Benzodiazepines
Addiction

Understanding the Signs and How to Heal

Article Contents

What are Benzodiazepines?

Benzodiazepines, sometimes called “Benzos,” are a class of psychoactive drugs. Benzodiazepines are man made drugs that cause mild to severe depression of the nerves in the brain as well as sedation. Benzodiazepines are prescribed for many different medical conditions such as anxiety, seizures, and panic disorders.

Benzodiazepine drugs are habit forming and can lead to addiction if misused or abused over a long period of time. Some people may try to abuse benzos due to the sedative effects that are produced when these drugs interact with the brain. Misusing benzos can have many negative effects on the mind and body.

Why are Benzodiazepines Used for Mental Health Treatment?

Benzodiazepine drugs work by lowering the activity of nerves in the brain which causes drowsiness. This can be beneficial for dealing with mental health issues such as anxiety or panic attacks.1 It’s only recommended to use benzo drugs to treat mental health conditions for a short time. Oftentimes, benzodiazepines will be used to get symptoms under control while also addressing mental health through therapy and trying to find a long-term treatment plan.

While benzodiazepines aren’t commonly recommended for long term use, they are sometimes used for extended use when other anxiety treatments don’t work. When this is done a patient must stay under strict observation and follow guidelines from a medical professional because benzodiazepines are habit-forming, causing dependence and addiction.

What Are Some Examples of Benzodiazepines?

Xanax (alprazolam)

Xanax, also known as alprazolam, is a benzodiazepine medication that is used to treat anxiety and panic disorders.2 This drug has sedative effects that can result in feelings of drowsiness. Xanax can be addictive.

Klonopin (clonazepam)

Klonopin, also known as clonazepam, is a medication that is used to treat or prevent seizures and panic attacks. Klonopin is a benzodiazepine that works by calming the brain and nerves. You can become addicted to Klonopin.

Valium (diazepam)

Valium, also known as diazepam, is a benzodiazepine medication that is used to treat alcohol withdrawal, anxiety, and seizures. Valium is also used at times to reduce muscle spasms and to provide sedation before medical procedures. Misuse or abuse of this drug can cause dependence, addiction, and many other negative effects.

Short-Acting Benzodiazepines

Short-acting benzodiazepines have a short half-life. This means that the drugs are processed and leave your body more quickly. Short-acting benzodiazepines are more addictive because the body has less time to adapt to operating without the drug. Common short-acting benzodiazepines are Tranxene (clorazepate), Versed (midazolam), and Halcion (triazolam).

Causes and Risk Factors for Benzodiazepine Addiction

Benzos can be addictive and habit forming, especially when misused or abused over a long period.3 Benzodiazepine medications are usually prescribed for a short time because of these habit-forming properties. Another risk factor for addiction is the fact that tolerance can be built to this drug quickly, which requires higher doses to receive the same effect, increasing the risk of addiction. Benzos are also known to be used recreationally for the high they can create when taken in higher doses. Recreational use of these drugs can be very harmful and lead to can easily get out of hand, making recreational use a common risk factor leading to addiction.

Signs That Someone is Struggling with a Benzodiazepine Addiction

When someone is struggling with addiction it’s important that the proper help and treatment is provided. It can be difficult at times to spot the exact signs of addiction because those struggling may try to hide it. However, there are signs you can look for to try to determine if an addiction is present. Benzodiazepine side effects that may signal abuse can be physical, psychological, and behavioral.

Physical and Psychological Symptoms of Benzodiazepine Abuse

Some common physical and psychological benzodiazepine side effects that may signal abuse are:

  • Pronounced drowsiness
  • Dizziness
  • Uncoordination
  • Slowed reaction time
  • Double vision
  • Slurred speech
  • Muscle weakness
  • Poor concentration and memory
  • Confusion
  • Mood Swings

Behavioral Signs of Abuse

Common behavioral signs of an addiction are:

  • Avoiding social interactions with friends and family
  • Withdrawal from normal activities
  • Struggling at work or school
  • Forging prescriptions
  • Visiting multiple doctors to get multiple prescriptions

Benzodiazepine Withdrawal

Benzodiazepines can cause physical and psychological dependence.4 If use of the drug is suddenly stopped, withdrawal can occur. Benzodiazepine withdrawal is serious and there can be many serious side effects. Benzodiazepine withdrawal requires professional treatment for a safe recovery. Common symptoms of benzodiazepine withdrawal may include:

  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Panic attacks
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Sweating
  • Headache
  • Depression
  • Delirium

Coping with Benzodiazepine Withdrawal Symptoms

The best way to manage benzodiazepine withdrawal symptoms is to work with a medical professional and slowly taper down the dosage. Working with a doctor can help you manage benzodiazepine withdrawal symptoms and alter medication dosages as needed. A drug treatment center can also help with this process. A treatment center can provide around the clock medical supervision to assist with withdrawal symptoms and the recovery process.

Symptoms of Benzodiazepine Overdose

When benzos are taken over a long period, a tolerance will form. When someone is abusing benzodiazepines recreationally, some may take larger doses to try to get the same “high” of the drugs that once occurred. Doing this can lead to an overdose.

Overdoses can be extremely dangerous and life-threatening, and immediate medical attention will be necessary. There are common symptoms you can look for to tell that an overdose occurred. Common benzo overdose symptoms are:

  • Trouble breathing or inability to breathe
  • Bluish fingernails and lips
  • Confusion and disorientation
  • Extreme dizziness
  • Blurred vision or double vision
  • Weakness
  • Uncoordinated muscle movements
  • Tremors
  • Profoundly altered mental status
  • Stupor
  • Coma

Addiction Treatment Options

You can overcome your struggle with addiction. Professional help and treatment can help with recovery. The best step to take is talking to a medical professional to get more information about taking the first steps towards sobriety.

Treatment Centers

Going to a treatment center is also a good idea for treating addiction. A treatment center may offer both inpatient and outpatient treatment options. They can provide medical support, therapy, and coping mechanisms to assist with recovery and maintaining sobriety.

Inpatient Treatment

Deciding which treatment option works best often depends on the individual and the severity of the addiction. Inpatient treatment is when someone stays for a duration of time at a treatment center. Staying at a treatment center provides around the clock medical attention, the ability to live in a stable environment without temptations, and a constant support system.

Outpatient Treatment

Outpatient treatment is when you go to a treatment center regularly over a period of time to receive treatment, but you also return home each night to be with your family. This can be beneficial for people who don’t want to be away from their families for an extended period. However, there is extra accountability needed for this option as they will need to go to the treatment center at scheduled times. Living at home can also give more temptations depending on the living situation and home life.

Conclusion

Benzodiazepines are a class of psychoactive drugs. These are man-made drugs that work by depressing nerves in the brain. Benzo medications are often prescribed to treat conditions such as anxiety, seizures, and panic disorders. While benzodiazepines do have many medical uses, they can be addictive. Benzodiazepine side effects can be dangerous which is why it’s only recommended to use these medications when prescribed and under strict guidelines of a medical professional.

Benzodiazepine addiction is serious and can have many adverse effects on the mind and body. Speaking to a medical professional or going to a treatment center can be a good first step in the recovery process. If you or someone you know is struggling with an addiction, help is available.

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