Benzodiazepines are sedative drugs and are a Schedule IV controlled substance. They slow down the body and are commonly prescribed for anxiety and sleeping issues. Benzodiazepines give an intoxicating effect and are frequently abused, and are also highly physically addictive, which means that stopping them can require medical attention.
Despite their dangers, benzodiazepines are a widely used drug in America. There are an estimated 4 million daily users in the United States. Research published in Current Opinion in Psychiatry suggests that many of these people are addicted. Benzodiazepine addiction can arise from using pills purchased on the black market, as well as having them prescribed by a doctor.
At the Excel Center, we understand addiction. We know that it is often a symptom of a deeper problem and being addicted to substances is not a moral failing – it just means that you are someone who needs some help. We are highly experienced in dealing with benzodiazepine addiction, and support is available at Excel Treatment Center for anyone struggling.
What Are Benzodiazepines?
There are many different types of benzodiazepines. Some of the most commonly prescribed are:
- Alprazolam (Xanax)
- Diazepam (Valium)
- Temazepam (Restoril)
- Lorazepam (Ativan)
- Clonazepam (Klonopin)
- Chlordiazepoxide (Librium)
- Triazolam (Halcion)
Although they may have slightly different effects and are prescribed for various conditions, the common result is a sense of calm upon taking them.
Benzodiazepines work by increasing the effect of a brain chemical called GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid). This reduces brain activity in the areas responsible for rational thought, memory, emotions, and breathing, which leads to a sense of relaxation and decreased anxiety.
However, the body quickly builds up a tolerance to benzodiazepines, which means that more and more are needed to feel the same effect. They are physically addictive, and as such, are dangerous when abused.
Signs of Benzodiazepine Addiction
Whilst moderate doses of benzodiazepines make users calm; high doses can result in extreme intoxication. This may appear as drunkenness to an outside observer – and users will typically lose motor control and have excessive memory loss.
People abusing benzodiazepines will usually experience:
- Emotional numbness
- Fuzzy thoughts
- Impaired judgment
- Impaired memory
- Lack of inhibitions
Some of the physical symptoms of benzodiazepine abuse are:
- Altered vision
- Dry mouth
- Low blood pressure
- Poor reflexes
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- Unexplainable drowsiness
Why Is Benzodiazepine Addiction Dangerous?
The body quickly builds up a physical tolerance to benzodiazepines, which means that more and more are needed to feel the same effect. Dependence can form after just three to four weeks of regular use, and withdrawal symptoms can range from extreme anxiety and discomfort to death.
If someone is addicted to benzodiazepines, they should receive professional treatment as soon as possible. Suddenly stopping can be extremely dangerous; however, when properly treated with medication in a supportive and compassionate environment, benzodiazepine withdrawal is manageable.
Some of the symptoms of benzodiazepine withdrawal are:
- Cognitive Impairment
With benzodiazepine, it is not just the withdrawal period that is dangerous. Due to motor-coordination impairment, it is common for users to injure themselves while under the influence. Research published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society has shown that benzodiazepines raise the risk of hip fractures in older adults by 50%. SAMHSA has reported that these drugs are responsible for over 130,000 ER admissions every year. According to the Journal of Clinical Neurology, long-term benzodiazepine addiction has also been linked to cognitive impairment and early-onset dementia in older adults.
People often underestimate how much their judgment is impaired by benzodiazepine use and may make decisions that put themselves and others in danger, such as driving. The journal Accident Analysis & Prevention reports that driving under the influence of benzodiazepines is just as dangerous as driving under the influence of alcohol.
Benzodiazepines are also commonly mixed with other drugs such as alcohol or opiates – which drastically increases the risk of death from overdose. Research conducted by the National Institute on Drug Abuse has shown that 30% of opiate overdoses also involve benzodiazepines. To put this in perspective, out of the 2,900 overdose deaths in New Jersey reported by the CDC in 2018, 870 will have involved benzodiazepines.
Additionally, counterfeit benzodiazepines have recently been flooding America. These are usually made in black-market laboratories, and the strength can vary wildly. More worryingly, many of these tablets (especially ‘Xanax’) have been found to contain fentanyl, a powerful opioid painkiller fifty times the strength of heroin and it has been linked to thousands of deaths.
How is Benzodiazepine Addiction Treated?
Although benzodiazepine addiction is a serious issue, it is a treatable condition. At Excel, our clients undergo a thorough assessment to make sure the treatment we recommend meets their unique requirements. We offer various outpatient care programs that aim to treat the root cause of the addiction holistically. This means that we always consider the bigger picture and address all areas of our client’s substance use.
The first step in Excel’s treatment program will be a comprehensive assessment led by one of our addiction and mental health experts. During this initial assessment, clients will be asked about their drug use, medical history, family and living and environment, and mental health. This gives our team valuable insight into the client’s life. This is an important step because if another disorder is present, treatment plans must be tailored accordingly.
With this information, our medical team can safely recommend the appropriate treatments to maximize effectiveness and allow clients to move through detox and withdrawal as comfortably as possible. This information also allows us to recommend the most relevant and effective therapeutic modalities for clients’ specific needs. Should another treatment center be better suited to provide care, we will contact them and arrange a prompt appointment.
Why Choose Excel Treatment Center?
At Excel Treatment Center, our focus is on the unique needs of each client. We understand that addiction needs to be treated with compassion and care. With the help of our supportive team, you can rest assured knowing that you or your loved one are receiving comprehensive, individually customized, and completely non-judgmental treatment, and recovery support.
If you or your loved one are struggling with Benzodiazepine addiction, please contact us today. Help is only a phone call away.