Benzodiazepine Addiction Treatment
Benzodiazepines, also known as Benzos, are prescription drugs used to treat anxiety and other conditions such as seizures, insomnia, and depression. They can also be prescribed as muscle relaxers or used to sedate patients before diagnostic procedures or surgery.
Short-term use is considered safe, but long-term use has become controversial because of the potential for developing a tolerance and requiring heavier doses in order to be as effective. When combined with alcohol or other drugs they can be fatal, and withdrawal symptoms can be severe. Benzo prescriptions have more than doubled in the last few years, and more people have access to this medication than ever before.
How do Benzodiazepines work?
When someone becomes anxious, the brain becomes overactive. This triggers a tranquilizing neurotransmitter known as gamma-aminobutyric acid, or GABA, to send a message to billions of brain cells and causes them to slow down.
When this happens, the symptoms of anxiety are reduced and the person feels more calm and tranquil. Benzodiazepines add to the calming effect of GABA, and help to keep the brain in a more calm state. When someone starts to abuse Benzos the may start taking a higher dose than prescribed and feel a “high” and feel extremely relaxed and tranquil. Their tolerance builds and more and more is required in order to feel the same high.
Types of Benzodiazepines
There are many different types of Benzodiazepines, and they vary greatly as far as how fast they work, and how long they work.
The following are different brand names of prescribed benzodiazepines and what they treat:
- Xanax, or Alprazolam: FDA approved to treat panic and anxiety disorders.
- Valium, or Diazepam: Used to treat panic attacks, seizures, insomnia, restless leg syndrome, and alcohol withdrawal.
- Librium, or Chlordiazepoxide: Used to treat alcohol withdrawal.
- Estazolam: Used to treat insomnia, short-term.
- Trilam: Used to treat severe insomnia.
- Oxazepam: Used to treat anxiety, insomnia, or alcohol withdrawal.
Physical Effects can include:
- Transient drowsiness (especially during the first few days of use)
- Memory impairment
- Impaired coordination
The Dangers of Using Benzodiazepines
One serious concern of treating a patient with benzodiazepines is the risk of abuse and physical dependence when using long term. Those that have a history of substance abuse should take extra caution.
Many who abuse benzodiazepines combine it with another substance such as alcohol or an opioid in order to increase the high. Abusing benzodiazepines increases the risk of negative side effects such as confusion, seizures or convulsions, severe weakness, respiratory difficulty or even coma. Long-term abuse in those over 65 has also been shown to increase the risk of dementia.
Anyone can develop a substance abuse disorder, but those with a history of abusing other drugs or alcohol are at especially high risk. Someone who is abusing benzodiazepines and has developed a psychological dependence may start to act differently, and those with a substance abuse disorder display two more of the following symptoms:
- Needing to take more to achieve the same effects
- Impaired performance at work, school, or home.
- Spending a considerable amount of time trying to get the drug, use, and recover from it.
- Cutting themselves off from friends or family in order to use Benzos.
- Craving the drug.
- Intentionally misusing Benzos for intoxication or pleasure.
- Decreased motivation or productivity
Physical dependence, which is different than psychological dependence, may cause the following symptoms:
- Physical weakness
- Slurred speech
- Loss of coordination
- Difficulty breathing
Benzos are rarely deadly on their own, however, they are often abused with alcohol or other substances and the combining effects can cause a fatal overdose. Death from overdose occurs when a person’s respiration rate or heart rate drops so low that they stop altogether.
Combining Benzos with other central nervous system depressants greatly increases the risk of death.
A person taking benzodiazepines for a long period of time will naturally start to build a tolerance and require a higher dose in order to achieve the same effect.
Long-term use can cause physical and psychological dependence, and stopping use abruptly can bring on several withdrawal symptoms including:
- Blurred vision
- Tremors or spasms
The longer a person has been using benzodiazepines the greater the risk for more severe withdrawal symptoms. Over time the brain becomes chemically altered and the brain’s neurological network becomes dependent on benzodiazepines in order to function correctly.
Symptoms usually start within a few days of the last dose and may last up to two weeks. Withdrawal may also be fatal which is why supervised detox treatment is crucial. Therapy should never be ended unsupervised or suddenly. Dosage should be carefully monitored and tapered down slowly over time.
Treating Benzo Addiction
Addiction to benzodiazepines is serious and help should be sought immediately. Since withdrawal effects can be life threatening it is important to find a qualified facility to aid and supervise in detox treatment.
Each person should be evaluated and given an individual treatment plan. If you or someone that you care about is abusing benzodiazepines, now is the time to seek help.
At DayBreak Treatment Solutions, we’ll be with you each step of the way and put you on the road to recovery. You don’t have to do this alone! At DayBreak we offer partial hospitalization and intensive outpatient treatments options. Contact DayBreak today and let us help you discover the option that is best for you. (844) 695-0083