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Benzo Addiction & Treatment

Benzo addiction (the shortened term for benzodiazepines) can be highly dangerous. If you have become physically addicted to benzos it is very important that you seek professional help in order to stop. Withdrawal from a benzos can be potentially fatal. Detox and recovery from benzo addiction is best managed by a professional drug rehab facility.

Benzodiazepines are prescription drugs usually meant to treat issues like anxiety and epileptic disorders. There are fifteen benzodiazepines used in the US and another 20 that are marketed in other countries. Short-acting benzos are used to help a person fall asleep or to calm a person down before surgery. These include:

Those who are anxious during the day and can’t sleep at night are prescribed long-lasting benzodiazepines such as:

Benzo Addiction & Abuse

When taken recreationally, benzos create a euphoric feeling similar to the way alcohol does. Many people begin taking them either for this high or because they have been prescribed the medication. Unfortunately, whether you are taking them as prescribed or recreationally, benzo addiction is a risk.

Once a person is addicted to benzos they will find themselves wanting more and more of the pills. They may also experience severe benzo withdrawal if they try to stop. A person truly has begun the road to benzo addiction once they start abusing the drugs.

Mixing benzodiazepines with alcohol increases the central nervous system depression that occurs. This can cause severe respiratory suppression and can lead to death. A coma is a possible result of a benzodiazepine overdose but it is rare. But many people abuse benzodiazepines along with other drugs, particularly heroin or cocaine abusers which means that benzos can be involved in deaths resulting from the combination of drugs.

New research suggests that prolonged benzo use can also result in irreversible cognitive damage that impairs the ability to problem solve, make decisions, form memories and can even impair a person’s ability to perform basic self-care tasks, such as bathing regularly. While many of the symptoms of benzo use will disappear when use is stopped and withdrawal is complete, some may linger on for months, and some may never go away entirely. It’s important to discuss risks of benzo use with your doctor.

Effects of Benzos

Once a person is addicted to benzos they will find themselves wanting more and more of the pills. They may also experience severe benzo withdrawal if they try to stop.

  • Drowsiness
  • Unsteadiness while walking or moving around
  • Blurred vision
  • Poor coordination
  • Amnesia
  • Hostility
  • Irritability
  • Disturbing dreams
  • Reduced inhibition
  • Impaired judgment

Upswing In Benzo Addiction

Prescription drug addiction is on the rise. While opiate painkillers make up a large percentage of the problem, benzo addiction is growing. While medications such as Valium have been a widely abused drug for decades, Xanax could be said to be responsible for the newest wave of benzo addiction.

Widely prescribed for symptoms of anxiety, Xanax is a powerful and addictive medication that can be easily prescribed after a brief doctor visit. While it is well-known by the medical community that drugs like Xanax and Ativan are highly addictive, this hasn’t seemed to slow down the rate of prescriptions. It isn’t uncommon for a person to go in and talk to the doctor for about fifteen minutes and walk out with a new prescription. Ideally, a person who is struggling with anxiety would combine regular counseling with their supervised medication use, but this is often not the case. While Xanax is a useful and effective medication for treating the symptoms of anxiety, it should not be the only treatment. There should be other methods being used to help the individual cope with their condition. Unfortunately, by the time the doctor decides to stop refilling the medication, the person is often already addicted.

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Benzo Dependence And Addiction

Whether you are taking benzos recreationally or for therapeutic purposes, you are at risk for dependence and addiction. While dependence and addiction are not the same thing, one can certainly lead to the other.

Dependence

When you take any type of drug at all, from caffeine to heroin, regular use brings tolerance. In the beginning stages of use, it takes a small amount of the drug to achieve the desired effect. As drug use continues, the person will notice that the same amount of the drug no longer has the same effect. He or she must increase the amount to get the same effect. This is tolerance. When you start getting tolerant to a substance, you must increase your dosage and also take the drug more often, because it now wears off more quickly.

The development of tolerance to a drug indicates that you are becoming dependent on it. Not all drugs produce physical dependence, although any drug can cause psychological dependence, or addiction.

Benzodiazepine use can result in physical dependence. The body becomes tolerant of the drug, and soon after, becomes dependent on it. This means that when drug use is abruptly stopped, the body will experience withdrawal symptoms. Benzo withdrawal is particularly harsh, causing intense physical and psychological discomfort. Some common benzo withdrawal symptoms include:

When someone is physically dependent on benzodiazepines, withdrawal symptoms are not only highly uncomfortable, they are also dangerous. Seizures and death can occur, which is why it is vital to get medical help for benzo withdrawal. Detox should be medically supervised, and usually consists of slowly weaning the person off benzos to minimize discomfort and risk.

While dependence and addiction often occur when a person abuses benzos, it is possible to develop dependence when using the drug as directed. It is important to use caution when taking benzos, and to stay in close communication with your doctor.

Addiction

Not everyone who takes benzos becomes addicted, but it is always a risk. Some people are at a higher risk for benzo addiction than others. For example, a person with a history of substance abuse should either avoid benzos or only use them with extreme caution, under the supervision of a doctor. Benzos should never be taken unless prescribed. Some people use benzos recreationally, as a way to “wind down” or party. Benzos produce a relaxed, euphoric feeling.

For people who are under a lot of stress, have trouble sleeping or experience bouts of anxiety, drugs like Xanax, Klonopin or Ativan can feel like lifesavers. It quickly becomes easy to pop another pill to help get through the day. Benzos should not become a substitute for practicing other coping skills. When it starts to feel like you can’t get through a day without a benzo to help, then you have crossed the line between therapeutic or recreational use into addiction, and most likely physical dependence. This can happen quickly, after even a few week’s use.

0%
Of all drug-related hospital emergency visits and urgent care centers.
0%
of hospital admissions for benzodiazepine overdose claimed abuse of at least one other substance.
0%
of Americans have benzos in their medicine cabinet, according to the American Psychiatric Association.

The Cost Of Benzo Addiction

Benzos have a long list of side effects that worsen over time and with increased use. While you may be able to function for some time while taking benzos, eventually your addiction will progress to the point where you are risking your physical and mental health, and likely experiencing grave consequences.

Addiction takes over all aspects of your life. You become consumed with obtaining the pills necessary to maintain your habit and avoid withdrawal. It can interfere with your ability to perform daily responsibilities. It can also increase anxiety, stress and depression. When used as directed, benzos are anti-anxiolytic, however, when abused, benzos can actually worsen symptoms. Paranoia, hostility and aggression are also common side effects of benzo addiction. Memory loss and difficulty functioning are other results of benzo addiction. You may find that you are unable to maintain employment or care for children. You can quickly lose everything due to your addiction, and still continue using. It doesn’t have to get to that point, though. You can get help from benzo addiction treatment.

It isn’t always easy to recognize addiction. For the person who is addicted, denial of the problem makes is even more difficult. One clear sign that there is a problem and possible addiction is the presence of a physical dependence. Aside from that, you may find that you become anxious, agitated or irritable when you run out or run low on the drug. You may find that you spend a lot of time thinking about how you are going to get more. Losing interest in hobbies, friends and family is another sign, and if you get angry or defensive when someone suggests you have a problem, it’s a big red flag.

Benzo Addiction Treatment

The first step in recovery from benzo addiction is detox. Detox should never be attempted without the assistance of medical professionals. A detox center is the best choice, because they are equipped to not only handle the physical aspects of drug detox, but the psychological aspects as well. If you have made the decision to quit benzos, you will need a great deal of support. A detox center understands that you are going through both physical and mental changes and can give you the encouragement and answers you need to help you get through the process.

Benzo detox can be done at either an inpatient or an outpatient detox center. While outpatient detox is effective, some people may benefit from the round the clock care that an inpatient detox provides, especially if they have been unable to complete outpatient detox in the past. The process length of time may vary, depending on individual factors. Once detox is complete, the next step is to address the psychological aspects of benzo addiction.

It’s important to not confuse dependence on benzos with addiction. Some may believe that once they are no longer physically dependent on the drug they are no longer addicted, but this is not the case. Detox addresses the physical withdrawal symptoms and that is it. Although you may no longer experience the intense physical need for benzos, you may still find yourself wanting to use. This is because addiction is a complex psychological condition that often requires treatment to overcome. It is common for a person who has successfully completed benzo detox and is no longer physically dependent to relapse and go right back to using benzos. This is not because the detox was unsuccessful, this is because the psychological addiction was not treated.

1-15% of the adult US population has taken Benzodiazepines one or more times in the year prior to the statistical survey.

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Getting Help From Inpatient Treatment
An inpatient addiction treatment center can fully address your benzo addiction. Psychological withdrawal symptoms can last for some time. The person who has just stopped taking benzos, even after a successful detox, may still experience anxiety, agitation, depression, restlessness and irritability. He or she may also feel confused and “foggy.” These are residual effects that may take some time to recover from.

Residential treatment can provide the structure and support to help you recover. You will receive individual counseling, group counseling and other services. If you are continuing to experience anxiety, you will be introduced to other strategies to help you manage it.

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