A Project of the Empathic Therapy Center is an online library and newspaper project of the 501c3 nonprofit Center for the Study of Empathic Therapy, Education & Living, founded by Peter R. Breggin, MD and Ginger Breggin, working toward replacing the biological theories, diagnoses and treatments of "modern" psychiatry with better therapeutic and educational approaches

Peter R. Breggin, MD Websites

Benzodiazepines (tranquilizers) & Sleeping Pills


New British Medical Journal Study: Seniors "new use of benzodiazepines is associated with an approximately 50% increase in the risk of dementia."  "

Benzodiazepine use and risk of dementia: prospective population based study" Billiotti de Gage, et al, BMJ, September 2012

British Medical Journal reports:
Participents: were "1063 men and women (mean age 78.2 years) who were free of dementia and did not start taking benzodiazepines until at least the third year of follow-up.  Results: During a 15 year follow-up, 253 incident cases of dementia were confirmed. Conclusions: In this prospective population based study, new use of benzodiazepines was associated with increased risk of dementia. The result was robust in pooled analyses across cohorts of new users of benzodiazepines throughout the study and in a complementary case-control study. Considering the extent to which benzodiazepines are prescribed and the number of potential adverse effects of this drug class in the general population, indiscriminate widespread use should be cautioned against."


4 times as many deaths linked to sleeping pills, study suggests
Doctors call for rethink after large study finds prescribed pills could be associated with up to 500,000 extra deaths a year in US

Doctors are calling for a rethink of the use of sleeping pills after a large study showed that the drugs carry a substantially increased risk of death for those who are prescribed them.

Commonly used sleeping pills, or “hypnotics”, such as temazepam and zolpidem, which is prescribed for short-term insomnia, are associated with more than a fourfold risk of death, according to the study published in the BMJ Open journal.

The study was carried out in the US, where up to 10 per cent of the adult population took sleeping pills in 2010. The authors estimate that sleeping pills may have been associated with 320,000 to 507,000 extra deaths in the US that year.  Read rest of this Guardian article by Sarah Boseley here.   See the study, here.


"Hypnotics' association with mortality or cancer: a matched cohort study" by D. Kripkel, et al, BMJ, February 2012

This study documents that up to 500,000 extra deaths per year in the United States are associated with sleeping pills, benzodiazepines and hypnotics.


An analysis of the adverse behavioral effects of benzodiazepines
Full title: "An Analysis of Adverse Behavioral Effects of Benzodiazepines With a Discussion on Drawing Scientific Conclusions from the FDA's Spontaneous Reporting System." Journal of Mind and Behavior Vol 19 No 1 (1998) 21-50

Dilute Concentrations of a Psychiatric Drug Alter Behavior of Fish from Natural Populations, T. Brodin, et al Science, 15 Feb. 2013
Wild Perch exposed to human anti-anxiety drugs (benzodiazepines) become isolated, aggressive.  This is a new study.  Read the Reuters report here.


"Intoxication Anosognosia: The Spellbinding Effect of Psychiatric Drugs", Ethical Human Psychology and Psychiatry, 8, 201-215, 2006.

ABSTRACT: Why do so many individuals persist in taking psychoactive substances, including psychiatric drugs, after adverse mental and behavioral effects have become severe and even disabling? The author has previously proposed the brain-disabling principle of psychiatric treatment that all somatic psychiatric treatments impair the function of the brain and mind. Intoxication anosognosia (medication spellbinding) is an expression of this druginduced mental disability. Intoxication anosognosia causes the victim to underestimate the degree of drug-induced mental impairment, to deny the harmful role that the drug plays in the person’s altered state, and in many cases compel the individual to mistakenly believe that he or she is functioning better. In the extreme, the individual displays out-of-character compulsively destructive behaviors, including violence toward self and others.

2011 prescription drug label for Xanax:  XANAX XR CIV (alprazolam) extended release tablets


Xanax Facts and Whitney Houston

by Peter R. Breggin, MD

First Published in The Huffington Post

Whitney Houston's passing has raised the specter that she was taking the benzodiazepine Xanax (alprazolam) at the time she died.

If it turns out that Whitney was under the influence of Xanax (alprazolam), then there's a good chance she would be alive today if that drug had never been put on the market.

Although Xanax is the most commonly prescribed benzodiazepine, and in my experience the most dangerous, the same harmful effects can be caused by all benzodiazepines, including Valium, Ativan, Klonopin, Serax, Halcion, Dalmane, and Halcion. When I address Xanax, I'm also talking about all of these drugs.

 Reports that Xanax and other benzos are not usually lethal when taken alone are vastly misleading. Xanax is rarely taken alone. Why? Because as much or more than any other prescribed drug, Xanax causes medication spellbinding. It corrupts judgment, memory and self-control, so that individuals have no idea how badly they are being impaired. Eventually it erodes all mental faculties, often without the person fully grasping this loss of function. The impairment of judgment and self-control causes people to overdose on drugs or alcohol without intending to, leading to coma, cardiovascular collapse and death. The Xanax-induced memory impairment causes them to forget how many pills or how much alcohol they have already taken, again increasing the lethal risk.

Xanax has been called "alcohol in a pill" because its effects are so similar to alcohol. However, as will be documented, Xanax can be far more dangerous than alcohol. It should not be prescribed to patients with alcohol problems, because it becomes a powerful impetus for alcohol abuse.

 At critical moments in their lives when individuals are suffering from serious emotional problems, their ability to deal with them is further compromised as a result of Xanax-induced medication spellbinding and cognitive deficits. In acute distress, they often have no idea what is happening to them. They have no idea how impaired they have become, they forget what they've already taken, or increase the dose, or increase or add other medications or alcohol.  Read more here.


Do benzodiazepines still deserve a major role in the treatment of psychiatric disorders? A critical reappraisal, B. Dell'ossa, et al; European Psychiatry 2012

"the entire spectrum of BZD-related adverse effects including psychomotor effects, use in the elderly, paradoxical reactions, tolerance and rebound , teratologic risk, dependence, withdrawal and abuse issues was examined in detail"