Benzos: What Should I Know About “Chill Pills”? (with Gail Basch, MD)
Xanax. Valium. Ativan. Chances are, you’ve heard of these medications, and you may have even been prescribed them before.
The opioid crisis has dominated headlines for the past few years, but over that same time, another drug crisis has been hiding in plain sight. Benzodiazepines (the drug class of the brands mentioned above) are an underrecognized and important contributor to the public health crisis of drug morbidity and mortality.
Benzodiazepines first came on the scene in the late 50s/early 60s to treat a variety of mental health conditions, as they are quite effective in providing calming and sedative effects.
Representation in current culture, such as in the Netflix documentary “Take Your Pills: Xanax” , and the popular memoir by Melissa Bond, “Blood Orange Night,” shed light on the use and misuse of these meds.
Needless to say, with long term use comes increased risk for addiction and physiologic dependence and we are currently seeing serious harms to people from these drugs.
Thankfully, we have our lovely friend and expert, Gail Basch, MD, FASAM here to educate!
Dr. Gail Basch is a Psychiatrist and Addiction Medicine specialist and director of the Outpatient Addiction Clinic at Rush University Medical Center and fellowship director for the Addiction Medicine fellowship at Rush.
Dr. Basch helps us understand the history and future of benzodiazepine use (and abuse), and offers wonderful educational insights into this “overlooked drug epidemic”.
Topics covered in this episode include:
The origin of benzos and their mechanism of action.
How did they get so popular?
Why/how are they prescribed?
Are they effective? For what indications? Are there “better” medications out there to treat these same indications?
When should you stop taking them? What are the concerns for long-term use?
What are the side effects?
What is meant by “addiction” vs “psychological dependence’?
How can someone wean off of these medications?
What are some resources for patients and providers who want more information about benzo use and withdrawal?
Dr. Basch recommends the Ashton Manual, a wonderful resources pioneered by the incomparable Dr. Heather Ashton. A British physician and psychopharmacologist, Dr. Ashton literally “wrote the book” about benzodiazepines and our complicated relationships with this class of drugs. Check it out!
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