When thinking of addiction, our minds often jump to the obvious substances, such as alcohol, heroin and cocaine.
While those are often the guilty culprits, there are many others such as opioids and benzodiazepines which are equally prevalent and dangerous. Learning about benzodiazepines, its uses and the dangers of withdrawal from them will give you the ammunition and knowledge to fight this dangerous addiction.
Benzodiazepines, also known as “benzos” or “downers,” are man-made medications that cause mild to severe depression of the brain’s nerves and induce sedation. There are a host of benzodiazepines including alprazolam (Xanax, Xanax XR), clobazam (Onfi), clonazepam (Klonopin), clorazepate (Tranxene), chlordiazepoxide (Librium), diazepam (Valium, Diastat Acudial, Diastat) and lorazepam (Ativan). Benzodiazepines are prescribed to treat anxiety, nervousness, panic disorders, muscle spasms, seizures, sleeplessness, alcohol withdrawal, status epilepticus (A life-threatening disorder of the brain) and even premenstrual syndrome. They are also used for sedation during surgery and treating various anxiety disorders such as generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), social anxiety disorder (when antidepressants aren’t effective) and panic disorder (also when antidepressants aren’t effective)1.
While these drugs may be effective for the treatment of the many conditions, they are habit forming and highly addictive, even when used under the careful prescriptive orders of a doctor or health care professional. People who have a history of drug or alcohol abuse are more likely to develop an addiction to benzodiazepines. When taking benzos over a long period of time, users develop a tolerance which in turn means they will need a higher dose of the benzodiazepines to treat their health condition or disease or to get high.
Abuse of benzos can lead to disturbing and/or vivid dreams, irritability, hostility and amnesia. Signs of addiction include problems sleeping, diarrhea, nausea and vomiting, uncontrollable leg movements as well as bone and muscle pain. Overdosing on benzodiazepines can lead to coma and death1.
Dependency on Benzodiazepines
When someone has become dependent on benzodiazepines, it is crucial that they don’t suddenly stop therapy completely. While it may seem logical to immediately stop using a drug causing physical damage it can have severe negative effects. Anxiety and panic can and often does ensue. Additionally, when medication levels in the bloodstream are lowered too severely, withdrawal seizures, such as grand mal seizures (which cause a loss of consciousness and violent muscle contractions) are a very real possibility3. Additional symptoms also include moderate to severe depression, extreme anxiety, sensory hypersensitivity, poor memory, heart palpitations, sweating and muscle twitching.
“A grand mal seizure may occur in as many as 20 to 30% of individuals undergoing untreated withdrawal from benzos4.”
Quitting immediately (going cold turkey2) is NEVER recommended and a slow-taper detox should be considered. Tapering off benzodiazepines generally involves a doctor prescribing increasingly smaller amounts of the drug over time or prescribing a different benzodiazepine that is less potent. This allows a person to detox slowly and avoid the severe withdrawal symptoms3. Apart from reducing the discomfort of withdrawal, a medically supervised detox will help a patient remain safe and healthy while they get clean as well as reducing the chance of relapsing into addiction4.
Detox isn’t enough
Detox on its own is rarely enough to build long-lasting sobriety. Attempting to detox alone is almost certainly impossible. For that reason, addicts should consider an inpatient rehabilitation that offers a benzodiazepine detox. Inpatient rehabilitation provides a distraction and temptation-free environment where patients can recover in peace. Counseling and support groups are an important part of recovery as is continuing with therapy and support after rehabilitation to prevent relapse.
While all addictions are difficult to overcome there are always experienced and dedicated people who are there to help. Should you, or someone close to you need help to treat an addiction please do not hesitate to turn to us at Houghton House.
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For more information on dealing with any addiction and getting yourself help to start a new life, call Houghton House now:
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