Benzos: Is This the World's Deadliest Pill? - Page 2

By Christopher Byron 05/22/11

Some say it's not opiate painkillers like Oxy, Norco and Vicodin, but drugs like Ativan, Xanax and Klonopin. And doctors are doling it out like candy, causing a surge of hellish withdrawals, overdoses and deaths.

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Ativan Klonopin Xanax
Klonopin earns Big Pharma Over $1 Billion a Year Photo via

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Scientists can't say for sure what Klonopin does when ingested, except that it dramatically affects the functioning of the brain. This much we know: If your brain is on fire with electrical signals—like, say, you’re having an epileptic seizure—a dose of clonazepam will help put out the flames.  It does so by lowering the electrical activity of the brain,  specifically which electrical activities it suppresses is something that no one really seems to know for sure. And therein lies the reason why clonazepam, like nearly the entire class of benzos, causes such unpredictable reactions in people. Put simply, the brain is just too complex a structure for its owners to understand—and when you start monkeying around with the way it functions, it’s anybody’s guess what is going to happen next.

Here's how the respected neurosurgeon Frank Vertosick, Jr., describes the brain in his book When The Air Hits Your Brain: Parables of Neurosurgery: “The human brain: a trillion nerve cells storing electrical patterns more numerous than the water molecules of the world’s oceans.” So, if clonazepam is given to a patient with a history of epileptic seizures, it is likely to bring the symptoms under control. But give the same drug to a person suffering from a completely different problem (an eating or sleeping disorder, for example), and it might actually cause an epileptic seizure.

Clonazepam has wreaked such havoc on people partly because it is so highly addictive; anyone who takes it for more than a few weeks may well develop a dependence on it. As a result, you can be prescribed Klonopin as a short-term treatment for, say, insomnia, and wind up so hooked on it that you’ll begin frantically “doctor shopping” for new prescriptions if the first physician who gave it for you refuses to renew the prescription. As with all benzos, use of Klonopin for more than a month can lead to a dangerous condition known as “benzodiazepine withdrawal syndrome,” featuring elevation of a user’s heart rate and blood pressure along with insomnia, nightmares, hallucinations, anxiety, panic, weight loss, muscular spasms or cramps, and seizures.

Along with Klonopin, here are the three other benzos that, by general agreement, have made it into the top ranks of the world’s worst and most widely abused drugs: temazepam, alprazolam, and lorazepam.

Temazepam: Sold in the U.S. under the brand name Restoril, this benzo was developed and approved in the 1960s as a short-term treatment for insomnia. It is basically what is commonly called a “knockout drop.” Taken even in relatively modest dosages, temazepam can produce a powerfully hypnotic effect that numbs users and makes them extremely compliant and susceptible to control. But thanks to the “practice of medicine exception” physicians can prescribe it for anything they want.

During the Cold War, the Soviet Union reportedly used temazepam extensively to keep political dissidents in a drugged-out state in government-run psychiatric hospitals. Both the CIA and the KGB are also said to have also used the sleeping pill in prisoner interrogations and in research into mind-control, brainwashing and social engineering.

Temazepam is sometimes referred to as a “date rape” drug, and it figures frequently in drug-related crimes of violence. In the drug world underground, where it is often sold as an alternative to heroin and crack cocaine, it goes by such street names as “tams,” “Vitamin T,” “terminators,” “big T,” “mind eraser” and “Mommy’s Big Helper.” Common side-effects include confusion, clumsiness, chronic drowsiness, impaired learning, memory and motor functions, as well as extreme euphoria, dizziness and amnesia. 

Alprazolam: Brand name Xanax, this benzo now accounts for as many as 60% of all hospital admissions for drug addiction, according to some research. What’s more, violent and psychotic responses to Xanax are not limited to humans. In May 2009, a 200-lb chimpanzee being kept as a house pet by a Stamford, Conn., woman went on a rampage after being dosed with Xanax, escaping into the neighborhood and ripping off the face of a friend of its owner.

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