Benzodiazepines Are The World’s Most Popular Drugs

benzosThe Benzo Business is Booming

Benzodiazepines (aka benzos), the modern child of barbiturates, are commonly prescribed to treat anxiety and sleep disorders. The drugs are fast acting, highly effective, and extremely addictive. Common benzodiazepines include:

  • Valium ®
  • Xanax ®
  • Ativan ®
  • Klonopin ®

While doctors are aware of the habit forming, addictive nature of benzos, Xanax continues to be the world’s most popular pill, The Huffington Post reports. U.S. prescriptions for Xanax ® and other benzos grow by 12 percent annually. In the short term, benzos are miracle drugs, in the long term tolerance continues to grow and kicking them can be lethal.

Benzos Over the Long Run

When most people think of drugs that can ruin people’s lives, benzodiazepines usually do not come to mind. While your average benzo user does not pawn family heirlooms to get their next fix, in reality, benzos can have a lasting effect on how the mind forms memories and processes anxiety.

“Benzodiazepines impair the formation of new memories,” says Dr. Jason Eric Schiffman, Director of UCLA’s Dual Diagnosis Program, “so they interfere with psychotherapy, which actually heals the cause of anxiety rather than just attenuating symptoms.”

Schiffman points out that, “because benzodiazepines work right after taking them, they create a paradigm of ‘feel anxious, take a pill, feel better,’ which reinforces a sense of powerlessness over anxiety. This is one of the reasons benzodiazepines are no longer considered to be a first-line treatment of anxiety, whereas SSRIs are.”

Kicking Benzos

Withdrawing and recovering from any drug is extremely difficult. Removing a drug from one’s system that has been consumed over a continued period of time is going to be painful – physically, mentally and emotionally. Without medical assistance, benzo withdrawal can be fatal, according to the article. Post-acute withdrawal can continue for months after one stops taking the medication.

“Following a sudden withdrawal or even too-rapid taper, the brain thinks it’s being injured, so it marshals all these other mechanisms to try and mitigate these reactions,” says Dr. Peter Madill, an integrative medicine physician with a subspecialty in addiction medicine based in Sebastopol, CA. “Fatigue, disorientation, malaise, severe panic and startle reactions, nerve pain, muscle aches, short-term memory loss. Xanax withdrawal especially can be dangerous, even fatal, which is why you need a slow, individualized taper. We desperately need more research into agents that can augment the withdrawal process.”


If you are struggling with benzodiazepines, please do not hesitate to contact Next Step Intervention. We can assist you in finding the right treatment which will help you be free from addiction.

Interventions: When Should You Seek Help?

What’s normal behavior and when should a parent be concerned?

If you’re a parent, regardless of the age(s) of your children, there probably isn’t a day that goes by when you don’t question some element of your child’s behavior. It is what parents do. Even before the baby is born we ask questions of our own parents, our peers, our doctors…always seeking validation that what we are experiencing is normal.

This validation process continues as children approach pre-school, elementary school, middle school and will move right through high school and even the college years. There is something about being a parent that makes us question our abilities to see things clearly and to relate the behavior we are seeing in our children with that which we experienced as we matured from childhood to adulthood. And this does not even take into consideration how our world continues to evolve and be shaped by: new technology, educational changes, family dynamics, separation or divorce.

Let’s talk a bit about anxiety…

Recently, we came across an interesting article published on (owned and operated by North Jersey Media Group), Kids and anxiety: Parents face a conundrum over whether to seek help. 

We hope you will take a few minutes and read the whole article, it offers helpful information and insights from professionals that may guide parents to consider getting help for their child or children. For example:

Anxiety is the most prevalent psychiatric illness among children and teens. As many as 1 in 4 children and adolescents are affected by an anxiety disorder at one or more times in their lives; disorders can strike children as young as 3 but typically gets diagnosed between ages 7 and 9, according to mental health experts.

Kara Yorio, staff writer for The Record offered: “…for children who have significant anxiety issues that are disrupting their lives, intervention is imperative. Years ago, many parents took a “they’ll grow out of it” stance, but research has shown that isn’t the case for kids with true anxiety disorders. Intervention is important.”

And Dr. Anne Marie Albano, who is the director of Columbia University’s Clinic for Anxiety and Related Disorders added: ‘ “The more the child struggles with anxiety early, the more likely they develop more anxiety disorders over time.” By middle childhood and adolescence, anxiety disorders can lead to depression and substance abuse.’

Intervention is important…

Many parents and other family members would be quick to agree that making the decision to intervene was a positive step for the child suffering from anxiety and for the entire family. There are also many parents and family members who did not seek help early on and years later found their child struggling with substance abuse and other mood disorders like depression. As time goes by the intervention, rather than planned and safely executed by a professional (doctor, counselor or trained interventionist) will wind up being managed by the court system or the medical professionals trying to save the family member who may have overdosed, attempted suicide or had a life threatening motor vehicle accident.

Some closing thoughts…

Parenting is a journey. It is not always an easy journey. There can be many twists and turns along the way. It is important to remember that resources are available. Don’t be afraid to raise your hand and be your child’s advocate. Talk to your primary care physician, talk to your child’s teacher(s), talk to someone in your Employee Assistance Program, talk to your school’s nurse, or even call your local hospital for information.

If you want to talk about planning an intervention…contact us.

Interventions: A Look At Cognitive Anxiety Sensitivity Treatment

Interventions can happen in so many ways…

This weekend we happened to see The Homesman. This is one of those movies that captures your interest just by reading the cast’s names. You wonder how actors who have won multiple acting awards and nominations find themselves wrapped up in a story about the rescue of three mentally ill women being transported “home” to their families.

Take a few minutes and watch the trailer.

If you are having trouble viewing the video, you can see it here.

You learn so much from this film…and for sure every viewer brings their own life experience to this film. Behavioral health professionals will certainly see this film as a powerful example of how interventions dating back more than 100 years were planned to assist those who are suffering from mental illness, depression, anxiety, and the like.

When Meryl Streep’s character Altha Carter inquires of Tommy Lee Jones’ George Briggs, something to the affect, “Have you seen any improvement in their(the mentally ill women) behavior over the weeks that you have traveled with them?” it seemed that Altha Carter knew instinctively that their rescue and their time traveling together and being cared for was, for all intents and purposes, an intervention.

Learning of Cognitive Anxiety Sensitivity Treatment (CAST)


Interventionists are called upon by family members, friends, co-workers, employers and even the justice system to have a neutral person who is an expert in addiction and recovery intervene upon the addict and their family to bring the addiction and its harmful impacts to the surface so that recovery and healing can begin.

As such, it is imperative that we are constantly learning and staying abreast of new research and studies that are designed to create new modes of intervening.

This week we learned that researchers at Florida State University led by Professor Brad Schmidt were looking for a way to assist veterans and other groups who suffer from high anxiety and whose stress may bring on thoughts of suicide (ideation).

The researchers used Cognitive Anxiety Sensitivity Treatment (CAST) which is a 45 minute treatment consisting of videos and a true and false questionnaire.

The results of this study were published in the December 2014 issue of the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology: Randomized clinical trial evaluating the efficacy of a brief intervention targeting anxiety sensitivity cognitive concerns.

According to Science World Report, the researchers found:

The program works by helping to reduce racing thoughts as well as the inability to concentrate and make sure that others are not a danger to themselves as well as not an implication that something bad is about to happen.
Those who received CAST training saw their anxiety scores drop significantly more than those who just learned about healthy living. Furthermore, the decrease was similar to that seen in many therapy sessions.
Researchers believe that military members could stand to benefit, especially those who may be at an increased risk of suicide or suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Looking forward…

Continuing to conduct research for ways to improve the intervention process is critical. People continue to hide their needs…they may suffer from addiction, depression, anxiety, and/or PTSD. But getting help is the most important goal. Sometimes people will be reluctant to seek help for fear that they will jeopardize their relationships both personal and on the job.

The holidays are here. Be vigilant with your loved ones; don’t overlook a cry for help. Celebrate the holidays and celebrate life. Recovery is the best gift.

Research: Smoking Cessation May Improve Mental Health And Alcohol Use Disorder

Do you smoke (cigarettes)?

It is a simple question, but one that many people struggle to answer. Being honest about a cigarette habit becomes more and more difficult with the stigma that is attached to it by our family, friends, co-workers, and perfect strangers. There was a time when close to 50% of the U.S. adult population smoked cigarettes. Then in January 1964 the Surgeon General issued an official report concluding that smoking causes lung cancer. Most adults at that time probably knew intuitively that smoking was a health hazard…but many, despite an interesting chronology discouraging smoking, continued to smoke and some still continue to smoke to this day. Today, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) roughly 18.1% of all adults (18 years of older), in the United States smoke cigarettes.

An interesting phenomenon regarding smoking is that it is used in films and television series; it almost takes on a character of its own.

  • If you were a fan of “Sex and the City,” then you probably recall how Carrie struggled to quit smoking to please her various suitors and yet when she would pick up a cigarette feeling like a failure she seemed to find comfort in her Marlboro lights.
  • Currently HBO’s “True Detective” has made smoking and drinking part of Rust Cohle’s being…and his partner Martin Hart not only smokes and drinks, but also chews tobacco. By the time each episode ends you feel like you are in a smoked filled bus station of days gone by.
  • Just this past weekend we saw the film The Monuments Men set in World War II…smoking and drinking were a small and sometimes humorous part of a number of scenes. For sure every retired veteran in that audience understood the part cigarette smoking has traditionally played in times of war.


So why all this talk about smoking?

This week the results of two studies were published on-line. Each study had to do with smoking tobacco and each had significant findings. The first study we will just briefly touch on has to do with people who smoke, but do not consider themselves smokers. This study was conducted by Dr. Wael K. Al-Delaimy, Eric C.Leas, Rong W. Zablocki and Steven D. Edland from the Department of Family and Preventive Medicine, University of California San Diego. You can read more about the study in the journal Tobacco Control: Smokers who report smoking but do not consider themselves smokers: a phenomenon in need of further attention.  The researchers conclude that in 2011 12.3% of all smokers living in California were non-identifying smokers (NIS).

Regarding this study…the bottom line may be if you are not admitting that you are a smoker, then there is a pretty good chance you will find taking the first step to quit very difficult. This is very much like using and abusing alcohol and drugs.

Smoking cessation is associated with lower rates of mood/anxiety and alcohol use disorders

The second study we would like to discuss was published online February 12, 2014, in the Psychological Medicine journal: Smoking cessation is associated with lower rates of mood, anxiety and alcohol use disorders. (See a PDF of the original article here.) The lead research was Patricia A Cavazos-Rehg of the Department of Psychiatry, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, MO. She was joined by researchers from Michigan State University, the University of Minnesota and other from Washington University in St. Louis.

Research parameters…


  • 4800 daily smokers were analyzed by the researchers
  • These smokers were from the National Epidemiologic Study on Alcohol and Related Conditions survey
  • The survey was given twice.


Research results…


  • During the first survey around 40% of the daily smokers reported having mood or anxiety issues.
  • About 50% of the daily smokers also had alcohol problems
  • About 25% had drug issues
  • The survey was repeated three years later: At that time, 42% who were still smoking had mood disorders, while those who had quit smoking only 29% still reported mood disorders.
  • Additionally, after three years alcohol and drug use rates were also lower for the former smokers:  Of those who quit smoking only 18% were still had problems with alcohol vs. 28% of those who didn’t stop smoking; drug problems continued for 5% of the quitters vs. 16% of those who continued to smoke.

The researchers are quick to point out that while their research suggests a strong link between smoking cessation and improving one’s mental health, to this point they were not able to prove a cause and effect relationship.

The first steps in recovery

While the first study we discussed really is fascinating as to how human nature works, the second study is encouraging and very good news for those who are seeking recovery from any and all substance abuse.

It is not unusual for someone who self medicates with alcohol or drugs to also suffer from co-occurring disorders like bipolar or anxiety disorder or mood disorders. Additionally, he or she may also smoke cigarettes. The entire dynamic can seem overwhelming to not only the addict, but to family members. It begs the question, which addiction or behavioral health issue to tackle first?

According to the February 11, 2014, press release issued by Washington University in St. Louis:

“Clinicians tend to treat the depression, alcohol dependence or drug problem first and allow patients to ‘self-medicate’ with cigarettes if necessary,” said lead investigator Patricia A. Cavazos-Rehg, PhD. “The assumption is that psychiatric problems are more challenging to treat and that quitting smoking may interfere with treatment.”


If you are trying to help your loved one with an addiction problem, who may also be suffering from a co-occurring disorder, you might find that getting their attention will be served by working with an interventionist. An intervention is defined as having a neutral person who is an expert in addiction and recovery intervene upon the addict and their family to bring the addiction and its harmful impacts to the surface so that recovery and healing can begin.

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