Benzo Addiction and Abuse: The Dangers of Some of the Most Commonly Prescribed Medications
Benzodiazepine addiction and abuse is a serious problem that is running rampant in our country. People take benzos for all kinds of reasons. Unfortunately, it seems as though doctors are far too willing to hand them out.
While there are those who will use benzos recreationally, many times people get addicted by accident. They’re only taking their medications, just as their doctor recommended. Either way, if you’re using one of these medications, you need information. It’s important for you to know as much about them as you can. They are drugs that carry a lot of risks, and it doesn’t take long to become dependent on them.
Fortunately, if you are addicted to a benzodiazepine drug, you can get help. Benzo rehab is available to assist you through every stage of the recovery process.
Benzo Recovery Information
Types of Benzodiazepines
These drugs are some of the most common prescription medications on the market. It may be helpful to see a benzodiazepines list. That way you can tell if a medicine that you’re currently taking has this classification.
Some of the more frequently prescribed benzos include:
- Xanax (Alprazolam)
- Librium (Chlordiazepoxide)
- Klonopin (Clonazepam)
- Valium (Diazepam)
- Lorazepam (Ativan)
- Restoril (Temazepam)
- Halcion (Triazolam)
Of course, this is only a small list. This particular drug classification is fairly large, and it encompasses many more.
These are medications that have been prescribed for decades because they have many uses. They’re actually quite effective, which is why people take them so often. Doctors can use benzos to treat seizure disorders, anxiety, and many other conditions. They may also prescribe them to treat other conditions, even off-label, at times.
Contrary to popular belief, these medications are not safe at all. The number of overdoses as a result of benzodiazepines is climbing steadily. Thousands of people are rushed to the hospital because of some of them. The truth is that there are hidden dangers behind these drugs that aren’t discussed enough.
Many times, people don’t realize that they should be concerned about drug interactions with benzos. Certain drugs should not be used with them at all, and these include:
- Opiate drugs
- Any illicit drug
Some supplements may also interact negatively with these medications.
As far as warnings go, pregnant women should not use one of these medicines. Caution should be used by breastfeeding mothers as well. More people need to be made aware that the risk of addiction to benzos is very real.
Benzodiazepines are among the most addictive medications on the market. Each bottle is marked with a label that signifies this. Unfortunately, most of the time, this warning gets ignored.
Patients taking benzos tend to believe that they’re safe. They use the argument that their doctor would never give them anything that was dangerous for them. Even when people use them recreationally, they’ll argue that the drugs aren’t dangerous. They claim that they wouldn’t be available by prescription if they were.
If you’ve been taking benzos for any period of time, you may already be addicted to them. If you are, please be advised that you may need to go to a benzodiazepine rehab facility to stop.
Do These Drugs Have Side Effects?
Every medication has side effects and ones in this class are no different. Even if you’re taking benzodiazepines as prescribed, you’re likely to have some of the following:
- Frequent headaches
- Feelings of grogginess and fatigue
- Bouts of confusion
- Excessive drowsiness
- Problems with your coordination
- Symptoms of depression
Some of these may go away once your body gets used to the medicine. However, not all of them will. Some can persist for the entire time you’re taking it.
If you increase your dosage of the drug, your side effects are likely to get worse. This is something to keep in mind if you’re a current user, abuser or addict.
Benzos will have an effect on you both physically and mentally if you’re abusing them. With chronic use, you’re likely to experience:
- Breathing problems
- Blurred vision
- Weakness throughout your body
- Recurrent anxiety
- Problems sleeping
The effects of benzos should not be ignored. They do produce a powerful high. However, there are consequences for that brief period of euphoria.
People tend to take benzos because of their positive short-term effects. They can help people sleep better, feel calm and become relaxed. However, if you’re abusing these drugs, even in the short-term, you’re likely to experience:
- Symptoms of depression
- A loss of appetite
- Shallow breathing
- Mood swings
- Slower reflexes than normal
- Motor coordination impairment
- Nausea and vomiting
- Slurred speech
There are even more risks involved when you decide to use benzos long-term. Both your brain and your body will be impacted. Some of the long-term consequences of using benzodiazepines include:
- Long-term memory problems
- Problems with processing information
- A negative impact on learning
- An increased risk for dementia and Alzheimer’s disease
- Issues with sensory perception
Unfortunately, as many as 30% of all benzodiazepines in the U.S. are prescribed to elderly people. They are at an increased risk for problems; especially when using these drugs long-term. They are at a higher risk for injuries and motor vehicle accidents. They can easily lose their balance due to the lack of motor control.
Abusing Benzos and the Risks Involved
Benzodiazepine abuse usually begins in one of two ways. The most common way is to abuse them on accident. A patient is prescribed a benzo drug and they begin increasing their dosage when it no longer seems effective. It’s also possible to be abusing one of these medications simply by taking it for too long.
These drugs are also abused for recreational purposes. People use them to help themselves feel more relaxed, and they enjoy the high. Both types of abuse carry serious risks.
In addition to the above side effects and long-term consequences, dependence and addiction are very real possibilities. It isn’t long before people believe that they need these medications. Without them, they don’t feel like themselves. It gets to the point where they begin to believe that they need them to function, or even survive.
Benzodiazepine Abuse Stats and Trends in the United States
Regarding benzodiazepine use in the United States, research tells us that:
- In 2008, about 2% of the adult population was using these drugs.
- The age group that had the most users (7%) was between the ages of 65 and 80.
- The use of drugs in this classification was nearly twice as likely in women than in men.
- The long-term use of these medications appears to become more common as a person ages.
- Regardless of age, about 25% of people who use these drugs will become long-term users.
Clearly, benzo use and abuse is a problem that isn’t going to go away on its own. Doctors will continue to prescribe these drugs for their benefits. There’s no denying that they work very well to treat certain conditions. However, once someone has been on them for longer than six months, dependence and addiction should be concerns. Considering the fact that they’re more commonly prescribed to elderly people, this creates an even bigger problem.
How do People Get Addicted to Drugs Like Xanax and Ativan?
There is an undeniable link between benzo abuse and addiction. People don’t become addicted to drugs like Ativan and Xanax right away. Forming an addiction to them takes some time. If you think you might have an addiction, you may wonder how it happened.
When you take drugs like those in this category, they release excess dopamine in your brain. Typically, your brain will do this job on its own. The increased amounts of it are what cause you to feel high. Abusing benzos will continually result in these increased levels of dopamine. After some time has gone by, your brain will stop making it altogether. It doesn’t need to because the drug is doing it.
You start to get used to having more dopamine as a result of this. Dopamine is the chemical in your brain that causes you to feel happy and secure. If you stop using benzos, the levels of this chemical drop. You no longer feel happy and secure, and you start experiencing withdrawal symptoms.
Withdrawing from benzos is very difficult. It causes a host of both physical and psychological symptoms. If you’ve gone through withdrawal, you can be sure you’re addicted.
Yes, dependence is different from addiction, but they’re also related to each other too. Dependence is something that occurs first. When you’re dependent on benzodiazepines, you experience higher tolerance levels to the drug. You may take a dose and find that it doesn’t really do anything for you. As a result, you increase how much you take. At that point, you have grown dependent on it.
When you’re addicted, you are also dependent. However, addiction has so much more involved with it than that. You’ll need to take increased amounts of the medication regularly. You will also believe that you need to have it. You may think about it all the time, and panic when you run out.
Anyone who uses drugs in this classification is at risk for becoming an addict. However, research does tell us that they’re more likely to be prescribed to older people.
If you have noticed that your current dosage of benzos isn’t working as well for you, this is a warning. You may have already become dependent on it. It’s important to talk with your doctor before you form an addiction. It’s even possible that you might need to go to rehab for benzos right away.
Are You a Candidate for a Benzodiazepine Treatment Facility?
It’s important to know whether or not you’re addicted to benzodiazepines. If you are, you would be considered a candidate to get help through a treatment center. You could begin by taking a drug addiction quiz. This will answer a lot of your questions about your condition. You could also look for some common signs of benzo addiction.
People who are addicted to benzos typically have some identifying symptoms. These can include:
- Doctor shopping to get more prescriptions for their medications
- Problems with judgment
- Feelings of weakness
- A preoccupation with using these drugs
- Asking to borrow pills from friends and family
- Having a desire to cut back on their drug use, but not being able to
Have you noticed any of these signs in yourself? If you have, it’s possible that you’re addicted. Fortunately, going to a benzodiazepine rehab center can be very beneficial to you. They will help you understand why you became addicted to these drugs as a part of your recovery.
What Will Your Benzo Rehab Program Look Like?
If you’ve never gone to a drug rehab before, it’s understandable that you might be nervous. It might help you to know what you can expect when you’re ready to take that step.
Above all, you should know that there’s no reason for you to worry. When you find the right program, they’ll take care of all of your needs. Every aspect of your addiction will be addressed, giving you the best possible chance of recovering.
Your very first step will be to go through benzodiazepine detox. This is important because it’s going to help you through the withdrawal period. Withdrawal is very hard to cope with without any type of help, and detoxing makes it easier on you.
Benzodiazepine withdrawal syndrome is a very real concern. You may experience symptoms like:
- Panic attacks
- Cravings for the drug
- Increased tension
- Cognitive difficulties and confusion
- Problems with your memory
- Sleep disturbances
These symptoms can be controlled in a few different ways. Your doctor may recommend medical detox for you. This would allow you to take medications to help you with your symptoms. You may also be placed on a more holistic program for detoxification. Either way, you’ll likely be tapered off your medication slowly. This will help as well.
After going through the detox process, the next step is rehab. This is when you’ll work on the psychological part of your addiction.
As time has gone on, you’ve come to believe that you need benzos. You may feel that you can’t get through your life without them. It’s possible that you are suffering from a co-occurring disorder, which can actually cause addictions to occur. If this is the case, this is a mental health condition that has contributed to the problem.
Your therapist will work with you to learn the cause of your addiction. They’ll provide you with therapy that will help you heal. You’ll also work in support group settings with others who understand where you’re coming from.
Why do Addicts Need a Benzodiazepine Treatment Program to Recover?
It’s tempting to think that you can just stop taking your medicine and everything will go back to normal. Unfortunately, that’s not the way benzo addiction works. It is a very powerful condition. If you try to quit on your own, you could relapse, and this could be fatal.
Most benzodiazepine overdoses take place when someone has tried to quit using without professional support. They stop taking their medicine and their tolerance levels drop. Cravings and other symptoms prompt them to use again, but then they take more than they can handle.
Going to a professional benzodiazepine treatment center will keep you safe. It will also offer you the unique insight you need into your addiction.
Learn More About Your Benzo Rehab Options
We want you to know that you have a lot of options for benzo treatment. At AspenRidge Recovery, one of those options is our IOP program.
We can provide you with the help you need to go through the detox process. Afterwards, intensive outpatient treatment offers you a flexible treatment option. This means you can still get a high level of care while you continue to work and care for your family. So many people appreciate having this choice available to them.
Above all, we want you to get the help you need to recover. It can take time, but we are confident that you can achieve your recovery goals.