Nearly 500,000 Dutch people take tranquillisers or sleeping pills (benzodiazepines or BDZs) on a daily basis. They get their medication from the family doctor or they order it on the internet. Women are the most frequent users of these kinds of drugs. About 15% of women use sleeping medication or tranquillisers. Women use almost twice as much as men and for considerably longer periods of time, between 12 and 20 years, although research shows that the effect of these drugs is already reduced after four to eight weeks of non-use. Women visit their family doctor with psychosocial problems more frequently than men. Family doctors also prescribe sleeping pills and tranquillisers more easily for women than for men.
Physical and Psychological Dependence
Tranquillisers and sleeping pills are a tool to help you get through life and its problems. They remove your attention from the hole in your life or provide structure if your life is so cramped that you have trouble sleeping. Benzodiazepines (Diazepam, Seroxat) and barbiturates, found in tranquillisers and sleeping medication, are highly addictive. Your body repeatedly asks for more in order to experience the same effect. Dependency occurs quickly in benzodiazepine addiction. The addiction to prescription drugs affects both body and mind. You go through life in a numb and intoxicated state. Your emotions are dulled, not just the negative ones, but the positive ones as well.
The effects of benzodiazepines or BDZs are largely due to how they affect the brain. The most important effects are sedation, sleep enhancement, reduced anxiety, muscular relaxation, memory loss and anti-epileptic properties. These effects occur because BDZs act on certain brain receptors. Despite the pharmacological similarities between different BDZs, there are important differences with respect to their clinical applicability.
When used over longer periods of time, a degree of tolerance will develop: increasingly higher doses are needed to produce the same effect. In case of drug tolerance, patients run the risk of becoming physically and psychologically addicted. When they decide to quit, withdrawal symptoms may occur. These symptoms are often similar to those that users hope to eliminate with their drug use, such as anxiety and insomnia. In addition, withdrawal may cause physical problems, such as trembling, sweating, tingling, gastrointestinal problems or pains.
Chronic use will lead to a prescription drug addiction.
Every year, 45 fatal accidents and thousands and thousands of injuries are caused by tranquilliser use. Benzodiazepines only take away the symptoms of a problem. They do not eliminate the cause of stress, anxiety or insomnia. And when used over a long period of time, this type of medication will only aggravate the problem, leaving you with a prescription drug addiction. Your previous problems, such as anxiety, tension and insomnia, come back, sometimes even heavier than before. Withdrawal symptoms can be very intense when quitting after a long period of use. Consequently, many people will start taking these pills again, ending up in a vicious circle.
Medical and Therapeutic Supervision
As soon as you find the courage to get out of your ‘sleeping mode’, you often go through a rough phase. The origins of your problems, which have been pushed away over the years, resurface and you experience withdrawal symptoms. Good professional supervision and counselling can help you to get through this period. Our specialised clinic will provide sufficient support during the reduction period to ensure that withdrawal symptoms become less intrusive. Additionally, they will teach you to deal with negative emotions differently, so they no longer need to be suppressed with pills.
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