Benzodiazepine addiction and abuse have been problems for years, but the problem is getting worse. Many people are completely unaware that they are addicted to them, which presents many challenges. Benzodiazepines or benzos are the sixth most abused classification of drugs in the United States. They are intended for short-term use, but doctors will keep their patients on them for years. This is problematic, and it has only contributed to instances of abuse and addiction.
Here at Ashwood Recovery, we want people to be aware of benzos’ dangers and find the right support and treatment here in Boise. We want them to know the risks of long-term use. But we also want them to know that if they are addicted, they can get help to stop using them.
What Are Benzodiazepines?
Benzodiazepines are prescription medications that depress the central nervous system by releasing a tranquilizing brain chemical. This means they limit the central nervous system’s responses to external stimuli, helping calm the user. For this reason, benzodiazepines are classified and referred to as a tranquilizer. They are one of the most commonly prescribed medications in the United States but are registered as Schedule IV drugs due to the Federal Controlled Substances Act.
Benzodiazepines are prescribed to individuals for several psychological and neurological disorders, including:
- Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)
- Panic attacks and panic disorders
- Alcohol withdrawals
Since benzodiazepines work by depressing the central nervous system, they effectively relieve anxiety, stress, and panic attacks.
There are a variety of different types of medications within the benzodiazepine class. Each has a slightly different effect on different individuals. The following descriptions should not be seen as medical advice; only a licensed medical doctor should prescribe any benzodiazepine or other medication to you.
Benzodiazepines can be grouped into four categories depending on the symptoms or disorder they treat.
- Alprazolam and clonazepam are used mainly to treat panic disorders.
- Temazepam and lorazepam help those with insomnia or other difficulties sleeping.
- Clonazepam, clorazepate, and diazepam help mostly with seizure disorders, like epilepsy.
- Chlordiazepoxide is often used to aid alcoholics during the withdrawal process.
Some brand name benzodiazepine medications include:
- Restoril (Temazepam)
- Valium (Diazepam)
- Xanax (Alprazolam)
- Klonopin (Clonazepam)
- Ativan (Lorazepam)
- Librium (Chlordiazepoxide)
Again, benzodiazepines are mainly used to treat anxiety and panic disorders, but a doctor should be the one to determine their necessity. Since there is a high potential for addiction to benzodiazepines, taking them without a doctor’s recommendation and supervision can be dangerous.
Side Effects of Benzodiazepine Use
Side effects of benzodiazepine use vary depending on the number of pills consumed, the size of the individual, and a few other factors. General signs of benzodiazepine use include:
- Slurred speech or difficulties talking
- Shallow breathing
- Sluggishness or fatigue
- Lack of motor coordination
- Dilated (small) pupils
- Difficulties remembering things
- Impaired judgment and coordination
- Irritability, agitation, or frustration
- Suicidal thoughts
This is not a full list, but it does outline some common side effects of benzodiazepine use.
Benzodiazepine Abuse and Addiction
Why do people abuse benzos? In short, they provide a relaxing, euphoric feeling at the beginning. Benzodiazepines release the tranquilizing chemical in the brain, which helps users feel comfortable and at ease.
However, what starts as innocent recreational use can quickly spiral out of hand. Benzos are highly addictive and difficult to stop using. Many times, benzodiazepine misuse begins with a simple psychiatric or physical diagnosis. If someone has difficulties sleeping, their doctor may prescribe Ativan. Someone with a severe panic or anxiety disorder might come into a psychiatrist’s office and receive a prescription for Xanax.
As they take their medication regularly and the effects prove to be helpful, there are one of two routes to take:
- Continue taking the medication as prescribed and receiving relief.
- Take more than prescribed under the assumption that “if one makes me feel better, what will two do?
Those who follow the second path often find themselves quickly misusing their medication. Some even find themselves using compulsively without being able to stop. These individuals veer into the drug addiction category and should seek assistance before the drugs have a chance to damage their body further. What starts as self-medication can quickly spiral out of control.
Long-Term Benzodiazepine Use and How It Affects the Body
Benzos are proven to be beneficial for short-term use to treat difficulties sleeping, anxiety, or panic disorders. They are most effective when prescribed with other methods to develop long-term practices to manage these issues. Long-term use of these medications is usually only approved for those with severe or chronic anxiety or sleeping problems.
Long-term benzodiazepine use tends to have detrimental effects on the body. Researchers have seen poor perceived and actual physical health in elderly patients who have taken benzos for years. Additionally, they have witnessed long-term use worsen underlying depression and anxiety rather than help.
Those who use benzodiazepines for an extended time also develop a serious physical and psychological dependence on them. If they suddenly stop taking their medication, especially at high doses, they will experience withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms range from mild to severe to life-threatening.
How a Benzo Addiction Treatment Program Can Help
Your loved one does not necessarily need to attend a benzodiazepine rehab to get clean. However, an Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) can significantly benefit them during their early recovery.
Attending benzodiazepine detox will help manage the withdrawal symptoms during those first few days and weeks. Medication-assisted treatment will use other drugs to limit the impact of benzo withdrawal symptoms such as anxiety and insomnia. The detox period is one of the most triggering times in recovery because the addict knows exactly how to fix the symptoms they are experiencing.
During outpatient benzodiazepine rehab or an IOP, addicts learn more about benzo addiction and why they use drugs to cope with life. Treatment for benzodiazepine includes educational presentations, individual therapy, and group therapy. Addressing past traumas through individual and group therapy can help them discover underlying causes of addiction. After healing these traumas, they have fewer reasons to use.
Benzo treatment also teaches relapse prevention methods and how to manage triggers. Both are incredibly important for achieving long-term clean time outside the treatment environment. It’s easier to stay clean in treatment, but once out in the “real world,” there are a lot of triggers to avoid.
Treatment for benzodiazepines helps establish a solid recovery foundation before heading back into the real world. Sober living is another option for those who don’t feel comfortable living where they were living before. This provides a sober environment to focus on staying clean and building their lives back up during the first year or so of recovery.
Learn More About Benzo Addiction, Detox, and Rehab Programs in Boise, ID by Reaching Out to Ashwood Recovery
At Ashwood Recovery, we help people who suffer from benzodiazepine addiction. We offer outpatient rehab, and we have several levels of care for our clients. They are intensive outpatient treatment, partial hospitalization, and traditional outpatient rehab.
Would you like to know more about benzodiazepine abuse and addiction? Are you interested in starting a quality rehab program in Idaho? Please contact us at 208.274.8609.