SOME SHOCKING FACTS ON PRESCRIPTION DRUGS
Tranquillizers, Sleeping Pills & Antidepressants
Joan E. Gadsby
- Worldwide sales of prescription drugs exceed $300 billion yearly with
tranquillizers, sleeping pills, antidepressants and other Central Nervous
System drugs accounting for an estimated $76 billion in sales.
- Inappropriate prescribing and uninformed use of prescriptions cost
healthcare systems billions of dollars worldwide yearly.
- Prescription Drugs are the fastest growing sector of worldwide health
care costs with health care costs continuing to be the largest component of
most governments budgets.
- Prescription Drugs are fast exceeding the cost of physician services.
- Benzodiazepines have often been called the most widely prescribed group
of drugs in the world and the biggest selling drugs in the history of
medicine with worldwide sales in excess of $21 billion in 1999.
- Approximately 10% - 20% of the world population use tranquillizers and
sleeping pills with up to 30% of people over the age of 60 years using these
drugs (often over many years having been prescribed them at a much earlier
age) and who have become "accidental or involuntary addicts".
- By law when a physician prescribes drugs for a patient, the physician is
required to ensure that the patient is fully informed of the drugs risks and
benefits and consents to the drug therapy with full informed knowledge.
Statistics show that this occurs in less than 20% of the patient population.
- An estimated 4 million people in the United States have used prescribed
benzodiazepine tranquillizers and hypnotics (sleeping pills) regularly for 5
- 10 years or more according to a US study in the early 1990's. Similar
figures apply in the UK, Europe and in some Asian countries with the trend
- The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 33% of diseases today
are caused by medical treatment i.e. iatrogenic or doctor induced illness.
Doctors are the third leading cause of death in the US after heart disease
and cancer causing an estimated 250,000 deaths each year according to an
article published in the Journal of the American Medical Association July
- An estimated 60% of users of tranquillizers and sleeping pills suffer a
mixture of adverse effects and withdrawal after 2 - 4 weeks of use
(including therapeutic dose levels) due to tolerance and addiction.
- Addiction to prescription drugs such as tranquillizers and sleeping
pills is the inability to discontinue the use of the drugs as a direct
result of the build up of tolerance and when the original dose has
progressively less effect and a higher dose is required over time. Tolerance
produces a recognized withdrawal syndrome and can precipitate "mini
withdrawals" "or inter dose withdrawals" between pills depending on the
"half life" of the drugs. This often leads to doctors prescribing increased
dosages and/or prescribing another benzodiazepine and/or cross addictions to
other drugs, primarily alcohol, to withstand the withdrawal symptoms.
- Pharmaceutical companies spend more on marketing and promotion of drugs
than on research and development - an estimated $15,000-$20,000 on every
doctor with expenditures of $8.3 billion in the United States in 1998.
- 40% of impaired or dead drivers of motor vehicles show prescription
drugs in their systems - predominantly tranquillizers and sleeping pills.
- The adverse effects of benzodiazepines can include: paradoxical
agitation, increased behavioural disinhibition, impaired new learning,
decreased short and long - term memory, impaired psycho - motor functioning,
(many times leading to accidents and/or falls), rage, the appearance or
worsening of anxiety and depression, suicidal ideation, emotional anesthesia,
floppy baby syndrome, the potential for permanent cognitive impairment,
tolerance and addiction leading to acute and protracted withdrawal. These
effects have been known for over 2 decades but little has been done to
address the problem or to change doctors prescribing habits.
- The National Centre on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia
University in 2001 found that General Practitioners don't properly assess
for addictions and alarmingly, fewer than one third can diagnose addiction
to prescription drugs - a problem doctors create.
- Guidelines for acceptable duration of benzodiazepine use dating back
over 2 decades state a maximum of 2 - 4 weeks or for intermittent use only.
Most recently, guidelines state 7 - 10 days.
- The infrastructure i.e. detox, treatment and recovery centres available
and doctors knowledgeable to help people withdraw from tranquillizers,
sleeping pills and antidepressants is minimal and in many cases non
- Misdiagnosis, misprescribing and mistreatment of patients who trust
their doctors to "do no harm" continue today in the area of tranquillizers,
sleeping pills and antidepressants.
- The high cost to our socio-economic system with the continued
indiscriminate prescribing and uninformed usage of these drugs includes
health and safety in the work place, career devastation, family dysfunction,
productivity losses, car accidents, falls, floppy baby syndrome (similar to
fetal alcohol syndrome), lost years of people's lives, lost lives, costs to
the legal and justice system, workers' compensation board claims, life and
disability insurance claims, social welfare costs, emergency admissions,
physicians' fees, pharmacists' fees, drug costs, detox facilities and
increased overall costs for healthcare and other public/private sector
- The elderly receive more than twice the number of prescription for
psychotropic drugs as do younger people and can experience drug induced
dementia, cognitive impairment and falls after years of use.
- Non "psychiatric" conditions account for 70% of tranquillizer and
sleeping pill prescribing and usage.
- Cross addictions to other drugs and alcohol occur in 73% of
benzodiazepine users - many of whom never used or had problems with alcohol
or other drugs previously.
- A 5 year study (1997 - 2002) in the State of Maine revealed that 88% of
suicide overdose victims and 52% of accidental overdose victims had a
prescription for at least one drug implicated in the cause of death -
including benzodiazepines and antidepressants. A previous study revealed
that 43% of emergency admissions for suicide attempts or overdoses involved
tranquillizers and sleeping pills.
- Prescription drug addiction to benzodiazepines is 10 times the problem
of illegal drugs a far more gripping and debilitating than addiction to
heroin or cocaine. Withdrawal is recognized to be more difficult, more
prolonged and can last months or years depending on the years of use, dosage
and the concurrent prescribing with other drugs.
- Withdrawal symptoms from tranquillizers and sleeping pills can include
insomnia, panic attacks, agitation, hallucinations, paranoia,
depersonalization, derealization, depression, pressure in head, anxiety,
loss of appetite, weight loss, visual distortions, flashbacks, lack of
concentration, agoraphobia, dizziness, sweating, nausea, nightmares,
palpitations, creeping sensation in the skin, increased sensitivity to
light, touch and smell, pins and needles, numbness, seizures and sometimes
death. A too rapid withdrawal causes major hyper excitability of the brain
and central nervous system. A slow taper of weeks and months depending on
use is recommended under close, ongoing medical supervision by a
knowledgeable doctor and/or addiction specialist.
- A Canadian report released in May 1999 revealed that in 1997
benzodiazepine prescriptions surpassed all other Phamacare prescriptions for
women exceeding cardiac drugs, antidepressants and estrogen. 67% of
prescriptions were issued to women.
- 68% of people prescribed tranquillizers and sleeping pills receive their
prescriptions from only one doctor.
- A 1996 study at Stockholm University in Sweden revealed that 51% of
patients dependent on sedative/hypnotic drugs (tranquillizers and sleeping
pills) showed signs of acquired intellectual deterioration and impairment
(which can be permanent).
- Substance use and mental illness co exist in an estimated 50% - 70% of
patients diagnosed with "alleged psychiatric disorders". The DSM III and DSM
IV (psychiatric manuals) document substance induced anxiety disorders,
substance induced mood disorders and substance induced depressive disorders
caused by benzodiazepine use. These ""alleged psychiatric disorders" often
disappear once a patient is off all medications and as a result of lifestyle
changes including exercise and diet.
- There is extensive worldwide concurrent prescribing of benzodiazepines
with antidepressants to approximately 60% of patients/consumers (often
prescribed to counteract the adverse/side effects of one category of drugs
- Many patients are prescribed several different benzodiazepines and
several different antidepressants at the same time. In some cases, patients
are further prescribed neuroleptics and then anti psychotics. It is not
unusual to find patients on 3 - 7 different nervous system drugs. This is
all part of a market "dollar" driven healthcare system based on an
antiquated "disease model" and dependent on a chemical cocktail of drugs.
- A booming market also exists for antidepressants such as Prozac, Paxil,
Zoloft, Luvox, Wellbutrin and Effexor with worldwide sales in the billions
of dollars. Antidepressants (often referred to as the follow up to Valium 25
years later) in the United States in 2000 reached $10.4 billion in retail
sales up 21% over 1999 and representing a startling five fold increase since
- In the United States in 2000 Prozac sales (Eli Lilly) reached $2.6
billion, Zoloft (Pfizer) reached $1.9 billion, Paxil (Smith Kline Beecham)
$1.8 billion, Wellbutrin (Glaxo Smith Kline) $850.9 million and Effexor
(Wyeth - Ayerst) $815.8 million.
- Antidepressants including Prozac, Paxil, Zoloft, Luvox and Celexa can
have significant side effects including drug induced mania leading to
suicide, suicidal ideation, violence, criminal acts, disinhibition or out of
control behaviour; drug induced severe anxiety, agitation and depressions;
drug induced obsessions and compulsions; drug induced akathisia (an internal
sensation of agitation or discomfort that drives a person to move about and
also to lose impulse control); tolerance and addiction leading to a
recognized withdrawal syndrome which can include bouts of overwhelming
depression, insomnia, fatigue and life - threatening physical effects,
psychosis and violent out bursts.
- During the past decade and with greater frequency, there has been an
alarming increase in murder/suicides, suicides, domestic violence, bizarre
mass killings, mother (parents) killing children, road and air rage, school
shootings and workplace violence in North America where documented evidence
has shown the involvement of Prozac, Paxil, Zoloft, Luvox,
SSRI/Antidepressant drugs and/or other mind/and mood altering drugs.
- Most monographs and drug formularies for antidepressant drugs state
"effectiveness and safety in long term use has not been evaluated". Concern
has also been expressed regarding antidepressant prescribing to young
children and adolescents (since these drugs have not been approved for use
in children under 18 years of age). One million children in the US were
reported taking antidepressants in 1999 - including mint flavoured Prozac.
- Safe use of antidepressants during pregnancy has not been established
with drug monographs and drug formularies stating that antidepressants
should not be administered to women of child bearing potential unless in the
opinion of the treating physician the expected benefits to the patient
markedly out weigh the possible hazards to the child or fetus.
- Prescription Drugs are big business with high profits. The ongoing
creation by major international drug companies of expanded markets and new
markets for antidepressants include new "alleged diseases" such as "social
anxiety disorder" for which Paxil is being promoted heavily in advertising;
Prozac as Sarafem to treat "mood imbalances associated with premenstrual
syndrome" and since Prozac has gone off patent, the drug manufacturer, Eli
Lilly has received approval to market a once weekly version of the drug
(based on its "new coating").
- The drugging of children with Ritalin, another highly addictive central
nervous system stimulant, continues with increasing regularity and
controversy with Ritalin use nearing a world record. In the United States,
usage of Ritalin increased an estimated 70% between 1990 and 1998. Is it a
question of "hook" them young and they are customers for life to addictive
prescription drugs including tranquillizers, sleeping pills and
BE AN INFORMED AND AND KNOWLEDGEABLE CONSUMER!
Sources: International research and statistics compiled over 12 years
from various sources.
© Copyright 2003, Joan E. Gadsby