Patients are generally prescribed benzodiazepines (“Benzos”) to treat severe anxiety, panic attacks or overwhelming stress. It is actually considered another type of sedative. Many sedatives are heavily addictive, even when taken as prescribed. The withdrawal from this prescription drug is extremely dangerous and the symptoms are difficult for the patient to overcome alone. If not monitored carefully, benzodiazepine withdrawal could be fatal.
The History of Benzodiazepines
Benzodiazepines were first marketed in 1959. They were promoted as an alternative to certain tranquilizer medications. Benzodiazepines method of action is to depress the Central Nervous System and enhance the effects of gamma-aminobutyric acid on the GABA-A receptors. These functions act as a sedative/hypnotic and inhibit anxiety in the patient. These pills are only useful for a brief period of time. Just like most of the substances we have discussed, benzodiazepine is only effective for approximately two weeks in most patients – after that the user develops a tolerance to the medication and the addiction cycle begins. Benzodiazepines are also known by the brand names of Ativan, Xanax, Valium and many more.
Why Are Benzodiazepines Addictive?
Benzodiazepines lead to changes in certain receptors in the neural system and brain. Using these drugs can lead to physical damage to the body and may eventually block certain brain functions from working entirely. As with many other pharmaceutical medications, after an extended period of use, a tolerance will develop and the patient must continue to take more of the benzodiazepine in order to feel that initial sense of calmness and pleasure. This is the cycle which ultimately leads to addiction.
When consuming these types of medications on a regular basis, the human brain will actually start to tell the patient that they need more of the drug. Without giving up the substance completely, the brain will not recover. Even though these medications are available with a prescription from a physician, it does not mean that they are safe, or are not addictive. They are not meant to be used for recreational use, however that is what has ultimately happened with many users.
Signs and Symptoms of Benzodiazepine Addiction
Some people mistakenly believe that benzodiazepine addiction only occurs when an individual consumes the medication without a prescription. However, the reality is that many people only need to take a single pill for the addictive effects to set in. Often, these same patients will take additional doses hoping to increase the pleasurable effects, which is how the benzodiazepine addiction cycle begins.
In order to continue feeling the same effects as the first dose, the user is going to need to continue taking increasing amounts of the medication, often finishing their prescription well before any intended refills are available. This leads some users to start stealing, buying the substance on the streets illegally or finding a substance that has similar effects. The user might even begin “doctor shopping” – going to multiple doctors in order to obtain additional prescriptions illegally.
What are the symptoms of benzodiazepine addiction?
- Blurred vision
- Slurred speech
- Less anxiety
- No balance
- Difficulty breathing
- Not remembering things
What occurs during benzodiazepine withdrawals?
When the user can no longer obtain any more of the substance, they will start to experience withdrawal symptoms. Benzodiazepine withdrawals can become extremely dangerous, meaning the individual needs to seek medical care immediately. Here are some withdrawal symptoms to watch out for:
- Lack of sleep
- Severe anxiety
- Restless legs
- Hot and cold sweats
Withdrawing from this substance can ultimately be fatal. The abuser needs to seek medical detox immediately if they are looking to discontinue using the drug.
Seeking Help for Benzodiazepine Addiction
If you or a loved one are abusing benzodiazepines and want to stop using today, remember that without getting help from professionals, the withdrawal process can be very dangerous. Use of these prescriptions is severe, and should not be compared to other drug dependencies, such as marijuana. Long term inpatient treatment is recommended for benzodiazepine abuse. Inpatient rehabilitation centers have staff on site that are trained to deal with benzodiazepine-specific detox and any medical issues that may arise. Professional treatment also decreases the possibility of relapse.
Benzodiazepine addiction treatment is not just about stopping the use of the drug. It is also about discovering ways to deal with your anxiety and stress in a safe and healthy way. Learning what your triggers are and what is tempting you to use, so that you avoid relapse in the future. If you or a loved one is struggling, pick up the phone today. We will help find the treatment best suited for you.