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Risks of Remaining on Benzodiazepines

What are the risks of choosing to remain on benzodiazepines long term?


Any patient already physically dependent on prescribed benzodiazepines should be the sole authority on whether they will remain on the medication or not. Forcing patients against their will to come off benzodiazepines is dangerous and often has poor outcomes. There are some populations too that may be too fragile or sick, find a great benefit to taking the medications, have a shortened lifespan, or respond so poorly to micro-reductions that they are unable to undertake a withdrawal program. These patients should be allowed the autonomy to remain on the medications and even have them increased as needed should they reach tolerance to the drugs.

Recognizing full patient autonomy, there are still major risks staying on benzodiazepines long term (longer than 2-4 weeks) that all patients should be informed of. These risks should be provided so that each patient may give fully informed consent. Only then will each patient be able to weigh these risks based on their own situation and should be free to make the decision as to whether to continue or to attempt a slow, controlled taper off. Some of the risks of continuing to take benzodiazepines long term are detailed below.

Results of a study in the UK by Dr. Heather Ashton which details the morbidity due to long-term prescription of benzodiazepines in 50 patients she saw in her benzodiazepine withdrawal clinic.