This week was Mental Health Awareness Week in the UK, and it served as a personal reminder of how many struggle daily with anxiety, depression and other serious mental health conditions.
Coincidentally, I have heard from many of our readers this week sharing their personal stories of how they feel let down by their mental health carers and GPs. Many of them are only given a cocktail of drugs that are supposed to “fix” them. But if, like me, you’ve battled with a mental health condition in your life, you’ll know that many of these drugs are not effective… In fact, some of them may do far more harm than good.
Not making things any better
A case in point are benzodiazepine drugs like Xanax and Valium, which are heavy-duty psychoactive drugs prescribed to combat anxiety or to help aid sleep.
These drugs come with a laundry list of troubling side effects including bladder control loss, seizures, unsteadiness on your feet, and potentially permanent memory problems – a dangerous combination of side effects for the elderly. In fact, medical experts have been warning doctors for years against prescribing benzodiazepines to elderly patients.
More concerning is the finding of a recent study, which showed that the older you are, your risk of getting a benzodiazepine prescription increases… meaning doctors just simply don’t listen to the warnings against these drugs.
Nearly 30 per cent of benzodiazepines patients are now over the age of 65. And there are twice as many elderly patients taking these drugs as those between the ages of 18-35.
So, if there’s an elderly person you love whose memory has been slipping… or whose steps have gotten a little wobbly… or who has suddenly developed seizures… it might not be the ageing process. Instead, check what medication they are taking. And if a benzodiazepine is among the drugs they take on a regular basis, it’s time to talk to them about stopping to take this drug.
Just don’t let them quit on their own. Benzodiazepines are addictive and quitting can come with its own set of side effects. A doctor skilled in naturopathic or integrative medicine can help them quit safely.
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Disclaimer: Bear in mind the material contained in this article is provided for information purposes only. We are not addressing anyone’s personal situation. Please consult with your own physician before acting on any recommendations contained herein.
Benzodiazepine Use in the United States, archpsyc.jamanetwork.com
Mortality and Treatment Patterns Among Patients Hospitalized With Acute Cardiovascular Conditions During Dates of National Cardiology Meetings, archinte.jamanetwork.com