Benzodiazepine Addiction and Abuse

Benzodiazepine Addiciton With anxiety disorders continuing to be diagnosed across the United States, the need for a medication to calm people down is growing. Some people who suffer from anxiety are prescribed benzodiazepines to calm their nerves so they can think clearly and not suffer from regular anxiety. However, benzodiazepines can become addictive if not taken properly, and in some cases, misuse can be more dangerous than the anxiety disorder itself.

Although benzodiazepines are invaluable in the treatment of anxiety disorders, they have some potential for abuse and may cause dependence or addiction. It is important to distinguish between addiction to and normal physical dependence on benzodiazepines. Intentional abusers of benzodiazepines usually have other substance abuse problems. Benzodiazepines are usually a secondary drug of abuse--used mainly to augment the high received from another drug or to offset the adverse effects of other drugs.

Few cases of addiction arise from the legitimate use of benzodiazepines. Pharmacologic dependence, a predictable and natural adaptation of a body system long accustomed to the presence of a drug, may occur in patients taking therapeutic doses of benzodiazepines. However, this dependence, which generally manifests itself in withdrawal symptoms upon the abrupt discontinuation of the medication, may be controlled and ended through dose tapering, medication switching, and/or medication augmentation. Due to the chronic nature of anxiety, long-term low-dose benzodiazepine treatment may be necessary for some patients; this continuation of treatment should not be considered abuse or addiction.

What Are Benzodiazepines?

Benzodiazepines, also known as benzos, are psychoactive medications that physicians prescribe to people struggling with anxiety and insomnia. There are more than a dozen different kinds of benzos that are all used for their own purpose. Some benzos are able to treat multiple conditions, but the most popular use of benzos is to treat heightened anxiety. Benzos aren’t used just for psychological symptoms, but they can also be used to help those who are struggling physically as well. Certain benzos work to treat convulsions for people who have cerebral palsy, or to help relax a patient preparing to go into surgery.

When a benzo is taken, it slows down a person’s brain activity. Since benzos increase the effects of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), the medications slow bodily nerve impulses. This results in drowsiness, uncoordinated movements, slowed reaction times, and more. Even though the mechanisms of action are almost all the same across all benzos, there are a few key differences between the variations of the drug. For example, each medication has a unique dosage, half-life, abuse potential and absorption time.

There are two primary types of benzodiazepines: long-acting and short-acting. Each class of benzodiazepines is prescribed for different needs and is classified by the Drug Enforcement Administration based on their potential for addiction. The long-acting kinds, such as Valium and Librium, tend to stay in the body for many more hours. Short-acting benzodiazepines such as Ativan and Xanax do not stay in the body for very long — sometimes just a few hours. Benzos are usually taken under medical supervision when taken properly. They can be taken in pill, tablet or capsule forms.

They can also be administered via injection, but that isn’t as common. In fact, the brand name Versed (which is made from the chemical midazolam) is only administered intravenously. Pharmaceutical companies make multiple types of benzos which can include:

  • Xanax (Alprazolam) – Xanax takes 1 – 2 hours to reach its peak level of effectiveness with a half life of 12 hours
  • Lexotan (Bromazepam) – Lexotan takes 1 – 4 hours to reach its peak level of effectiveness with a half life of 20 hours
  • Librium (Chlordiazepoxide) – Librium takes 1 – 4 hours to reach its peak level of effectiveness with a half life of 100 hours
  • Klonopin (Clonazepam) – Klonopin takes 1 – 4 hours to reach its peak level of effectiveness with a half life of 34 hours
  • Valium (Diazepam) – Valium takes 1 – 2 hours to reach its peak level of effectiveness with a half life of 100 hours.
  • Ativan (Lorazepam) – Ativan takes 1 – 4 hours to reach its peak level of effectiveness with a half life of 15 hours.
  • Rohypnol (Flunitrazepam) – Rohypnol takes 1 – 2 hours to reach its peak level of effectiveness with a half life between 18 and 26 hours.

Like other drugs that are illegally used, benzos go by various nicknames. Some of the most commonly used benzodiazepine street names include:

  • Nerve pills
  • Tranks
  • Downers
  • V’s (Valium)
  • Z bars (Xanax)

For What Conditions Are Benzodiazepines Used?

Benzodiazepines are used for treating:

  • anxiety and panic
  • seizures (convulsions)
  • insomnia or trouble sleeping

They also are used for:

  • general anesthesia
  • sedation prior to surgery or diagnostic procedures
  • muscle relaxation
  • alcohol withdrawal and drug associated agitation
  • nausea and vomiting
  • depression
  • panic attacks

Are There Differences Between Benzodiazepines?

Benzodiazepines differ in how quickly they start working, how long they continue to work, and for what they are most commonly prescribed.

  • Diazepam (Valium) and clorazepate (Tranxene) have fast onsets of action and usually start working within 30 to 60 minutes.
  • Oxazepam (Serax) has a slow onset, and lorazepam (Ativan), alprazolam (Xanax), and clonazepam (Klonopin) have intermediate onsets of action.
  • Clorazepate (Tranxene), midazolam (Versed), and triazolam (Halcion) are short-acting agents with durations of action of 3 to 8 hours.
  • Alprazolam (Xanax), lorazepam (Ativan), estazolam (Prosom), and temazepam (Restoril) are intermediate-acting agents with durations of action of 11 to 20 hours.
  • Chlordiazepoxide (Librium), clonazepam (Klonopin), diazepam (Valium), flurazepam (Dalmane), and quazepam are long-acting agents with duration of action of 1 to 3 days.

Although most benzodiazepines are used interchangeably, some are most commonly used for certain conditions.

  • Alprazolam (Xanax), chlordiazepoxide (Librium), chlorazepate (Tranxene), diazepam (Valium), lorazepam (Ativan), and midazolam are used for anxiety disorders.
  • Clonazepam (Klonopin), clorazepate (Tranxene), lorazepam (Ativan), clobazam (Onfi), and diazepam (Valium) are used for seizure disorders.
  • Estazolam (Prosom), flurazepam (Dalmane), quazepam (Doral), temazepam (Restoril), and triazolam (Halcion) are used for insomnia or trouble sleeping.
  • Midazolam (Versed), lorazepam (Ativan), and diazepam (Valium) are used in anesthesia.
  • Diazepam (Valium) also is used for muscle relaxation.
  • Chlordiazepoxide (Librium) is used for alcohol withdrawal.

What Are The Side Effects Of Benzodiazepines?

The most common side effects associated with benzodiazepines are:

  • sedation
  • dizziness
  • weakness
  • unsteadiness

Other side effects include:

  • transient drowsiness commonly experienced during the first few days of treatment
  • a feeling of depression
  • loss of orientation
  • headache
  • sleep disturbance
  • confusion
  • irritability
  • aggression
  • excitement
  • memory impairment

All benzodiazepines can cause physical dependence. Suddenly stopping therapy after a few months of daily therapy may be associated with withdrawal symptoms which include a feeling of loss of self-worth, agitation, and insomnia. If benzodiazepines are taken continuously for longer than a few months, stopping therapy suddenly may produce seizures, tremors, muscle cramping, vomiting, and sweating. In order to avoid withdrawal symptoms, the dose of benzodiazepines should be tapered slowly.

With Which Drugs Do Benzodiazepines Interact?

All benzodiazepines cause excessive sedation when combined with other medications that slow the brain's processes (for example, alcohol, barbiturates, narcotics, and tranquilizers). The elimination of some benzodiazepines (for example, alprazolam [Xanax] and diazepam [Valium]) is reduced by drugs that slow elimination of drugs in the liver (for example, ketoconazole [Nizoral, Xolegel], valproic acid [Depakene, Stavzor], cimetidine [Tagamet], and fluoxetine [Prozac]). Reduced elimination may result in increased blood concentrations and side effects from the affected benzodiazepines. Antacids may reduce the rate of absorption of benzodiazepines from the intestine. Separating the administration of antacids and benzodiazepines by several hours may prevent this interaction.

What Are Some Examples Of Benzodiazepines?

Approved benzodiazepines in the United States include:

  • alprazolam (Xanax)
  • chlordiazepoxide (Librium)
  • clonazepam (Klonopin)
  • clorazepate (Tranxene)
  • diazepam (Valium)
  • estazolam (Prosom)
  • flurazepam (Dalmane)
  • lorazepam (Ativan)
  • midazolam (Versed)
  • oxazepam (Serax)
  • temazepam (Restoril)
  • triazolam (Halcion)
  • quazepam (Doral)

What Is Benzo Addiction?

Benzo addiction occurs when people misuse the prescribed medication. This could include buying the drug illegally, taking it in larger amounts, and taking it for an extended amount of time. An addiction likely won’t occur if a patient follows a doctor’s instructions, but some people become accustomed to the calm and the high that the drug brings them. United States legislators began to notice this and developed laws to control benzos. Most significantly, the 1970 Controlled Substances Act categorized benzodiazepines as Schedule IV drugs, which means the drugs have a high potential for misuse, addiction and has limited medical uses.

Causes of Benzodiazepine Addiction and Abuse

Benzos are habit-forming sedatives, meaning that gaining an addiction to them can be possible if not taken properly. People who take the drug excessively may begin to feel a high and experience an unsafe level of relaxation. From there, their tolerance to the drug’s effects can build as they attempt to emulate that initial high. The fact that the drug has become easily available is also a major contributing factor. In 2016, Reuters Health noted that benzo prescriptions had tripled that year and overdoses involving benzos more than quadrupled since 1996.

The risk of death increases if a person uses these drugs alongside other mind-altering substances — especially opioids. With 13.5 million benzo prescriptions written in 2016, the accessibility of benzos is a concern to individuals who manage an addiction to the drug.

Benzodiazepines Addiction Signs, Symptoms and Effects

Identifying the signs of someone struggling with a benzo addiction can be confusing. However, there are a variety of signs that can reveal that someone is misusing benzos. It’s crucial to take notice of the signs before the symptoms become deadly.

Physical Abuse Symptoms

Some physical symptoms that can occur during a benzo addiction include:

  • Extreme fatigue
  • Slurred speech
  • Impaired coordination
  • Slowed heart rate
  • Shallow breathing
  • Slower reflexes
  • Pale, cold skin
  • Dilated pupils
  • Lightheadedness
  • Blurred vision
  • Fainting
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Tremors
  • Seizures

Psychological Abuse Symptoms

When taken for a longer amount of time, psychological symptoms can begin to appear. These can include:

  • Depression
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Irritability
  • Mood swings
  • Cognitive dysfunction

Behavioral Symptoms of Benzodiazepine Abuse

Those who struggle with a benzo addiction may suffer in different aspects of their life. They may cut themselves off from their friends and family in order to take benzos to avoid judgment. Along with their relationships being affected, they also may struggle financially as they either miss work to consume the drug or spend all of their money on obtaining more of the substance.

What Are The Dangers Of Benzodiazepine Addiction?

Two serious concerns of benzodiazepine therapy are the potential for abuse and the development of physical dependence. Although intentional abuse of prescription benzodiazepines is relatively uncommon in the general population, it should be used more cautiously in individuals with a history of drug abuse as they are at the greatest risk for seeking benzodiazepines to experience a "high."

Benzodiazepines are rarely the sole drug of abuse, and abusers usually combine benzodiazepines with other drugs to increase the effect. For example, benzodiazepines are combined with certain opioids, a class of strong prescription pain relievers, to enhance the euphoric effects. Among abusers, diazepam (Valium) and alprazolam (Xanax) are most popular due to their rapid onset. For most patients, use of a benzodiazepine for a period of several months does not seem to cause issues of addiction, tolerance, or difficulties in stopping the medication when it is no longer needed. However, several months of use significantly increases the risk for addiction, tolerance, and appearance of withdrawal symptoms with dose reduction or termination of therapy.

Abusers are at higher risk for side effects including confusion, slurred speech, seizures or convulsions, severe drowsiness or coma, shakiness, slow heartbeat, difficulty breathing, and severe weakness. Benzodiazepine addicts also have a higher risk for developing dementia, an illness affecting the brain that causes gradual memory loss and problems with language and motor skills, in the long term.

The dangers of benzodiazepine addiction are many. Fatal cases of overdose have been reported with the use of benzodiazepines. Each year benzodiazepine overdose contributes to a significant number of trips to the emergency room and hospital admissions. The antidote for benzodiazepine overdose is flumazenil (Romazicon). To treat benzodiazepine overdose, flumazenil is injected rapidly into the vein.

What Are The Dangers Of Benzodiazepine Withdrawal?

When benzodiazepine treatment is stopped abruptly, patients may develop withdrawal symptoms. Factors that increase the risk and severity of withdrawal symptoms include high doses and long-term benzodiazepine use. Additionally, withdrawal symptoms tend to occur earlier with benzodiazepines with short elimination half-lives.

Common symptoms of benzodiazepine withdrawal include anxiety, trouble sleeping, restlessness, muscle tension, and irritability. Less commonly, patients may also experience nausea, malaise, blurred vision, sweating, nightmares, depression, muscle coordination problems, tremors, and muscle twitching or spasms. In rare cases, hallucinations, delusions, seizures, and ringing in the ears may also occur.

Risk of withdrawal seizures is higher with high benzodiazepine dose, long treatment duration, and concurrent use of medications that lower the seizure threshold. Prompt recognition and treatment of benzodiazepine withdrawal are crucial as this condition may be life-threatening. Benzodiazepine withdrawal is treated with intravenous (injected into the vein) benzodiazepines such as diazepam (Valium) which tends to work over a longer period of time.

Benzodiazepine Rehab: Finding Treatment for Dependence and Addiction

Benzodiazepines are central nervous system (CNS) depressants used to treat anxiety and insomnia. In case you are using a benzodiazepine medication for medical reasons, make certain that you follow your doctor's directions. Even following the directions, you could develop a tolerance, dependency or addiction. According to the Center for Substance Abuse Research, it may take some time before benzodiazepine leaves the user's body, which may lead to cognition problems later on. If you have become addicted to benzodiazepines, support is just a call away.

Call us for assistance locating a benzodiazepines rehab center near you.

Inpatient Clinics vs. Outpatient Centers

Treatment can be done either in an inpatient facility or at an outpatient clinic. When you choose an inpatient facility, you will receive 24-hour care from the medical staff. To make sure you do not obtain access to drugs other than those prescribed to you, 24-hour supervision is required. This type of service is not offered by an outpatient program. If you don't like the idea of staying in a facility, outpatient care may be ideal for you. Outpatient programs also provide the medications and therapy you may need but may be best for those with mild-to-moderate addictions.

Do I Need Inpatient Care?

Most benzodiazepine rehab centers offer excellent inpatient care at all times. Whether this is important or not depends on your specific treatment needs. In general, severe addiction cases require the inpatient approach to treatment. However, if your addiction is mild or moderate, you may not need an inpatient program.

Call us to learn more about residential programs.

Tolerance vs. Benzodiazepine Dependence

A tolerance takes place after the body builds a resistance against benzodiazepine. Following extended use of the drug, a person's system becomes accustomed to it. Consequently, he or she will need increasingly higher doses of benzodiazepine to achieve the desired effects. The use of large quantities of a benzodiazepine can lead to an addiction over time, making the individual incapable of functioning in a normal way without the drug.

Are Benzodiazepine Rehabs Confidential?

State laws require clinical documents to be sealed or locked up to guarantee the privacy of the client. In accordance with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, there are fines and penalties for offenses made against these laws. Prior to enrolling yourself in a benzodiazepine treatment facility, be sure that the facility guarantees the protection of your rights. Call us for a reference to a benzodiazepine rehabilitation facility that respects your need for privacy.

How Long Does Inpatient Rehabilitation Last?

The average length of treatment within most inpatient centers is 28 days, according to the Alcohol Drug Abuse and Resource Center. However, treatment lengths of up to 90 days are very common. For very severe cases of addiction, treatment may take six months to a year to complete. Therapy may be continued for as long as the patient needs it and to ascertain that he or she applies all the skills learned during rehab. To find out the required length of stay in a reputed benzodiazepine rehab center near you, call us today.

What Happens During Treatment

Treatment within a benzodiazepine rehab center employs a combination of procedures, each adjusted to suit the patient's specific needs. Treatment typically involves the following:

  • Evaluation. This is carried out to uncover all the health and medical needs of patients. To do so, prescreening exams and medical tests may be done.
  • Detoxification. This is an important step because it prepares the addict's body to receive further therapy. Detox entails removing the harmful drug from the patient's body. Most individuals who experience an overdose on any drug undergo detox. Still, only a medical professional can judge whether this is necessary.
  • Residential therapy. In residential treatment, the recovering abuser will live inside a benzodiazepine rehab center, where he or she will receive intensive treatment lasting from 30 to 90 days.
  • Counseling. This is an essential complement to other treatment strategies. It gives recovering addicts the chance to speak with medical professionals about their struggles concerning their addictions and the decisions they made to arrive at the present situation.
  • Aftercare program. This treatment methodology is especially beneficial when the household setting of a recovering addict isn't favorable to complete recovery, such as if triggers for relapse are available.

Paying for Benzodiazepine Addiction Treatment

Treatment costs may be paid in a number of ways, including by:

  • Credit cards
  • Payment plans
  • Some insurance policies
  • Loans

Should I Travel for Treatment?

Call us today to speak with a specialist counselor regarding the site of a trustworthy benzodiazepine rehab center in your area. Inpatient therapy inside a facility near your residence offers the benefit of obtaining prompt assistance from friends and family.

I Want to Find an Executive or Luxury Rehab Center

When work circumstances have hindered you or a spouse from getting care for a problem with narcotics or prescription drugs or behavior-related addiction, Executive Rehabs will be of interest. Leveraging excellent narcotic, prescription drug or behavior addiction treatments with the flexibility of an occasional laptop and mobile access, a member of the management team can achieve sobriety while remaining productive.

Frequently, contemporary illicit substance and behavioral addiction treatment programs provide the excellent amenities you'd normally find in four and five-star hotels, with your success and health being the biggest goals. From fine linens and gym facilities to in-house massage therapy and housekeeping services, you can get the perfect substance and behavior treatment for yourself or a spouse while enjoying the surroundings. For a hand in determining the top luxury treatment clinics for Benzodiazepine addiction, call our helpline free of charge as soon as you're able.

What Happens After Rehab?

Release selfEnrolling in an outpatient treatment program is an excellent idea. The purpose is to make sure you put to use all the skills you learned in the center in your day-to-day routines in order to avoid relapse. Together with therapy, you may want to enroll in an addiction support team. In a support group, you will connect with other recovering addicts and continue with the peer-based support meetings given along with therapy in benzodiazepine rehab centers.

Are You Ready?

After you admit the presence of an addiction, you are most likely ready to receive treatment. The next step is locating a reliable benzodiazepine rehabilitation facility in your town. To do this, call us now.

Turn Your Life Around

Keep in mind that you are not alone in your fight against your addiction. Enrolling in a benzodiazepine addiction treatment facility is a commitment you make for yourself and your future. No matter the level of your addiction, it is never late to get treatment. Call us today, so we can refer you to a benzodiazepine rehab center near you.

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