Tuesday, July 08, 2008

The Licit Drug Trade In America, Part II

Another passage from the book I'm reading, "Comfortably Numb: How Psychiatry Is Medicating A Nation" by Charles Barber:
"Valium makes one feel very good very quickly, in less than an hour. The relaxing sensations are wonderful and soothing. They are also tremendously addictive, physically and psychologically. Anybody experienced in working with addictions will tell you that "benzo addiction" is particularly difficult and painful to overcome, often requiring lengthy inpatient treatment to address. I have spoken to many addicts who have said that benzos are the most difficult of all drugs to kick."
And the following from an Australian manual on detoxification: 1

Some common benzodiazepines:

Click for larger.

And a note on their addictive qualities:
"Low dose benzodiazepine therapy for as little as six weeks can result in a full withdrawal syndrome lasting one to six weeks. Withdrawal symptoms lasting six months to one year with diminishing intensity have been reported."
Do prescribing docs routinely counsel on the addictive potential of these drugs?

Barber says that when Valium was introduced in the early 1960s, it was not thought to be addictive:
"It wasn't until later that an unanticipated tragic flaw to Valium emerged. The pills were highly addictive when they weren't supposed to be. Despite initial claims that the drug had neither addiction potential nor caused a withdraw syndrome, anecdotal and then scientific evidence soon suggested otherwise."
He also addresses the dependence aspects of the newer antidepressant Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs, e.g. Prozac, Zoloft, Paxil, Celexa):
"SSRIs were initially marketed as being dependence- and withdraw-free; indeed, those qualities which stood in stark contrast to the benzodiazepines, were a dramatic part of their initial appeal. There has since been a creeping awareness that this was wrong."
And quotes David Healy, author of a 2003 Briefing Paper on SSRIs & Withdrawal/Dependence:
"It is now clear that the rates at which withdrawal problems have been reported on [Paxil] exceed the rates at which withdrawal problems have been reported on any other psychotropic drug ever."
Healy also says that drug manufacturers "knew all along that there were dependence and withdrawal problems with the SSRIs," but "appear not to have informed regulators of their findings."

This is one eye-opening book.
1 New South Wales Detoxification Clinical Practice Guidelines

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