Atypical Benzodiazepines Receptor Ligands
Who would think that a drug that most psychiatrists do not even consider to be a benzodiazepines can be more addictive than a benzodiazepines (benzos for short) drug? What exactly is Ambien (or Lunesta or a host of others for that matter) and why are they so addictive? Are they benzos or not and what is the big deal?
Officially there is a drug class called “Atypical Benzodiazepines Receptor Ligand” and most psychiatrists and doctors I talk to have no idea what that means. So let me spend a little time and explain since I have my pharmacology book handy; it will be easy to read but harder to reduce the complexity. I must also add that all doctors have learned what this is but it is so complicated they simply forget. As a result, doctors prescribe these drugs like candy yet they are worse than Valium, which is a real benzo. So what is the difference?
Let us start with the term “atypical” which will tell you that it is not a benzo but there is something about it that makes it fall into the benzo category. The term “benzodiazepines” represent a class of drugs that are known to be evil–they are not– and I will discuss that later. “Receptor” means a “hole” for lack of better word that sucks up the particular neurotransmitter that is able to fit into it. Think of a receptor like the kids’ toy of cubes and balls and other shapes fitting into the appropriate holes. It is very hard to fit a square object into a round hole. Thus the purpose of the specific receptors is to only accept the kind of neurotransmitters that fit that shape of receptor.
For regular benzos, this is exactly what is happening. They attach to the receptor they fit and behave there doing the job they do with the goal of dampening anxiety. Now let’s look at the most confusing of all terms “ligands.” Ligands do something very nasty. They reshape the receptor to make themselves fit, thereby modifying the neuron itself. This is very bad. Not only do they force themselves onto receptors they do not belong to, but they reshape the neuron to permit them to function as though they were benzos but they are not; they are hypnotics!
What does a hypnotics drug do? It places you into a trans of a completely unnatural state. It does not calm anxiety or reduce depression, it floats you into an outer existence for a while and then drops you back (crash) to reality.
There is also the little matter of “half-life” which causes a lot of problems.
Half life is the time it takes for the drug to have 50% of its active ingredients leave your body. Thus for Ambien it is 2.6 hours per wikipedia where you can find all benzos in their categories and dose equivalences as well. It is not listed how fast it completely leaves the system but one can calculate it pretty quick. Half leaves in 2.6 hours; half of the second half also leaves in 2.6 hours and so forth. When you add it all up, basically the drug is nearly undetectable in 15 hours but it is still in the body to a minuscule level. The problem is that it completely left in less than 24 hours. Most doctors think that having a benzo or alike with short half-life out of your system (less 24) hours is a good thing. I drew you a little chart here so you can see how bad that is.
As you can see on my little hand drawn scribble here real benzos–particularly ones like Valium (orange)–have very long half-lives–some longer than a day. That means that if one is on Valium, for example, one never experiences highs and lows because before one can crash by having Valium leave the system, a new dose is taken at night and the cycle begins without any noticeable drop in level.
At the same time, if you look at what happens in the case of a receptor ligand (black), you can see that it peaks in about 1 hour and by 2.6 hours half the drug left the system. If the dose is chosen right for sleep, by the morning–8 hours after taking it–one is supposed to be without any trace of the hypnotics.
But we have a problem. The receptors were modified and want more of the stuff they used since now they have a weird shape and need to get more Ambien to fill up the receptor. Only another ligand can fill that receptor now.
Believe it or not, in as short a time as 3 days a person can get addicted to Ambien and experience withdrawals! The withdrawal itself comes with severe anxiety, lack of ability to sleep, sweating and being cold at the same time, shiver or shake uncontrollably, ready to run a Marathon but feeling totally ill. This is after 3 days of taking this drug.
So, if you are a doctor, a psychiatrist, a hospital nurse practitioner, a PA, anyone with the power to prescribe atypical benzodiazepines receptor ligands, think twice and do not!
There are more natural ways to get to sleep. It is way better to offer a turkey–serotonin—that puts people to sleep after lunch; it will do so after dinner as well–change light bulbs to pinkish/orange–blue light keeps people awake–take Vitamin A–this is my accidental discovery that A resets circadian rhythm in rats and apparently in me too. Maybe it will work for you as well. Take a walk if you can. Do not watch TV or be on the computer like I am now. Do not read–unless you have pink light and the paper of the book or magazine is not shiny to wake you up. Drink milk–a very good sleeping pill alternative for those who like it–I love it and drink a glass every evening before bed.
If you still cannot sleep, seek out sleep therapies, relaxation techniques and perhaps other, long acting benzos. Yes, they are addictive but no, they will not make you stupid as the current belief is. Do not take any serotonin medications since they are more addictive than benzos only doctors deny that… but I ask them to take one.. and then we’ll talk in the morning 2 days later.
Keep your health in your own control. There are way too many MDs out there who think your life is theirs to play with! Actually it is their lives that is in your hands since without you they do not get paid! Treat them like you would anyone else you pay for service, like a grocery clerk! If you don’t like the apple they give you, you complain! Right? At your MD it is not about an apple but your life and health so yes, do complain!
Your suggestions are welcome, as always!