Understanding the Risks of Benzodiazepine Addiction

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Understanding the Risks of Benzodiazepine Addiction

+Benzodiazepines, commonly known as benzos, are a class of psychoactive drugs commonly prescribed to treat anxiety disorders, insomnia, and seizures. While they are effective in managing symptoms, benzos have a high potential for dependence and addiction. In fact, the National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that benzodiazepine abuse has increased significantly in recent years, with nearly 5 percent of adults in the United States using them recreationally or non-medically.

The use of benzodiazepines was a concern for lawmakers in the US, who took steps to regulate it. In 1970, the Controlled Substances Act designated benzodiazepines as Schedule IV substances due to their high potential for addiction and limited medical benefits.


What Are Benzos For and How Do They Work?

Benzodiazepines are central nervous system depressants that fall under the class of tranquilizers. Benzos come in a dozen different types, each with its own distinct purpose. They are not just prescribed for psychological conditions but can also aid individuals with physical ailments. Specific types of benzos can treat seizures in those with cerebral palsy or calm patients prior to a surgical procedure. While some benzos may be used to treat a range of illnesses, the most prevalent use of these medications is to treat generalized anxiety disorder.

Benzos are usually found under the following brand names:

  • Xanax
  • Valium
  • Klonopin
  • Ativan
  • Halcion
  • Dalmane

Benzos boost the effects of Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), which decreases brain activity and slows down physiological nerve impulses. This can lead to tiredness, uncoordinated movements, and decreased response times. Despite the fact that the mechanisms of action are similar across all benzos, there are several important differences among the drug’s varieties. Each medication has its own absorption time, abuse potential, half-life, and dosage.


Understanding Benzo Addiction

Many individuals who struggle with anxiety, insomnia, or stress are often prescribed benzodiazepines. In certain circumstances, prior to surgery, they may also be given this medication. However, if not taken as directed, benzos can be highly addictive. When abused, these medications can be more hazardous than the mental or physical condition they were intended to treat. Addiction to benzodiazepines can involve buying the medication illegally, consuming doses that exceed the prescribed amount, and utilizing the medication over a prolonged period of time.

A major problem with benzos is that they can be habit-forming even when not abused. A benzodiazepine dependence can form in as little as three weeks of continued use. Individuals who frequently consume benzos may experience pleasure from its calming and mood-altering properties. As they try to recreate the initial sensations, they gradually build up a tolerance to the drug’s impact, necessitating the consumption of greater amounts to achieve the same effect.

Ease of access to benzodiazepines and their ready availability all contribute to the increasing number of people succumbing to addiction. According to Psychology Today, 66 million individuals left doctor’s offices with benzodiazepine prescriptions. Between 2014 and 2016, benzo-related emergency room visits accounted for 27% of all visits. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention noted that benzo overdoses increased eightfold from 1999 to 2018.


The Risk Factors for Benzodiazepine Addiction

It is important for individuals who are prescribed benzodiazepines to understand the risks of addiction and to communicate any concerns with their healthcare provider. Patients also need to understand the potential for dependence and withdrawal symptoms, even when taking the medication as prescribed.

There are several factors involved in developing benzodiazepine addiction:

  • People with a history of substance abuse or addiction are more likely to misuse these drugs.
  • People who have a co-occurring mental condition, such as depression or post-traumatic stress disorder, may be more likely to become addicted.
  • Finally, those who take higher doses or use benzodiazepines for longer periods are also at an increased risk of developing an addiction.
  • When benzos are taken with other mind-altering substances, particularly opioids, the risk of fatality also increases.
  • The availability of benzos to people who already struggle with addiction is also of great concern.


Warning Signs of Benzo Addiction and Abuse

Learning to recognize the warning signs of benzodiazepine addiction and understanding how it affects other aspects of treatment is crucial to successful rehabilitation. Being unaware of these symptoms can put someone at risk of overdose. Mixing benzodiazepines with other substances can result in a variety of hazardous consequences.

Some common signs of benzo abuse include:

  • Drowsiness
  • Slurred Speech
  • Blurred Vision
  • Weakness
  • Lack of Coordination
  • Slowed Breathing
  • Mood Swings

Some common signs of benzo addiction include:

  • Doctor shopping (visiting numerous different doctors for prescriptions)
  • Stealing benzos or illegally sourcing benzos
  • Needing to take increasingly higher doses in order to feel the desired effects
  • Mixing benzos with alcohol and other drugs


The Consequences of Benzodiazepine Addiction

The issue of benzodiazepine addiction is a serious one, with potentially devastating consequences for both physical and mental health. Long-term benzodiazepine usage can lead to a range of health problems, including respiratory issues, memory impairment, depression, and anxiety. Additionally, those who struggle with benzodiazepine addiction may experience a variety of other problems, such as relationship difficulties, financial strain, and legal troubles. It’s important to seek professional help when struggling with benzodiazepine addiction, as professional support can make a significant difference in achieving recovery and restoring health and well-being.


Getting Treatment for Benzodiazepine Addiction

Overcoming benzo addiction is most effectively achieved through inpatient treatment at a certified rehabilitation center. Detoxing from benzos is a challenging process, with withdrawal symptoms that can become extremely uncomfortable or even life-threatening. This is also known as benzodiazepine withdrawal syndrome. Without medical assistance, the risk of relapse is high. During inpatient treatment, patients receive 24/7 care from qualified addiction treatment specialists, who offer individualized treatment based on each patient’s unique needs and addiction nuances.


Medication-Assisted Detox

Medication-assisted detox is the first step in treating benzodiazepine addiction. Detox aims to gradually reduce the amount of the drug in someone’s system while trying to avoid or minimize withdrawal symptoms. This process can take several weeks, and medications such as diazepam or clonazepam may be used to manage symptoms.

Benzodiazepine withdrawal symptoms may include:

  • Headaches
  • Muscle Spasms
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Restlessness and Agitation
  • Insomnia
  • Dizziness
  • Significant changes in heart rate

Severe withdrawal symptoms may occur in certain instances for patients. This is especially true when benzodiazepines have been abused by the patient for an extended period of time and in large amounts. It is crucial to never attempt detoxification at home as a result. Detox is only safe when done as part of a closely monitored addiction treatment program with a registered substance abuse treatment center like Psyclarity Health.


Behavioral Therapy

Behavioral therapy is an essential component of benzodiazepine addiction treatment. This type of therapy helps individuals identify any underlying issues that may have caused their addiction and develop the skills needed to overcome it. Cognitive-behavioral therapy, in particular, has proven to be particularly effective in treating benzodiazepine addiction.

In addition to cognitive-behavioral therapy, other types of therapy may be helpful in treating benzodiazepine addiction. For example, group therapy and family therapy can provide additional support and help individuals build and maintain healthy relationships.

A full treatment program often includes a range of therapies, such as:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
  • Group Therapy • Holistic Therapy
  • Family Therapy
  • Life Skills
  • Medication Assisted Treatment


Support Groups

Support groups, such as Narcotics Anonymous, can be valuable in helping individuals maintain sobriety after treatment. These groups provide a supportive environment of like-minded people where individuals can share their struggles and benefit from others who have experienced similar issues.


Co-Occurring Disorders

Individuals struggling with benzodiazepine addiction may also have co-occurring mental disorders, such as depression, anxiety, or post-traumatic stress disorder. These disorders can make it more difficult to overcome addiction and may require additional treatment and support. Addressing both the addiction and any co-occurring disorders is essential for achieving long-term recovery and restoring overall health and well-being. A comprehensive treatment plan should include therapies and interventions that address both the addiction and any co-occurring conditions.


Education, Awareness, and Support is the Key to Recovery

Benzodiazepine addiction is a serious and potentially life-threatening condition that has become a problem for millions of people around the world. Understanding the risk factors, consequences, and treatment options can help individuals take steps to protect their health and well-being. If you or someone you love is struggling with benzodiazepine addiction, don’t wait to seek help. With treatment and support, recovery is possible.

It is important for healthcare providers to monitor patients who are prescribed benzodiazepines for signs of abuse or addiction. Doctors and mental healthcare providers should also be aware of the potential for dependence and withdrawal symptoms and should work with patients to develop a plan for safe and effective medication management.

Overall, education and awareness are key in preventing and treating benzodiazepine addiction. By understanding the risks and seeking help when needed, individuals can take control of their health and well-being and move towards a life free from addiction.

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