Benzodiazepine is a central nervous system depressant that helps reduce symptoms of anxiety and insomnia, and its many commercial variations include Klonopin (generic: clonazepam), Xanax (alprazolam), Valium (diazepam), Rohypnol (flunitrazepam) and Restoril (temazepam). More than 100 million such Schedule IV drugs are legally distributed each year in the U.S., and alprazolam alone is the second-most prescribed psychiatric drug in the country, only recently losing its first place status to Zoloft (sertaline).
Benzos, as they are commonly called, are a multi-billion dollar business for pharmaceutical companies, which is why a new cannabis study in the Journal of Psychiatric Research might have Pfizer and friends worried about their profit margins.
Ontario-based researchers surveyed 2,032 medical cannabis users in Canada, and 43.7 percent reported using cannabis to treat anxiety disorders. Moreover, 92 percent reported that cannabis improved their anxiety symptoms, while 46.3 percent had actually replaced their psychiatric medication with cannabis. If accurately reported, this represents a significant reduction in benzodiazepine use and Big Pharma profits.
This study is also just one of many that shows patients replacing benzos for cannabis.
A new study in Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research followed 146 patients who initiated medical cannabis care. The researchers found that “45.2% of patients successfully discontinued their pre-existing benzodiazepine therapy” and demonstrated a “stable cessation rate" over the course of the six-month study. Meanwhile, the Journal of Psychopharmacology published a survey of 1,513 dispensary members in New England and found that 71.8 percent of medical cannabis patients had decreased their use of anti-anxiety medications.
Whatever risks may or may not exist with cannabis use, research shows that benzo use involves a wide range of adverse side effects and risks, including rapid physical dependence, fatal overdoses, fatal withdrawal symptoms and one of the highest rates of addiction relapse. Dependence can occur in as little as four weeks, and abruptly stopping use can cause life-threatening seizures. In the case of Klonopin (clonazepam), the risks also include a one in 530 chance that you'll want to kill yourself.
If cannabis really does reduce benzodiazepine use, then it also reduces all these potentially fatal risks associated with the widely prescribed sedative.