Christy Huff, M.D. currently serves as the director of the Benzodiazepine Information Coalition. She is also a cardiologist, graduating at the top of her class, and attending top post-graduate training programs in noninvasive cardiology.
Dr. Huff was prescribed benzodiazepines many years ago, and became physically dependent on this potentially dangerous class of psychiatric drugs. After a difficult tapering process to help her get off of benzodiazepines, she has now been benzo-free for several years.
As director of the Benzodiazepine Information Coalition, she wants to deliver some important messages to doctors and patients who have been prescribed benzodiazepines, or may be prescribed benzodiazepines in the future.
Benzodiazepine physical dependence is not the same as addiction. In fact, the vast majority of people who develop a physical dependence on these drugs are not at all addicted. Physical dependence means that a person has withdrawal symptoms when the drug is removed from their system. Addiction implies self-harming behaviors, characterized by cravings and compulsions to continue consumption of drugs that have a high abuse potential. Benzodiazepine physical dependence is not addiction.
People who have become dependent on these drugs do have hope. It is possible to safely taper off of benzodiazepines, using a slow taper method, such as the Ashton Method described in the Ashton Manual. While the process can sometimes be difficult, and the recovery period after completing the taper can take time, patients who quit benzodiazepines do eventually stop feeling withdrawal symptoms, and they do learn ways to address anxiety without the need for prescription drugs.
I encourage listeners of this episode to visit https://benzoinfo.com. There is extensive information on the site for doctors and patients. While you are there, search for articles written by Dr. Huff. Her articles are informative, and they offer hope for the struggling benzodiazepine-dependent people who are looking for answers.