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My parents are mid-to-late 70s. Both have been on Benzos (primarily Lorazepam) since the 1980s for anxiety and sleep. They are having issues with memory, balance, weakness, depression, and more. When I read over the long-term effects of taking Benzos it describes my parents to a "T". Anyone have experience with someone taking these meds long-term?

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Good grief and hubby talks about returning to the UK
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Ohhhh Demerol. Do they still prescribe like that? I heard from a friend that there is a lot of drug overprescribing in the UK that in turn created a heroin problem. And how they changed bus and bathroom flourecent bulbs to an ugly color so you can't see veins to shoot up.
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My ex's grandmother was prescribed pethidine for decades, which all started with a gut operation and nobody got round to stopping it (private medicine in the UK used to get away with all kinds of horrors). Then when she was in her eighties and moved to a nursing home they insisted on taking her off it. I never did see the point of that. Unless maybe they weren't able to give controlled medication to patients - but for heaven's sake why weren't they?

They took her Cognac away too. A whole new you..? She didn't live very long in the NH, and I'm tempted to add "fortunately."
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Yes. Turns out he quit shortly after. I wonder if he didn't want to write it because he planned on quitting. The dr that followed was good. Then he got fired. Then the next dr was ok until for some reason wrote 0 refills on metopolol. It took daily multiple calls for them to authorize a refill. Which in turn took 8 days. I had to go into the pharmacy and beg for a few pills because of that. Turns out he quit too. We got another dr after that. Then the company suddenly ceased operations.

The only reason we didn't switch companies was that her previous visiting dr company was much worse. 
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Tired, a DOCTOR (M.D.?) cut off a 90 y.o. cold turkey from benzodiazepines? That's shocking to me. If anyone were to do the most basic research about discontinuing benzos they would know that stopping suddenly is far worse for intense and long term side effects than stepping down gradually. Ugh.
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Tired I would call what that Dr. did amounted to elder abuse.
Glad they are out of business.
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My grandma has been taking them for decades as well She is also 90.

The former visiting dr took that script away and refused to give her a refill after her taking them for decades.

She didn't sleep for 2 days, I didn't sleep for 2 days. She was drooping over in her wheelchair from lack of sleep. I kept calling the dr but all I would get was the voicemail. After not getting through to talk to the actual Doctor for 2 days I sorta sorted out the issue. Good thing I did because it took 3 weeks for a different dr from the same company to write a script. You can't just cut a 90 year old off cold turkey. Bad company. Never liked them. Just this week they suddenly closed shop. I suspect fraud.
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My Mom has been taking them for decades. She is 90

I can see no point to taking them away now....it's not like it is going to ruin her career.

She would not sleep without them. Why put an elderly person through that h*ll?

I understand the risks and down side. But, geez..she is 90!
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Yet the doctors have no problem writing scripts for pain killers that could sedate a cow. Our country's huge opiate problem didn't just come out of nowhere. Our health care "system" is a steaming pile of human excrement designed to cater to those with gold-plated insurance plans and to hell with the rest of us. Every year it's higher premiums and more hoops to jump through. Sorry for the rant. I wish I had a Benzo right now!
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Perhaps all of the aging patients taking these meds should realize that they are linked with dementia and Alzheimer's.
Mom had trouble sleeping so she was prescribed generic ambien. Then sleeping soundly she would wake up having anxiety. The doc prescribed generic xanax. She took these for about 7 years until total knee replacement surgery. They were not disclosed by either she nor her prim doc to the orthopedic surgeon prior to surgery. Thank God she was given a block and conscious sedation because if she had general anesthesia she might have never woken up to get off the vent!
The anesthesiologist came to speak to me to tell me mom had moderate to severe sleep apnea. Then after rehab for the knee she came home with me a two hour drive. By the time we got to my house she was slurring and out of it. I helped her undress and found pills hidden in her bra. I got a pharmacist to identify them.
It angered me that a prim care doc would not question an elderly patient as to snoring at night nor send someone to have a sleep study done before giving pills that make them sleep deeper and more soundly.
Fast forward to now mom has two kinds of apnea, obstructive and central (brain stops her breathing due to a stroke from the other apnea) and she now has moderate vascular dementia from the 7 years of benzos/sleeping pills. She doesn't always wear her mask and continues with TIA's.
Please have parents (or selves) tested for apnea if they have sleep issues. Apnea patients notoriously have high blood pressure at night which could result in stroke especially in patients with daytime low blood pressure. BP creeps up to daytime and sometimes found at a routine doc visit.
I truly believe if mom had not started these nasty pills she would not be dealing with as severe vascular dementia and she would still be living independently rather than about to enter a memory care facility because it has gotten past the point where I can care for her due to safety issues and aggression which are worsening.
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My mother is a long-term benzo addict. She has a lot of what she calls "nerves" and think it is what causes any ailments in her life. Her doctor put her on valium 50-55 years ago. She took valium for a long time, then switched to Xanax, and finally to Ativan. Throughout her benzo tour she was given 4 each day. The last few years that has been cut back to 3 a day by the insurance companies. They will only pay for 90 a month. I believe that is the ethical guideline for the doctors now, too.

I was able to cut my mother back to 2 a day. Her doctor wants to cut her to only one, but I don't think we'll be able to pull it off. My mother is 90 and in poor health with dementia, so I think we're beyond the point of worrying about addiction.

My mother granted a bit of magic to her little pills. They could cure physical and mental problems. They were the answer to all her worries. It is like they had fairy dust on them in her way of thinking. A sad thing is that these medications have been abused so much that doctors are reluctant to prescribe them when they are really needed. For example, Xanax is the best medication to handle panic disorder, along with an antidepressant. Many doctors won't prescribe it anymore, so people have a harder time recovering from panic disorder. The medical world can be crazy because of the fear of being reprimanded.
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Parents live in their own home which is within walking distance of me. At this point they are maintaining home and bills. All of the important stuff is in place legally such as POA, wills, long term care insurance, etc. They were and still are planners. They both get great health reports in terms of heart, lungs, blood pressure, cholesterol, blood work, etc. But they seem foggy/groggy, depressed, etc. Doc's have come up with all different theories about my dad - Alzheimers, Lewy Body, Parkinsons, etc. Each doc has a different theory. Nobody mentions that maybe he is over medicated. Mom is depressed, moody, and seriously went from running daily in her 60s to now functioning more like someone in her 80s, although she's only 75. I appreciate all of your input, especially those with Benzo experience. I never imagined Benzos were that bad until I started reading the side effects. My husband took them short-term about 5 years ago because he was having panic attacks, but luckily our family doctor said enough, Benzos have ugly side effects, and wean off of them. I am so glad our doctor cares enough to do that!
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Are they addicted or demented? Have they always been jealous of each others medical conditions? Is that why they steal each others pills and constantly check the numbers?
They are not very old in their seventies but that does not mean they don't have dementia.
It is going to be difficult to change anything at this time because they don't see a problem or maybe they do if they have changed from active seniors into virtual zombies.
Definitely try and get them to an eldercare Lawyer with any excuse you can manage and get the paperwork in order. They might agree to that. Do you know if they are paying their bills, keeping the house and themselves clean and tidy. Would they agree to housecleaning, gardening etc.?
As far as hoarding pills is concerned that is a difficult one because it is often difficult to get timely refils or the pharmacy runs out or you want to go on vacation and know you will need a refill while you are away. Personally I try snd keep an extra 2 weeks supply on hand for that very reason. I  am not hoarding! I also fill a pill box once a week so I am sure I am taking everything and it saves time and makes it easier. If I have something for pain for example after surgery I do keep the bottle beside me but I also have pen and paper so I can note the time and dose. Would the parents agree to you filling pill boxes for them each week? If you are there every day put out the pills daily and only provide the number of benzos they are allowed to take in 24 hours. I am sure they will continue to steal from each other and make accusations but you can only do so much.
As a separate issue they could be experiencing side effects from other medications which are causing the same symptoms. They may need these to continue functioning at all.
It would seem to be time that they need more help and supervision, whether this can continue in their own home or AL. A lot depends on other medical conditions, so be aware they may not be sharing information with you. if they will agree to medical POA that will give you access to their Dr and medical records.
This will take a long while to unravel and is clearly a bigger problem than taking benzos for 30 years so you have a hard road ahead of you.
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No answers from me, but lots of empathizing that you're having to deal with this. As you doubt you can change this addiction, I hope you can make sure there are appropriate things in place such as wills, healthcare directives, POA's, etc. May be all you can do in this mess. Too bad they have such a sorry doctor to condone this.
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Upstream, I agree with everything you said -- it's one of those classes of meds that are regularly prescribed and taken by thousands if not millions of people, and it's my opinion that benzos do have a place as both acute and maintenance treatment, BUT... everyone who is taking or will start taking should know exactly what it is these meds do! This is an addictive and habit forming medication, and there are a myriad of known side effects! If you try to stop taking it, you'll experience MORE of the symptoms - like not being able to sleep, having chest pain - and then any logical person would think "I can't stop taking these, clearly I need them." You need them because your body now has a dependency. Perhaps the acute reason you began taking them has passed, or perhaps you could meet your sleep-aid needs using another substance that doesn't create dependency, but that's no longer an option because now you're addicted to benzos.

Best of luck to you. I get why you're shocked at what you're seeing and learning about benzos. They're great medication for soothing the human stress response... maybe they're a little too great, similar to alcohol or heroin: there is a payoff somewhere in your body's system. Your body has now stopped doing it's own stress/sleep management and is relying on the extra GABA.

...just some thoughts... :)

Oh!  And to directly address what you're trying to sort out:  how could you know what is related to long term benzo use and what is related to aging?  You can't know, at this point.  I can tell you from personal experience (I'm 41) that my mind became numb during my 2 years on Klonopin.  I couldn't remember simple spellings of words.  My short term memory was terrible.  I couldn't do things like drive 4-5 hours at a time, and I had been able to do that just a year before, but now it seemed like far too much of a mental chore to exhaust myself with a lengthy drive.  There were a lot of little things I experienced, and it was only 2 years for me of a relatively minimal/accepted therapeutic dosage.  If mom and dad are counting and hoarding pills, sounds like they are in a more progressed stage of addiction than I was.  That's tough and you have my sympathy.    
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My mother-in-law just died from her neurodegenerative disorder and she bought into all of the "better living through chemistry" nonsense that took off in the 80s. I know she used Lorazepam but don't know how much.

My MIL was a lovely person. By the time she died, she was an empty shell of a woman who was bound to a wheelchair, couldn't talk, had no control over her bodily functions, and was kept alive by chemistry. It was heartbreaking.

Back in the 80s doctors prescribed pills and got rewarded by the pharmaceutical companies with free golf outings, expensive dinners, cruises, ski vacations, and more. Doctors never questioned the drug reps because the drugs they peddled passed the FDA. Few read the drug studies themselves. They did not want the gravy train to end. Fast forward a few decades, and their patients have more problems than they started with. And its us "kids" who get to deal with the messes they made using their prescription pads.

At this point it's impossible to separate how much the Benzos caused and how much would have happened anyway even if all your parents took was baby aspirin.

If your parents have the money, perhaps you can encourage them to take a vacation at a health and wellness resort/retreat. If they are in denial, I agree that their doctor isn't going to help ween them now. Whatever happens, please make sure they both have their POA paperwork in order.
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Thank you all for your answers! I don't think getting them to quit is a manageable task at this point. They won't do it willingly and I think the withdrawl will be too difficult at this stage of the game. I guess I am mostly trying to get a handle on how much of their problems are potentially due to the Benzos vs. the other theories that float around from the docs. My parents are like zombies a lot - shuffling along slowly, talking slowly, falls, memory problems. They often seem about a decade older than they really are. Unfortunately for my mom the anxiety and sleep problems are coming back despite the meds. It's my understanding that at times my dad forgets how many of these things he's taken because he pops some more at night if he can't sleep. The more I read about Benzos the more I'm surprised that it never, ever comes up as a potential source of any of these problems. It's really scary!
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Errrrr... to be more exact: benzos act as an agonist for GABA receptors. It's fascinating, the not-that-complicated science that underlies how benzodiazepines work in the body. If you can understand what it's doing in the body, that helps to then explain to people taking it why they should make the effort to withdraw. And you never w/d cold turkey, it's done in baby steps over time.
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For withdrawal guidelines, check out the Ashton Manual.  You can find detailed info about it online. There are also support groups for benzo w/d online. But... like you said, your parents aren't going to give up their wonder drug unless they understand it's causing a significant number of their issues AND they're willing to trade in their current life for a hellish 6 months of step down withdrawals. 

I was on Klonopin for 2 years. I had no clue about side effects, I just needed relief from debilitating anxiety at the time, and my doc never mentioned the words "habit forming" or "addictive" even though I specifically asked about that. Withdrawal was horrible but doable. I had a couple of ER visits for chest pains due to panic attacks.

Yes, I think your parents' symptoms are at least in part related to the long term benzo use, but what's going to change at this stage of their lives? You might as well allow them to live the rest of their lives on the benzos at this point, I would think. This is a tough one. They've been on them so long... they would have to want to regain their sharpness that the meds dull, and they would have to want that bad enough to endure withdrawal symptoms.

If you're interested, look up GABA and what it does in the human body.  It's a very interesting chemical, and benzos put more of it in the body.  GABA slows down everything in the body at the cellular level... that's my understanding of what it does.  That's why people on benzos will talk slower and not realize they're talking slowly, because they also hear slowly.  Everything is slowed.  Sensation is subdued, reflexes are slowed, everything is slower than it otherwise would be.  They're great if you need relief from acute anxiety.  Benzos shouldn't be used as a long term medication, imho.  
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The catch 22 is that doing without them will cause anxiety and sleep problems, so of course the really DO need them. They have to both admit that they are addicted and be willing to go through h&ll to break the need for them, I have a feeling that their current doc will not be helpful and may in fact do everything he can to discourage you/them (covering his own a$$). You may want to speak with someone who specializes in this kind of addiction to see if they can at least help them to taper down a little.
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Yes, they've been taking them for decades, probably since the early 1980s. Dad's doctor told him back then that they are harmless, no side effects, and that you can't really even overdose on them. My parents think they are the wonder drug that gets them through life. I know they will not give them up, and I know withdrawl could be a real problem! I'm just surprised that the docs keep refilling with no questions, especially given that my dad is having short-term memory problems and my mom went from a fitness buff to a doddering old lady with a cane between the ages of 70-75. They are totally hooked, count pills, hoard them, and argue over who may have taken the other's pills when one ran out. It's a little scary...
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They've been taking these meds constantly since that time? For 30 years!?
Doc's used to hand them out like candy years ago but I am amazed that somewhere along the way they weren't weaned off the. Before my father died he was prescribed them for anxiety related to his angina. He was certain that he needed them because when he didn't take them he thought he was having a heart attack, he was undoubtedly addicted and this was a symptom of withdrawal. My mom once said getting off valium was one of the hardest things she ever had to do, much more difficult than the opiates she took for pain. Don't stop them without the advice and guidance of a physician!
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That's... a heck of a lot of refills.

A more pertinent question might be whether anyone has any experience of withdrawing benzodiazepines after such a long period. I.e. is there anything to be done about it now? - though I'm sure you're right that they will be having their effects on your parents.

Have you talked this over with them or their doctor?
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