Benzodiazepines are a class of drugs frequently prescribed for anxiety and insomnia. Benzodiazepine abuse results most commonly from self-medication of these conditions or from a person’s attempt at creating a euphoric state.
In either pursuit, the results at minimum create adverse health effects, and in the most severe cases, lead to addiction, overdose, and death. A comprehensive inpatient drug rehab program works to remove these risks by building the foundation of a drug-free life.
What Are Benzodiazepines?
Benzodiazepines (benzos) change the way your brain and central nervous system function. This action manifests by sedative, hypnotic, and tranquilizing effects, which are the primary reasons why these drugs are prescribed. In addition to anxiety and insomnia, benzos are used to treat muscle spasms, pre-surgical or dental concerns, and symptoms of alcohol withdrawal.
Benzodiazepines vary in their potency and half-life, which is essentially how long the drug stays in your system. The American Family Physician (AFP) breaks down benzos in the following ways to exhibit these differences:
- Drugs with a short half-life
- Alprazolam (Xanax)
- Lorazepam (Ativan)
- Triazolam (Halcion)
- Drugs with a long half-life
- Clonazepam (Klonopin)
- Drugs with a short half-life
- Oxazepam (Serax)
- Temazepam (Restoril)
- Drugs with a long half-life
- Chlordiazepoxide (Librium)
- Clorazepate (Tranxene)
- Diazepam (Valium)
When people abuse benzos, the short-acting versions are the most sought after due to the way they create quicker and more powerful highs. The AFP notes that alprazolam, diazepam, and lorazepam are three which are frequently abused.
How Are Benzodiazepines Abused?
Benzodiazepines are abused orally, but in larger and more frequent quantities than would typically be prescribed, or the pill may be altered to enhance the rate by which the drug is delivered. In these latter cases, users often crush the drug up to snort it.
Snorting a drug increases the rate by which the drug is absorbed into your system due to the way it’s rapidly absorbed in the tissues within your nasal cavity. While this may deliver a quicker and more potent high, it also increases the potential for an addiction to develop more rapidly, in addition to upping the potential for overdose.
What Are The Signs Of Benzodiazepine Abuse?
When a person is abusing benzos they may appear moderately to severely intoxicated.
Physical symptoms include:
- Blurred vision
- Impaired coordination
- Low blood pressure
- Nausea and vomiting
- Respiratory depression
- Slow reflexes
- Slurred words
- Weakened muscles
Mental symptoms include:
- Emotional numbness
- Impaired memory
- Mood swings
These symptoms can greatly endanger a person or those around them. The AFP warns that nearly 80 percent of benzodiazepine abusers use benzos with other drugs, including alcohol and opioids. Both of these drugs decrease the capacity of your CNS system, which can compound the above signs of intoxication. This CNS depression is dangerous and can quickly accelerate to overdose even by small additions of these other drugs.
How Is Dependence Related To Addiction?
Eventually the amount of the drug that a person once used to obtain their high will no longer work. This is called a tolerance. When this occurs, a person has to increase the dose of the drug to create the same effects the drug once produced. When the dose increases the effect on a person’s body is magnified. The more frequent use which develops from this can lead to a physical dependence.
Tolerance and dependence does not always equal addiction. These states can occur within medically-prescribed use. What differentiates them from addiction is when they’re accompanied by the psychological characteristics of compulsive drug use. The most noticeable sign of addiction is someone having cravings for a drug.
These uncontrollable urges initiate a series of compulsive behaviors marked by drug seeking and using. These actions further the addiction even more, which creates deeper instability and damage within a person’s life.
How Can You Tell If A Person Is Addicted?
As abuse gives way to these compulsive drug-using behaviors, a person’s life can change significantly. Instead of placing their health, career, and family first, an addicted individual begins to put the drug above most above everything else.
To maintain a steady and constant supply of the drug, a person may:
- Steal pill from friends, family, or even strangers.
- Go to more than one doctor to get multiple prescriptions (“doctor shopping”).
- Lie and say they’ve lost their medication.
- Pretend to have extreme anxiety or another condition that benzodiazepines are prescribed for.
- Steal money to purchase drugs off the street.
When a person uses compulsively they may panic when they run out of the drug. Before this happens they may make claims that the drug is necessary for them to function or that they need it to treat a medical condition. Even self-medicating is abuse unless the medication was prescribed by a doctor and used only as directed.
Detoxing From Benzodiazpeines
Benzodiazepine addictions are some of the most severe in terms of physical dependency. For this reason no one should ever attempt to detox on their own. Instead, they should be detoxed in a medical setting under the strict care of a doctor or nurse. A medical detox treats the physical addiction by allowing your body the opportunity to flush out the drug’s accumulated toxins.
If an addicted individual were to suddenly stop using these drugs, or to drastically reduce their dosage, they would likely become severely sick and go into withdrawal. Withdrawal from benzodiazepines is risky do to the fact the person could have a seizure and die.
Depending on the benzo, the intensity of the addiction, and other factors, such as a person’s mental and physical health needs, certain medications will be used to alleviate these symptoms. Nutritional support and IV-hydration may also be used, should the situation warrant these interventions.
Many inpatient programs offer a medical detox on site. This cohesive format allows a person to advance to treatment without leaving the protective atmosphere and support which the facility offers. This way a person can get to work on treating their psychological addiction as soon as they successfully treat the physical one within detox. This smooth transition helps to ensure better treatment retention rates and the success of the individual within their recovery.
How Does Individualized Treatment Address Benzodiazepine Addictions?
Once you’re at an addiction ttreatment center, your day will be quite structured. After a life of constant upheaval and instability at the hand of addiction and quite possibly anxiety, this is often a welcome change for many people seeking sobriety.
The best individualized treatment programs draw from multiple therapies and treatment modalities to enhance your experience and treatment outcomes. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) supports this: “Matching treatment settings, interventions, and services to an individual’s particular problems and needs is critical to his or her ultimate success in returning to productive functioning in the family, workplace, and society.”
To fulfill these needs our treatment specialists will look at what elements within your life led up to the addiction, as well as the ones which contributed to it continuing. According to NIDA, in order for treatment to have the highest impact, it should address:
- Legal problems
These may be influences or issues surrounding your family or friends, a mental health disorder, career or educational instability, or other deeply personal factors. All of these can cause anxiety and even lead to insomnia. By lessening risk factors, especially these primary triggers for self-medicating, a person will be more prepared to cope during their recovery.
Regardless of why a person first began using, enhancing their life in these ways helps to solidify the lessons and skills learned in treatment.
What Therapies Are Used To Treat Benzodiazepine Addictions?
Behavioral therapies are a huge part of treatment. Offered in an individual, family, and group setting, these help to undo negative and damaging thoughts, behaviors, and emotional states which can contribute to the addiction.
Some of the best, researched-based therapies include:
- Motivational interviewing (MI)
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
- Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT)
These therapies are especially useful for individuals who struggle with a co-occurring disorder, especially anxiety and panic disorders. Since self-medication is so heavily connected to addiction, it’s important to break the cycle between the drug abuse and symptoms.
One key component of this is to teach a person manageable and adaptable coping skills which reduce stress. Treatment is transformative, but it can also be a trying time. These mindfulness and stress management practices forge good habits within treatment which carry over to recovery.
Find Freedom From Benzodiazepines Today
Benzodiazepine addictions require serious treatment. DrugRehab.org has the resources and contacts which can connect you to these life-saving options. Contact us today to learn more about benzodiazepine addiction and treatment.
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