About Benzodiazepine Addiction
Types of Benzos that are Abused
Many types of benzodiazepines are abused, including:
Xanax – Used to treat anxiety and panic disorders, this medication is formulated to release over the span of several hours. When crushed and taken all at once, however, Xanax becomes very dangerous and causes a rush of euphoria, making it more addicting than some other benzos.
Klonopin – This medication helps treat panic disorders and seizures in patients. It is often taken in larger doses than is safe among those searching for a high.
Valium – This medication treats muscle spasms, seizures, anxiety disorders. Valium is less abused because of its slow uptake by the brain, which forces the user to have to wait for the high.
Ambien – Used as a sedative to treat insomnia, this medication often impacts the user quickly. Many addicts find this drug undesirable, however, because it often causes them to fall asleep rather than experience a high.
Ativan – This drug helps treat anxiety and panic disorders. Ativan is easily abused, as it has a sudden impact on the person shortly after taking it.
With all these medications and other benzodiazepines, users become addicted to the way they feel while on the drugs and find it hard to adjust to life without them. This becomes dangerous very quickly with drugs like these, since using them at high doses or in ways other than prescribed; they are more potent and have greater effects on the mind and body.
Benzodiazepine Abuse Statistics
According to the Substance and Mental Health Services Administration:
Benzodiazepine addicts typically fall into one of two categories. The first group is made up of people who at one time legitimately were prescribed benzos for a very real problem. But over time, they became addicted to the drugs, most likely because they were experimenting with the dose in order to meet a need, or took the medication longer than recommended. These individuals needed more drugs to support their habit and they got them by lying to their doctors in order to get another prescription, or by “borrowing” or stealing the pills from others who had a prescription, or by buying them on the black market.
The other group of benzo abusers consists of drug addicts who are looking for another way to get high. People transition to benzodiazepine abuse from a variety of other drug addictions, and often combine drugs in order to experience a greater effect. Both types of benzo abuse are dangerous and can lead to addiction and serious, life-threatening withdrawal symptoms when the person tries to stop using.
Preventing Benzo Abuse
Benzodiazepines are prescription medications that are commonly used for insomnia and sleep disorders. Because of the increase in benzo prescriptions and use over the past few decades, these drugs are readily available in America today. Those looking for a high can easily find benzos in loved one’s medicine cabinets, through co-workers and friends, and on the Internet. It is the responsibility of anyone who is prescribed a medication to take care of that medication and make sure it does not end up in the wrong hands. This means medications should never be shared or sold to others and when not being used, should be locked up or hidden so they can’t be stolen by drug-seeking family or friends. Unwanted prescription medication should be disposed of properly, through drug take back events or through local law enforcement agencies or community groups.
Those who are using benzodiazepines and other prescription medication should take care to use the medication only as directed. Taking more of the medication than prescribed or taking it longer than prescribed can lead to dependence and addiction. Furthermore, doctors, medical staff, and pharmacies should follow protocol to monitor those who take these medications and report potential abuse when suspected. Prescription databases have been implemented in recent years in many areas to prevent doctor shopping and illegal purchasing of medications like benzos.
Benzodiazepine Overdose Risks
However, even with careful handling and prescribing of benzodiazepines, these medications are still abused by many, leading to serious health risks, as it is possible to overdose on benzos. According to the National Institutes on Health, benzodiazepines accounted for an estimated 8,000 deaths in 2014 in the United States alone. Benzodiazepine overdose causes extreme dizziness and lack of coordination, altered mental status, and extreme confusion. The person will become agitated, may have blurred vision, may develop sudden amnesia, have hallucinations, experience respiratory depression and low blood pressure, and become unresponsive and comatose.
If overdose occurs, the person needs immediate medical attention. Getting the person to the hospital where they can be monitored and provided with supportive care is vital, and certain medications can help reverse the effects of benzos.
Treatment for Benzo Addiction
The best way to safely overcome benzo addiction is to participate in drug rehab, but one of the most difficult steps for family and loved ones is getting the addict to accept help. The person might be in denial that they have a problem and need help, or they might be afraid to ask for help because of repercussions or because they think they will fail. Families that struggle to talk their loved one into accepting help for benzo addiction should consult a professional. An interventionist can help loved ones establish a plan to talk to the person in a non-confrontational, compassionate way and help loved ones follow through with their plans to get the person the help they need.
As soon as the individual agrees to get help, loved ones should be prepared to take them to a rehab facility and enroll them right away. It helps to have these details worked out ahead of time so that once the person agrees they need help, they can get enroll in rehab before they change their mind. A professional interventionist will help families through every step of the way and answer any questions they might have.
Once enrolled in a drug rehab program, the first step toward sobriety is detox. For those addicted to benzodiazepines, detox can be dangerous and even life-threatening. The addict’s brain and body become so dependent on these drugs that trying to stop using them cold turkey has devastating effects on the body. This is a greater problem among those who have used benzos over a sustained period of time than those that have already gradually tapered the dose.
Side effects of benzo withdrawal include:
Serious side effects of benzodiazepine withdrawal include psychosis and seizures, and a condition known as delirium tremens. This is a serious complication that causes extreme confusion and seizures that can result in coma and death.
Because of the potential severity of benzo withdrawal symptoms, it is not recommended that a person goes through detox from benzodiazepines on their own. In most cases, an individual addicted to benzos needs to be supervised by a team of medical professionals in a hospital setting, so that symptoms can be monitored closely and medical attention is available when necessary.
Medications can help reduce the severity and duration of benzodiazepine withdrawal. Certain medications that reduce the risk of seizures, those that provide mild sedation, and those that help manage pain and discomfort during detox have been found to be the most effective in helping patients through this first stage of recovery.
Rehab and Recovery
An important aspect of benzo addiction treatment is rehab and recovery. The effects of addiction on a person certainly last longer than the detox period, and the individual will face cravings to use, as well as trouble with things like stress and anxiety as they try to get back to their normal life. Therapy and rehab are important tools that are used by treatment professionals to help the person remain sober even after they return home.
For some who have been through benzo rehab, prolonged effects of benzodiazepine abuse continue to cause problems. Post-acute withdrawal symptoms can last for several months to a year, and cause chronic anxiety, depression, and insomnia. In these cases, long-term care and support group participation are vital to helping them address these symptoms and prevent relapse.
Help for Benzodiazepine Addiction
Benzo addiction recovery offers hope to those whose lives are being controlled by these drugs. The Ridge is an inpatient treatment center in Cincinnati, Ohio that provides the highest quality treatment for benzo and other drug and alcohol addiction. Our facility is Joint Commission certified, meaning we are held to the highest standard for safety and services, and our team of professionals is skilled at helping clients address the issues that contribute to their addiction. We provide hope and help to individuals and families that are desperate to achieve lasting sobriety.