The Science of Benzos: GABA and Glutamate
Updated: Mar 23
How do benzodiazepines work? What do they do in the body? Why do they initially calm us, but then stop working? And why are they so incredibly hard to stop? When we take a look at the neurotransmitters GABA and glutamate, we find a few answers.
In today’s episode, we examine two key chemicals in the brain and discover a few insights into why withdrawal is so difficult for so many. We also answer a couple questions about support groups, spotlight two regional organizations, and hear a story from Nova Scotia, Canada.
Video ID: BFP018
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00:00 Introduction 07:50 Mailbag 12:35 Benzo News 15:24 Benzo Spotlight 19:32 Benzo Story 25:52 The Science of Benzos 42:22 Moment of Peace
The following resource links are provided as a courtesy to our listeners. They do not constitute an endorsement by Easing Anxiety of the resource or any recommendations or advice provided therein.
INVERSE.COM: “Who’s Avoiding Sex? Psychiatrist Cites 3 Reasons” by Shervin Assari
MENAFN: “Bisnar Chase Secures $11-Million Jury Verdict for Wife and Children of Man Who Died by Suicide While in Rehab”
BENZO FREE PODCAST: Episode #17 — Benzo Brain: Cognitive Dysfunction and Memory Loss in Withdrawal
MPR: “Fluoroquinolone Use Linked to Increased Peripheral Neuropathy Risk” by Cassandra Pardini, PharmD
BIG ISSUE NORTH: “Why don’t we just… stop pretending that pills are the answer to young people’s problems?” by Mike Shooter
Bristol and District Tranquilliser Project AGM — Prof. Ashton’s Lecture
FEATURE: The Science of Benzos – GABA and Glutamate
Ashton, C. Heather. Benzodiazepines: How They Work and How to Withdraw (aka The Ashton Manual). 2002. Accessed April 13, 2016. http://www.benzo.org.uk/manual.
Bachhuber, Marcus A., Sean Hennessy, Chinazo O. Cunningham, and Joanna L. Starrels. “Increasing Benzodiazepine Prescriptions and Overdose Mortality in the United States, 1996-2013.” American Journal of Public Health (AJPH) (April 2016). Accessed April 7, 2018. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2016.303061.
Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Prescribing Guidelines for Pennsylvania: Safe Prescribing Benzodiazepines for Acute Treatment of Anxiety & Insomnia. Updated May 15, 2017. Accessed April 7, 2018. https://www.health.pa.gov/topics/Documents/Opioids/PA%20Guidelines%20on%20Benzo%20Prescribing.pdf.
Edwards, Elaine, “Bad Side-Effects of Drugs Such as Valium A ‘Medical Disaster’,” Irish Times, October 10, 2016, Accessed October 10, 2016, https://www.irishtimes.com/news/health/bad-side-effects-of-drugs-such-as-valium-a-medical-disaster-1.2824495.
Foster, D E. Benzo Free: The World of Anti-Anxiety Drugs and the Reality of Withdrawal. Erie, Colorado: Denim Mountain Press, 2018. https://easinganxiety.com/book.
Goddard AW. “Cortical and subcortical gamma amino acid butyric acid deficits in anxiety and stress disorders: clinical implications.” World J Psychiatry 6(1)(2016):43-53. doi: 10.5498/wjp.v6.i1.43.
IMS Health. Vector One: National (VONA) and Total Patient Tracker (TPT) Database (2013). Extracted April 2014. Quoted in CCHR International. “Total Number of People Taking Psychiatric Drugs in the United States.” Accessed April 3, 2018. https://www.cchrint.org/psychiatric-drugs/people-taking-psychiatric-drugs/.
Leigh, Jennifer, “Five (5) Facts About Benzodiazepine Withdrawal (You Need to Know),” Additionblog.org, August 16, 2015, accessed March 6, 2017, http://prescription-drug.addictionblog.org/five-5-facts-about-benzodiazepine-withdrawal-you-need-to-know/.
National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). “Well-Known Mechanism Underlies Benzodiazepines’ Addictive Properties.” NIDA Notes, April 19, 2012. Accessed August 10, 2017. https://www.drugabuse.gov/news-events/nida-notes/2012/04/well-known-mechanism-underlies-benzodiazepines-addictive-properties.
Vertosick Jr., Frank. When the Air Hits Your Brain: Tales from Neurosurgery. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1996. https://www.amazon.com/When-Air-Hits-Your-Brain/dp/0393330494.
Wikipedia, “Benzodiazepine Withdrawal Syndrome,” last modified February 21, 2018, accessed April 7, 2018, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Benzodiazepine_withdrawal_syndrome.
In today’s intro, I decided it was time to focus on the positive. I even added some ukulele music to lighten the mood. The message was simple, why wait until your back to normal to feel happy. Grab every happy moment you can when you can. You need it those joyful moments now more than ever.
This is where we share questions and comments which were discussed:
QUESTION: Are there any emotional support groups or organizations specifically for families and other caregivers of those recovering from benzo use? This comment was from an anonymous listener. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a good answer and didn’t know of any off-hand. I did ask for input from our listeners to see if anyone could provide one that I could share with this listener or anyone else.
QUESTION: Starting a withdrawal support group in NYC, can I help spread the word? This comment was from Naomi, in NYC. She first asked if I knew of any support groups in NYC, which I didn’t. But then said that she was going to start up a Meet-Up and could I help spread the word. I said I would and would add a new category to our resources just for regional support groups.
Today’s spotlight shined on two regional support groups in the U.K. They are Bristol and District Tranquilliser Project (BTP) and Battle Against Tranquillisers (BAT). Both groups provide one-on-one and group services to people living in the Bristol and South Gloucestershire areas. Even though these services are not available outside of this area, their websites are still useful resources.
Today’s story was from Jane in Glace Bay, Nova Scotia, Canada.
Today’s featured topic: The Science of Benzos: GABA and Glutamate
In the feature, we examined the science of how benzodiazepines work inside of the body. In particular, we explored the neurotransmitter mechanisms of GABA and glutamate. Glutamate excites, and GABA inhibits, kind of like the gas pedal and the brakes on a car. Benzodiazepines enhance the actions of GABA and increase their inhibitory effect. Listen to the podcast for more detail.
The Benzo Free Podcast provides information, support, and community to those who struggle with the long-term effects of anxiety medications such as benzodiazepines (Xanax, Ativan, Klonopin, Valium) and Z-drugs (Ambien, Lunesta, Sonata).
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