Anxiety and addiction

Prescription medications can be the cause of addiction in some patients. Most commonly, woman are often prescribed benzodiazepines to help them through a rough spot of anxiety, insomnia or severe stress.

Woman are prescribed benzodiazepines such as Valium and Ativan, twice as often as men and for longer periods of time than they were intended to be used. It is common to prescribe these for a few weeks in addition to SSRI’s antidepressants. The reason for this is the SSRI’s are known to worsen anxiety in the first 2-4 weeks of use. But once these drugs take effect the benzodiazepines are discontinued. However they are often prescribed on their own and if care is not taken then addiction can set in.

Symptoms of addiction include having to increase the dosage to have a therapeutic effect on sleep and to calm the nervous system. When combined with alcohol maniacal behavior, emotional breakdowns and brushes with the law can result. Joan Gadsby, a former city councilor in North Vancouver made the news due to her bizarre behavior that was as a result of the long term usage of benzodiazepines resulting in “paradoxical excitement”. After her recovery she spent 10 years researching the subject of benzodiazepine dependency and wrote a book called “Addiction by Prescription”.

Other significant side effects of long term usage of benzodiazepines include: over sedation, impairment of memory, balance and learning, depression and emotional blunting.

Sara, age 46, came into me because she had been on these drugs in the past and had come off of them with professional help but she still needed help. She had chronic back pain as well as insomnia and anxiety.

My first step with patients is to look at the diet so I put her on an anti-inflammatory diet and had her avoid the foods she was sensitive to as was found by the Electrodermal Testing we do in the office. These foods were often the ones that she craved but over time we were able to take care of the deficiencies that were behind the cravings as well as help her with her blood sugar imbalance.

To help her along I used a therapeutic dosage of GABA, B complexes, essential fatty acids, vitamin D and homeopathic remedies specific for the treatment of anxiety and pain. These homeopathic remedies are part of the Psychosomatic Energetics or PSE system of treatment. Using a machine called the REBA device; the main mental and emotional conflicts are identified. The remedies are taken for 2-4 months and then the person is re-evaluated.

The process of balancing out the body can take 1-2 years but this safe and effective method is very useful for those who are still on medications for insomnia and anxiety and need help weaning off and keeping off these medications.

Sara, being of peri-menopausal age, was also evaluated hormonally and found that balancing her with bio-identical progesterone really helped with her anxiety and insomnia.

Sleep hygiene is paramount for any insomnia case and involves eliminating any “electromagnetic smog” from the bedroom, taking calcium and magnesium minerals at bedtime, having a hot bath or shower at bedtime to equilibrate the body temperature and not watching TV or doing any computer work one hour before bed.

It always amazes me how well the body responds to many of these common sense naturopathic therapies and all we are doing is assisting the body to heal itself.

Sara is doing very well.

She is back to her active lifestyle and the naturopathic program she is on is also preventing the common diseases of aging such as diabetes, heart disease and stroke.

Dr.Ingrid Pincott, naturopathic physician, has been practicing since 1985 and can be reached at 250-286-3655 or

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