepines is associated with risks that, in my opinion, are downplayed in this study.”

Long-term benzo use may result in a variety of unsafe health conditions, such as:

  • Muscular weakness
  • Lethargy
  • Ataxia
  • Dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Depression
  • Depersonalization
  • Risk of early onset Alzheimer's dementia

What Can Benzo Withdrawal Do?

After using benzodiazepines long enough to become chemically dependent on the drug, the risk of severe withdrawal symptoms increases.

Withdrawal from benzos can result in:

  • Delirium
  • Confusion
  • Bouts of unconsciousness
  • Suicidal ideation and suicide attempts

The risk of these severe withdrawal symptoms seemed to increase significantly when long-term benzo use was discontinued all at once or close to it. As mentioned, the researchers did not reach a confirmed conclusion about this increase and would like to continue more studies. However, it is known that sudden withdrawal from all sorts of addictive substances can increase the risk of serious withdrawal symptoms, so it is likely the same is true of benzos.

Benzo Addiction Caused by Prescriptions

The researchers in Germany first started looking into the effects of long-term benzo use and the possible health consequences of severe withdrawals due to a growing concern about the number of benzo prescriptions written in the country. Germany’s Federal Ministry of Health estimates up to 1.5 million people in the country could be struggling with benzodiazepine addiction or dependency, which is close to 2% of the entire population. Currently, it is believed that roughly half of the people who have such an addiction in Germany became addicted due to an unsafe benzo prescription, such as one that required the patient to use benzos for too long.

Is There a Safe Way to Stop Benzo Use?

Dr. Wedekind explained that safe discontinuation of benzodiazepine use could be accomplished through careful and gradual detoxification. “[…] patients need qualified detoxification and rehabilitation therapy in a suitable institution,” he said with his study results in mind. If a patient can use smaller and smaller doses of benzos across several weeks, or possibly even longer, it could help reduce the risk of dangerous withdrawal symptoms.

Decision Point Center offers reliable and safe detox programs to the people of Arizona, including benzo detoxification. If you or a loved one are suffering from benzo addiction, please talk to our team to learn how detox can help you discontinue its use and reduce the risk of unsafe side effects. Please call (844) 292-5010 or contact us online if you have any questions about benzo detox in Arizona and the other ways we can help you achieve lasting sobriety.

Continued Reading

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