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Treating Anxiety Naturally: Alternatives to Benzodiazepines
What Are Benzodiazepines?
With all of the attention that’s been given to addiction to opioids and other more well known substances, many do not realize the dangers of the commonly prescribed class of drugs called benzodiazepines. Drugs like Xanax, Valium, Ativan, Restoril, and Klonopin are all benzodiazepines, and their dangers may surprise you.
Benzodiazepines can be dangerous and even deadly when misused. These and many other commonly used drugs can also be highly addictive. For many people dealing with anxiety, a natural alternative can help avoid the dangers of benzodiazepine addiction.
Benzodiazepine addiction is a prime example of how consuming prescription pills can turn into a dangerous habit. This often-overlooked form of drug addiction can be debilitating. Yet, many abusers who are dependent on these common drugs do not even recognize the depths of their dependency.
So just what is a benzodiazepine, what are these drugs used for, and how can you tell if you have developed a dependency?
Benzodiazepines are central nervous system depressants most commonly used to treat anxiety and sleep disorders. If you have ever been diagnosed with anxiety or insomnia, your doctor may have prescribed one or more of these medications, even if you did not realize you were taking a benzodiazepine.
Some of the most commonly prescribed benzodiazepines include:
If you have any of these medications in your medicine cabinet, it is essential to be aware of their potential side effects, including the possibility of developing a benzodiazepine addiction.
Side Effects Associated with Benzodiazepines?
The class of drugs known as benzodiazepines can be powerful allies in treating anxiety, but they are not without risks. Benzodiazepines can have dangerous side effects, including symptoms that may take some time to arise.
Some common side effects of benzodiazepines include:
- Slurred Speech
- Muscle Weakness
- Memory Problems
Less common side effects of benzodiazepines include:
- Low blood pressure
- Digestive disturbances
Withdrawing From Benzodiazepines
An even more worrying side effect of benzodiazepines is the potential for physical dependence. Physical dependence on a drug means that your body can’t function normally without it. If you stop or reduce your dosage suddenly, you will experience withdrawal symptoms. Withdrawing from benzodiazepines can be a difficult, even dangerous process. Withdrawal symptoms associated with these drugs include:
- Increased anxiety
Alternative Treatments for Anxiety
The fact that benzodiazepines can have so many dangerous side effects should be enough to give patients and their doctors pause. And while many physicians are quick to prescribe these potentially hazardous drugs, it is up to patients to speak up and look for less risky alternatives. Fortunately there are many alternatives to benzodiazepines for treating anxiety, and many of these techniques can be just as effective as medical treatment with prescription drugs.
A regular meditation practice can soothe feelings of anxiety and restore a sense of calm for many patients. And since meditation is free and comes with no side effects, it is always a good first step when treating anxiety.
Exercise is known to release endorphins, the body’s natural “feel good” chemicals. Exercise can go a long way in calming anxiety in the moment, and regular exercise (3 times a week) can prevent it from occurring in the first place. Even a short 10 minute walk can make a big difference, but to feel the most anxiety calming effects from your workouts, try to get your heart rate up.
Getting outside can have a big impact on helping you feel less anxious, angry, or stressed. Being outdoors has been proven to lower blood pressure, heart rate, and stress hormones.
Yoga combines the benefits of exercise and meditation. It is known to lower blood pressure, and reduce anxiety. Now a days its easy to find a studio nearby and there are also many great classes available online.
Acupuncture is a centuries old treatment that has been shown to release endorphins in much the same way as exercise. Many feel nervous that acupuncture will hurt, but rest assured, the needles used by acupuncturists are hair thin and virtually painless.
Biofeedback is a treatment in which a trained therapist guides you through thoughts that make you feel anxious while a computer gives you feedback on how your brain is reacting. During these sessions, you practice calming techniques and watch the changes, or feedback, happening in your brain as a result. Over time this helps to train you to calm yourself and reduce anxiety.
Suffering from anxiety is not easy, but there are many alternatives to benzodiazepines to help alleviate it. Awareness about the dangers of benzodiazepine addiction may help to encourage you to try natural alternatives before turning to medication.
If you think that you or someone you love may be experiencing benzodiazepine addiction, call JC Recovery today to learn how we can help, 844.524.6873.