Alternatives to benzodiazepines
“Doctor, I just can’t breathe and I feel so overwhelmed and I can’t stop crying, I don’t even know why…it’s hard to function, I need help right now.” This is the alarm-call that leads to a prescription for one of the fastest acting and effective (yet addictive) types of medications, benzodiazepines. This medication has become the mainstay of medicine to alleviate mental-emotional distress (eg: anxiety, panic attacks) and insomnia. However, it is only meant to be used short term: a few doses, a few days, maybe a week. If taken longer than this short period of time, then the risk of dependency arises as well as other known and documented risks such as: 50% increased risk of dementia, dizziness and impaired coordination (with increased risk of falling), feelings of depression, drowsiness, trembling, headache, etc.
The challenge of course is how to help these patients ‘in the moment’ when they need something to help them get through the next few minutes, hours or days. From the perspective of a naturopathic doctor, I have found a few treatment options to be effective and can serve as real options once the person has been assessed, I’ve listed a few below.
Naturopathic options to Benzodiazepines
- Custom homeopathic medicine selection. Based on the patients symptoms, a specifically matched homeopathic remedy can work wonders. Some examples include the remedies, Aconite, Argentum-nitricum and Gelsemium.
- GABA. This is a neurotransmitter that helps calm the mind to reduce excess nervous stimulation. It can be taken as a specific supplement, or indirectly supported by herbs that improve GABA functions such as extracts of the herb passionflower.
- Bach remedies. These are plant-based diluted extracts that can be selected to match the symptoms and situation the patient is experiencing. These can also bring about quick changes.
- Myers cocktail. This is a nutritional injection that helps reduce acute anxiety.
Of course, once the acute situation has been calmed, it is fundamental to figure out the background of why these sudden attacks are happening and warrants a full naturopathic assessment to understand and address the underlying cause(s).