There are communities for those who want to be rid of alcohol or heroin or cocaine. Strangers will high-five you if they see a black plastic “Keep Coming Back” key chain fob or if they hear you saying “I’ve got a year.” Benzos, though, go unnoticed and with very limited discussion. They are popular enough that there is still not a consensus view of the downside. How crazy is that?
More importantly, benzos are correlated with morbidity more often than mortality. If someone can overdose on a drug, it can be stigmatized. Barbiturates fell out of favor in the early sixties after highly visible people, like Marilyn Monroe, overdosed and died. A handful of Xanax, by itself, will generally make you space out and fall asleep. If it doesn’t lead directly to death, a drug will likely stick around for as long as it proves either profitable to manufacturers or useful to consumers. Decay doesn’t count in America—just death.
Changing the behavior and personality of a person doesn’t sell papers. The opiate epidemic does, causes people to die. But going through hell, is barely noticed and moreover doctors especially in the USA have limited knowledge on how to properly taper people off.
Moreover after being prescribed Benzodiazepines, once a doctor gets wind of possible abuse where you need more to get the same effect, they run for the hills. If there license is paramount its understandable because even the manufacturer admits it is likely long term use will create the body to grow a tolerance, They put you on it, got you hooked and when you develop a dependence they want nothing to do with you. There to worried about there license. So now what?
By the early eighties, the American public was aware that Valium could lead to dependence, disorientation, and hospitalization. The answer? Just change the name. In 1981, Upjohn introduced Xanax, a benzodiazepine structurally similar to Valium. Stronger but shorter-acting, Xanax addressed public fears about Valium zombies, even though Xanax was found to produce even more intense withdrawal symptoms than Valium. At the same time, other benzos were being prescribed for people recovering from drug use disorders. This is how Stevie Nicks ended up on Klonopin, which she eventually described as “more deadly than the coke.”
If nobody is dying and there are still new variations to be introduced, a drug is viable. Even without a public relations problem, drug patents expire after 20 years, profitable drugs need to be repackaged and reissued.
It is not difficult to imagine how we got here, because I know how I got here.
It is hard to quit something that your doctor tells you isn’t worth quitting. The man who put me on benzos told me—that Xanax left the bloodstream after 24 hours had no lasting effect. He believed the drug-company line that Xanax was short-acting, and apparently never thought much about what the accretion of the drug might lead to. He told me that if I was having trouble with the withdrawal symptoms that follow a lapse in dosage, I should stop taking the benzos and bite the bullet for a week, and that would be that.
I quit benzos through
After a flurry of concerns and litigation in the seventies, the topic of benzodiazepine damage fell out of the mainstream media in America, but in England, it’s still tabloid material. Perhaps when an American celebrity does something daft on benzos and the New York Post realizes a zombie joke can be made, the conversation will grow. More likely, if Americans start seeing benzos as harmful in and of themselves, the way Americans now see cigarettes, there will be a change in behavior. This seems unlikely. We love sedatives. We love cigarettes, too, but we also seem to accept that they kill us, slowly. We still think we are smarter than sedatives.