Benzodiazepine Dependence - Prevention - The Committee On The Review of Medicines (UK)

The Committee On The Review of Medicines (UK)

The Committee on the Review of Medicines carried out a review into benzodiazepines due to significant concerns of tolerance, drug dependence, benzodiazepine withdrawal problems, and other adverse effects and published the results in the British Medical Journal in March 1980. The committee found that benzodiazepines do not have any antidepressant or analgesic properties and are, therefore, unsuitable treatments for conditions such as depression, tension headaches, and dysmenorrhea. Benzodiazepines are also not beneficial in the treatment of psychosis. The committee also recommended against benzodiazepines for use in the treatment of anxiety or insomnia in children.

The committee was in agreement with the Institute of Medicine (USA) and the conclusions of a study carried out by the White House Office of Drug Policy and the National Institute on Drug Abuse (USA) that there is little evidence that long-term use of benzodiazepine hypnotics are beneficial in the treatment of insomnia due to the development of tolerance. Benzodiazepines tend to lose their sleep-promoting properties within 3–14 days of continuous use, and, in the treatment of anxiety, the committee found that there was little convincing evidence that benzodiazepines retains efficacy in the treatment of anxiety after 4 months of continuous use due to the development of tolerance.

The committee found that the regular use of benzodiazepines causes the development of dependence characterized by tolerance to the therapeutic effects of benzodiazepines and the development of the benzodiazepine withdrawal syndrome including symptoms such as anxiety, apprehension, tremors, insomnia, nausea, and vomiting upon cessation of benzodiazepine use. Withdrawal symptoms tend to develop within 24 hours upon cessation of short-acting benzodiazepines, and 3–10 days after cessation of longer-acting benzodiazepines. Withdrawal effects could occur after treatment, lasting only 2 weeks at therapeutic dose levels, however withdrawal effects tend to occur with habitual use beyond 2 weeks and are more likely the higher the dose. The withdrawal symptoms may appear to be similar to the original condition.

The committee recommended that all benzodiazepine treatment be withdrawn gradually and recommended that benzodiazepine treatment be used only in carefully selected patients and that therapy be limited to short-term use only. It was noted in the review that alcohol can potentiate the central nervous system-depressant effects of benzodiazepines and should be avoided. The central nervous system-depressant effects of benzodiazepines may make driving or operating machinery dangerous, and the elderly are more prone to these adverse effects. High single doses or repeated low doses have been reported to produce hypotonia, poor sucking, and hypothermia in the neonate, and irregularities in the fetal heart. The committee recommended that benzodiazepines be avoided in lactation.

The committee recommended that withdrawal from benzodiazepines be gradual, as abrupt withdrawal from high doses of benzodiazepines may cause confusion, toxic psychosis, convulsions, or a condition resembling delirium tremens. Abrupt withdrawal from lower doses may cause depression, nervousness, rebound insomnia, irritability, sweating, and diarrhea.

Read more about this topic:  Benzodiazepine Dependence, Prevention

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