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Red Flags For Benzodiazepine Problems

The majority of doctors are not fully educated on the depth of problems surrounding benzodiazepines. Because this topic is missing from most medical training, most patients are not fully informed of the risks of their prescriptions as well. It is common for patients to believe that if they do not abuse their benzodiazepine prescription and withdraw from their prescription only under medical supervision they will be safe. This is unfortunately not true.

The reality is that a percentage of patients run into serious problems while taking their prescription exactly as prescribed by their doctor. Adverse effects, interdose withdrawal, and tolerance are a few of the issues that may begin to surface. These problems can present relatively quickly, but may also not appear for many months or even years. The symptoms may hit suddenly or may start to gradually build over time. The patient may find their mental and physical health deteriorating, leading to more difficulty in functioning and sometimes even eventual disability.

Most often the doctor and patient will not connect the problems back to the benzodiazepine. This critical oversight can easily lead to a myriad of independent misdiagnoses, and all too frequently, an increase in dosage and/or additional prescriptions being added to the mix.

It is crucial for prescribers, patients and their loved ones to familiarize themselves with potential red flags. Most harmed patients report initially difficulty fully recognize the escalating problems and make the connection to their benzodiazepine prescription. This, combined with the lack of benzodiazepine education among medical professionals, may cause the patient to truly believe their health is declining for “no apparent reason,” and underlying condition, or that they are “going crazy.” For many patients, it took years of suffering and a downward spiral of health before putting the pieces together that it was the drug causing damage and increasing cognitive/mental and/or physical health deterioration.

We’ve compiled a list of symptoms that benzodiazepine patients reported experiencing while still on their prescription. These patient-reported signs and symptoms were either nonexistent prior to the benzodiazepine prescription, or exponentially worsened while taking the drug. For instance, those put on these drugs for anxiety may begin experiencing intensifying anxiety and panic attacks like they’ve never before experienced.  Often, this is incorrectly attributed to the original, pre-existing condition worsening.)

Benzodiazepine Red Flags

Mental/Cognitive/Behavioral Signs

  • Aggressive Behavior
  • Agitation/Irritability/Short Tempered/Rage Outbursts
  • Agoraphobia
  • Anhedonia
  • Anxiety/Panic/Terror Attacks/Development of Various Fears and Phobias
  • Apathy
  • Cognitive Impairment/Fog
  • Confusion
  • Crying
  • Depression
  • Depersonalization
  • Derealization
  • Dysphoria
  • Emotional Lability
  • Feeling numb or like a “zombie on autopilot”/Feeling over-sedated
  • Hallucinations
  • Hearing Voices
  • Impaired Judgment
  • Intrusive thoughts/Excessive negative thinking and feelings of doom
  • Irrational Thoughts and Behavior
  • Loss of Creativity
  • Mania
  • Memory & Concentration Issues
  • Monophobia
  • Mood Swings
  • Neurocognitive problems
  • Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) or other “odd” behavior
  • Paranoia
  • Personality Changes
  • Reckless Behavior
  • Self-Harming Thoughts and Behavior
  • Stress Intolerance
  • Suicidal Ideation

Physical Signs

  • Adrenaline Rushes
  • Akathisia/Restlessness
  • Allergies & Sensitivities increasing or developing
  • Appetite changes
  • Aura
  • Blood Pressure Issues, fluctuations
  • Cardiac Symptoms – Bradycardia (slow heart rate), Tachycardia (rapid heart rate), Heart Palpitations, Pounding heart
  • Clenching jaw, especially during sleep (TMJ)
  • Chills
  • Increased susceptibility to illness, stress on the immune system
  • Diminished Motor Skills – Clumsiness, Coordination Problems, Difficulty walking, Dropping things, Falling down
  • Dizziness/Vertigo/Balance Issues (General vestibular disturbances)
  • Drooling
  • Dysautonomia Symptoms
  • Dysphagia (swallowing difficulty)
  • Earache
  • Exhaustion
  • Fainting
  • Fasciculations (benign)
  • Fatigue/Lethargy/Weakness
  • Flu-Like Symptoms
  • Frequent Urination
  • Gastrointestinal Symptoms
  • Grinding Teeth / TMJ problms
  • Hair Loss
  • Headaches
  • Hearing loss or changes
  • Hormonal Issues
  • Hyperacusis (sensitivity to sound frequency)
  • Inner Vibrating or Buzzing
  • Intolerance to cold and heat
  • Itching/Skin Rashes/Hives
  • Joint Pain (And other joint issues)
  • Lightheaded
  • Loss of Coordination
  • Malaise
  • Menstrual Issues
  • Migraine with or without aura
  • Motion sickness susceptibility
  • Muscle Symptoms – Clenching, Cramping, Loss of muscle tone, Over-or under-active muscle reflexes, Pain, Spasms, Squeezing, Stiffness, Tension, Twitching
  • Nerve Pain
  • Paresthesia – Tingling, tickling, prickling, numbness, burning of skin
  • Perceptual disturbance (feeling of being on a boat, feelings of unreality, deja vu, etc.)
  • Peripheral Neuropathy
  • Photophobia
  • Phonophobia
  • Respiratory – Shortness of breath, Can’t get deep breath, Labored breathing, Over-breathing
  • Sensitivity to light and sound
  • Sensitivity to smells, including naturally occurring smells or chemicals such as fragrance
  • Sensitivity to temperature, weather and pressure changes
  • Shaking/Rigors/Tremors
  • Sleep Issues – Excessive sleeping, Insomnia, Myoclonic jerks, Sleep paralysis, No dreaming, Vivid dreaming, Nightmares
  • Slurred Speech
  • Sweats
  • Tachycardia between doses or in the morning, or generalized
  • Tight Throat/Ball-in-throat sensation
  • Tinnitus (Ringing or pulsatile effects in ears)
  • Tremors
  • Vision Issues – blurred vision, seeing spots, grainy visions, after-images, sensitivities
  • Weight Loss
  • Withdrawal symptoms that will intensify between doses or near dosing times

In General

Increasing use of medical services. Frequent appointments to the emergency room. Repeated visits to primary care without resolution, referrals to multiple specialists. Explanations from the medical field that are somatic in nature like conversion disorder, health anxiety or hypochondria may be suggested or implied. 

Further Reading:

How Benzodiazepines Mimic Chronic Illness and What to Do About It