Exactly what are Benzodiazepines?
Drugs belonging to the benzodiazepine class (sometimes known as “benzos”) are frequently given to treat sleeplessness, anxiety, and seizures. Among depressants in the United States, benzos have the highest prescription rate. Benzodiazepines’ primary drawback is their high addictive potential and challenging withdrawal symptoms.
The initial goal of benzos was to replace barbiturates, which are also used to treat anxiety disorders, seizures, and other mental disorders. Since benzodiazepines were first supposed to provide equivalent relief with less potential for misuse, the substance abuse epidemic has expanded fast. Even in patients who strictly adhere to their prescribed dosage and schedule, doctors have seen tolerance and substance abuse cases skyrocket.
Keep reading to find out more about effective benzodiazepine addiction treatment, and how Resurgence Tennessee can help you overcome anxiety medication for good!
Prescribed Benzodiazepines and Misuse of Benzos
Evidence shows that at modest dosages, benzodiazepines can be helpful for a person for a period of two to four weeks for anxiety disorder. However, regardless of their long-term effectiveness in treating generalized anxiety disorder – extended benzodiazepine prescriptions almost always lead to drug abuse challenges followed by benzodiazepine withdrawal. Despite these facts, doctors continue to recommend these drugs for long-term use (months, years, decades).
Concerns regarding benzos and substance addiction and generic prescription drug usage increased from 8.1 million to 13.5 million between 1996 and 2013, an increase of 6.7%. Benzodiazepines have been labeled a Schedule I drug by the Drug Enforcement Administration in the United States. This is reserved for drugs that have medical value but a high risk of leading to substance addiction.
The Risks of Mixing Drugs
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA) reports that benzodiazepines are among the most commonly abused drugs and that they are frequently combined with other drugs like:
- Other Prescription Drugs
- and more
If you combine any of the dangerous drugs we’ve discussed above, you may expect a greater impact from each. Roughly 30 million individuals in the United States used benzodiazepines in 2018. That’s about one in eight – a pretty significant amount.
Benzodiazepine Use According to the Manual of Mental Disorders
Many different types of commonly prescribed benzos are available. The many benzodiazepines share a common ability to alter a variety of neurochemical pathways, although they all have somewhat distinct mechanisms of action. While certain benzos are better at combating sleeplessness or alcohol withdrawal, others are better at calming anxious minds and preventing panic attacks. It has been shown that some benzos can help people with depression and seizures
One of the biggest differences among types of commonly abused benzodiazepines is whether their method of action is short or long-acting. The following are ways that fast-acting benzos and short-acting differ from one another:
The way they build inside the body over extended use.
- The duration of effectiveness
- Their overall strength
- How long it takes to feel the effects
The following list contains some of the most commonly prescribed and overused types of benzos.
Xanax, or alprazolam, is a popular benzodiazepine used to treat anxiety and panic disorders. Medication like this is commonly used to help those suffering from anxiety and panic attacks. Multiple concentrations are available. This medication is particularly dangerous due to the speed with which it produces noticeable effects. Benzodiazepine dependence seems to be the most severe when Xanax is the drug of choice.
Diazepam (Valium) is one of the oldest benzos in circulation. It’s used to alleviate anxiety, alcohol withdrawal, and muscular spasms. There are several dosage strengths of Valium, and some of them spread the drug’s effects out over an extended time frame. Note that this substance does not result in an immediate high and typically has less severe benzodiazepine withdrawal symptoms.
Ativan, also known as Lorazepam, is used to alleviate anxiety and prevent panic attacks. It can be administered orally or by intravenous administration. The short-to-intermediate action of this drug causes a profound and elevating feeling in a lot of people. Many consider benzodiazepine withdrawal syndrome to be the most intense during Ativan detox.
Clonazepam, or Klonopin, is used to treat a variety of mental health conditions:
- Various anxiety disorders
- Panic disorders
- Social Anxiety
Insomnia can be treated well using the medication Ambien, commonly known as Zolpidem. This medication has a sedative effect and may cause sleep, while the additional chemicals may aid in forgetting the events of the night. Abuse of this drug is significantly less common than that of other benzodiazepines. The drug’s effects are felt quickly, although many users report feeling too drowsy to take more than one dose.
Halcion, also known by its generic name, Triazolam, is a commonly prescribed medication used to treat:
- Suicidal Thoughts
This treatment is available in tablet form. Halcion is sometimes prescribed by doctors in an effort to reduce their patients’ anxiety levels before surgery. The intoxicating effects of the medication are often compared to those of alcohol. Faster induction of action than most other benzodiazepines.
Restoril, or temazepam, is a sedative and hypnotic that works by decreasing the brain’s electrical activity. A dose of this medication puts a person to sleep quickly. It’s important not to drive or operate heavy machinery while under the influence of Restoril. More often than not, users of this specific drug fall into a deep sleep. When the aforementioned occurs, the affected person has no recollection of their acts upon regaining consciousness.
Librium, commonly known by its chemical name chlordiazepoxide, is a psychoactive drug prescribed for the management of the following symptoms and disorders:
- Disorder of the gastrointestinal tract
Each capsule has a different dosage level of the drug. In spite of this, it is common practice to snort or inject the contents of the capsules. The medication is administered intravenously.
What Effects Do Benzos Have on the Human Body?
The fact that benzodiazepines have physiological effects is accepted, but many of the ways that benzos act on the mind and body are unknown. What researchers do know is that they have an effect on the neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). These neurotransmitters facilitate communication between nerve cells in the central nervous system.
The inhibitory neurotransmitter GABA slows down neural activity throughout the brain. When this happens, sleepiness and relaxation set in. Anxiety and seizures, two of the most common disorders treated by benzodiazepines, are thought to be precipitated by overly active neurons in the brain. Therefore, the medications provide a calming effect that reduces the severity of the symptoms.
Short Term Effects of Benzodiazepines
Short-term, low- to moderate-dose consumption might have the following consequences on users:
- Shallow breathing
- Decrease in motor skills
- Problems with speech and vision clarity
Higher doses of benzos can cause unpredictable behavior, a general euphoric state of mind, decreased reflexes, and other negative side effects. The aforementioned results might heighten an individual’s desire to misuse. The following undesirable consequences may come from long-term benzo abuse:
- Lack of ability to remember or make sound decisions
- Dangers of falling or fainting
- Problems associated with women’s menstruation
- Possibility of developing Alzheimer’s increases
- Lack of strength
- Sense of being lost or confused
- Changes to libido
Anterograde amnesia, or the inability to recall events that occurred after drug usage, is another possible side effect of benzodiazepines. However, paradoxical disinhibition might occur, characterized by aggressive and hostile behavior.
One of the biggest concerns of long-term abuse is the onset of psychosis and rebound anxiety after attempted detox.
Psychological Dependence and Effects
Psychosis from benzo use is conceivable when the drug is combined with others or when large doses are used. Since benzodiazepines have been shown to have an effect on neurotransmitters, they may indeed cause visual abnormalities in certain people. These visual aberrations might develop into full-blown hallucinations, resulting in a psychotic episode.
Benzodiazepines can intensify the following disorders or feelings:
- Anxiety Disorders
Research has shown that this is a result of the chemical itself making people less restful in their sleep. Some research suggests that long-term benzodiazepine usage may have effects comparable to those of heavy alcohol consumption. However, chronic benzo usage has been linked to an increased risk of the following health issues:
- Bipolar Disorder
How Do I Recognize Benzo Withdrawal and Addiction Symptoms?
If you or a loved one are concerned that they may have a benzodiazepine addiction, it is important to know the warning signs of benzodiazepine abuse and dependence.
- Despite repeated attempts, they continue to fail at abstaining
- Taking benzos and then engaging in potentially hazardous activities like working or driving.
- The combined use of alcohol and benzodiazepines
- Neglecting one’s interests due to misuse
- Repeatedly using benzos
- Failure to acknowledge the need for treatment for benzodiazepine addiction
- Neglecting personal obligations because of drug use
- Doctor shopping
- Abusing benzodiazepines by taking more than recommended
- Purchasing benzos illegally
Many people who use benzodiazepines and their loved ones experience great stress when they learn that their loved one requires therapy for addiction. That’s why it’s so important to get treatment for benzo addiction as soon as it’s noticed.
Ultimately, benzo abuse can lead to financial problems within the home. Financial mismanagement because of the need for constant revenue to feed the addiction and even loss of employment are common.
In order to maintain their habit of using benzos, many users turn to crime and unethical means of obtaining their benzo of choice. Treatment for benzodiazepine addiction should be initiated as soon as the first symptoms of dependence appearing. Detox from benzos is possible with efficient addiction therapy, particularly in the early phases of dependence.
How Long Does the Withdrawal Process Typically Take?
The duration of withdrawal from benzodiazepines is normally at its worst between the third and fifth day. Benzo withdrawal covers a wide range of symptoms. The following are some of the symptoms that may occur with benzo withdrawal:
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- Accelerated heart rate
- Poor sleep quality
After Benzo Detox: What are My Options?
After benzodiazepine addiction therapy in a rehab center, a person might choose from a number of different paths. Remember that those struggling with benzodiazepine addiction frequently require the love and support of loved ones in order to make a successful recovery. The client battling with benzo addiction will better understand how their addiction has affected people around them once an intervention has been well prepared and the requirements of treatment are satisfied.
Benzodiazepine detox is the initial phase of treatment for those struggling with addiction. A person who wants to achieve recovery from benzo addiction must undergo detoxification as soon as they see any indicators of benzo use. Detox patients must be closely monitored so that medical staff can identify and treat withdrawal symptoms before they spiral out of hand.
Addiction Treatment Built Around Client Needs
Our treatment program is tailored to aid clients through benzo detox by removing potential setbacks and providing additional guidance. At our benzodiazepine addiction treatment center, our professional and caring staff members tailor each client’s program to their specific needs. We take into account the person’s unique psychological, cultural, and biological history in developing individualized plans.
Rehabilitation from benzodiazepine addiction typically involves a lengthy process of therapy and detox. This is why addressing a loved one’s needs at the early stages of benzo usage is so important. Afterward, an outpatient treatment program can continue to pave the way for continued abstinence.
The outpatient treatment plan can work with the client’s current living situation, whether that’s at home or in a sober community. Our clients will still be able to participate in the same kinds of groups they did while receiving either inpatient or partial hospitalization. The primary distinction is that scheduled groups will meet every day for three hours, whereas outpatient care will be provided once or twice weekly.
Long Term Recovery for Benzo Abuse at Resurgence Tennessee
If you or someone you know is experiencing challenges associated with benzodiazepine abuse, please contact a member of our admissions team today at Resurgence Tennessee.
FAQs About Benzos and Benzo Abuse
Is it true that you can die from benzo withdrawal?
Yes – this is not a myth. Benzo withdrawal is one of the only forms of withdrawal that can actually be fatal. Joined in this category only by alcohol, the intensity of the detox process has been known to lead to many seizures, resulting in irreversible brain damage in some cases. Additional issues may take place as a result of the withdrawal process. This can include but is not limited to heart attack, stroke, and other life-threatening conditions. We strongly advise against EVER attempting to undergo at-home detox without the assistance of trained medical personnel on hand.
What do they give you for the discomfort of withdrawal?
Many off-label solutions exist for combatting the discomfort of benzo withdrawal. However, there is no official remedy approved by the FDA, and every form of potential relief is considered off-label and at the doctor’s discretion, as there are no official medical studies backing up any of these types of treatment. That said, there have been multiple forms of activities and administration of various medications that allow clients to at least tolerate the discomfort, bringing side effects to a more manageable level. The following have all been used and have triggered mild to extremely effective results:
- The prescription of various mood stabilizers and anti-depressants has helped certain clients manage their feelings of depression and anxiety during the benzo withdrawal process.
- Certain blood pressure medications have provided relief by lowering and stabilizing blood pressure spikes. This is thought to bring a large amount of relief to many of the physical feelings of benzo withdrawal, in addition to lowering the risk of any fringe effects like stroke or heart attack.
- In some cases, less intense forms of benzos are given to wean a client down from high doses of powerful versions of the drug. For example, someone with a sizeable Xanax addiction may do well by first downgrading to Valium under a physician’s watchful eye. After stabilizing on this less powerful medication, the weening process can begin, hopefully leading to long-term recovery.
Why do so many people overdose on benzos and opioids?
In what is easily considered the deadliest combination of two drugs currently plaguing the United States, the cocktail of benzodiazepines and opioids has claimed the lives of tens of thousands of users over time. With the recent explosion in fentanyl use, which seems to be leading to a more permanent fixture in the drug market, the fear is that the combination of these two categories of drugs will continue to spike, especially as more cases of counterfeit pills and laced batches of “heroin”, combining both of these substances are found at higher frequencies as each day passes.
Fentanyl and heroin are both opioids. One is synthetic (Fentanyl), while one is a naturally occurring opiate (heroin) – but they both have the same intended use, and they’re both extremely powerful sedatives. On the same token, although the method of action is different, and they work on two completely different bodily systems, benzos are also considered sedatives or “downers.”
Because of the overall strength of both types of drugs – when the two are mixed – it leads to overwhelming periods of respiratory depression, where many users become so relaxed that even their involuntary breathing process is stopped, leading to respiratory arrest and, ultimately death if they’re not revived.