When doctors prescribe medications, most patients take them with absolute faith in their ability to solve their problems. Few people expect these same products to wreak havoc on their lives. Unfortunately, many of the most commonly prescribed drugs are highly addictive. This is certainly the case with benzodiazepines. Also known as benzos, these drugs can lead to chemical dependence within just six months of starting them.
Benzodiazepine abuse is incredibly common among people with sleep disorders and symptoms of anxiety disorders. These drugs have an instant calming effect on the brain and body. Taking them while in a state of panic will result in a rapid release of feel-good chemicals, and total mind and body relaxation. If other therapies for alleviating discomfort are not introduced early on, benzo users may come to believe that they cannot function without them.
Benzo addiction treatment offers medically necessary interventions for safely weaning the body off of these drugs. It also provides alternative strategies for managing anxiety-related mental health disorders and general sleep disorders. When you complete our benzo addiction rehab at Recovery Bay, you can safely eliminate your physical reliance on benzos. You can also learn new and effective ways for maintaining mood balance and your general sense of well-being.
What Are Benzodiazepines?
Often used for treating insomnia, panic attacks, anxiety, and seizures, benzodiazepines are both highly effective and highly addictive. In fact, approximately one-third of all benzodiazepine users will develop a physical dependence on these products shortly after starting them. These drugs are a type of sedative known as depressants.
Given their ability to quickly alleviate psychological distress, it is often easier to reach for the medication than it is to try other calming or sleep-inducing techniques. Benzos are effective for producing sedation, alleviating muscle spasms, reducing and preventing seizures. They can also address multiple forms of anxiety disorder.
List of Benzos
Although benzos are only legally available by prescription, many benzo users maintain their supplies by purchasing them illicitly. This is frequently the case even for people whose benzo use was started due to benzodiazepine prescriptions. The two most prevalent benzos on the illegal market are Xanax (Alprazolam) and Klonopin (Clonazepam). Other benzodiazepine drugs include:
- Valium (Diazepam)
- Ativan (Lorzepam)
- Librium (Chlordiazepoxide)
- Serax (Oxazepam)
- Doral (Quazepam)
- Tranxene (Clorazepate)
- and many others.
Who Abuses Benzos?
In general, drug addiction is highly deceptive. People who abuse substances often have a very strong sense that they are totally in control, and that they can quit whenever they want.
However, with benzodiazepine abuse, people have the additional justification of simply following their doctors’ orders. The reasoning is that if a medication has been prescribed by a doctor, it cannot possibly be harmful. The habit-forming nature of benzos has led countless people to rehab who never imagined themselves struggling with addiction.
Anyone with chronic psychological pain, chronic sleep disorders, or seizures who’s been prescribed benzos is at high risk of misusing them. Countless elderly adults, successful professionals, and high-performing students have dealt with benzodiazepine addiction. Addiction to benzos can happen to anyone.
Becoming chemically dependent upon these drugs is not a sign of weakness or a personal shortcoming. These drugs affect the way in which the brain and body work. They alter brain chemistry, and they make it harder to achieve mood balance by natural means.
Given the incredibly high risk of benzo addiction, benzodiazepines are usually recommended for short-term use only. They offer an instant way to alleviate psychological anguish and sleep disturbances that other medications cannot. Whereas benzos work immediately, alternative and less addictive anxiety medications can take two to three weeks to provide acceptable results. Benzo addiction is often the result of prescription abuse.
However, there are also times when long-term benzo prescriptions are supplied. For instance, an elderly person who’s struggling with heightened anxiety due to Parkinson’s disease may receive a prolonged Ativan prescription. For aging adults with chronic, degenerative health issues, benzos are frequently included as part of their long-term medication plans.
In these instances, the understanding is that the benefits of using benzodiazepines outweigh the related risks. This is also true for those with other chronic or progressive health issues that cause problems like seizures, heightened anxiety, or sleep disorders.
In young, generally healthy patients, long-term benzo use is rarely supported by prescription. For these individuals:
- Working with multiple doctors or “doctor shopping”
- Buying benzos illegally
- Asking for pills from family and friends is the only means for obtaining new supplies after their short-term prescriptions have run out.
Why Are Benzos Addictive?
Although benzos are prescribed with the intention of improving a person’s condition and life quality, prolonged use frequently causes more harm than good. When people run out of these medications or attempt to abstain from them, the withdrawal symptoms are severe. In fact, stopping benzo use suddenly can lead to cognitive difficulties, memory loss, shaking, sweating, and even death. Without medically assisted detox or an appropriate weaning program, benzo detox is always a dangerous and incredibly painful process.
So why are benzos addictive, and why does the body respond so strongly when they are taken away? According to research, benzos create the physical and neurological conditions for addiction much in the same way that opioids, alcohol, and the popular club drug GHB (gamma-hydroxybutyrate) do.
The very characteristics that make benzos so effective for alleviating pain and producing a sense of calm are the same characteristics that make them habit-forming. These drugs incite a neurological reaction known as a dopamine surge.
Dopamine is a feel-good chemical that’s naturally produced by the brain’s cells. It’s what creates feelings of calm and ease. Dopamine also plays a role in executive function and in fine motor control. It also helps many other physiological processes.
With even short-term benzo use, dramatic surges in dopamine release cause people to feel calmer and more relaxed than they would if working to alleviate anxiety and stress in other ways. Moreover, repeated dopamine surges caused by repeated benzo use actually wear dopamine-producing cells out.
Over time, this can make it impossible for a person to feel relaxed and happy unless they’re actively using benzos. More importantly, without benzo use, certain aspects of executive function, fine motor control, and other basic physical processes will start to flounder as well.
These changes explain why stopping benzodiazepine drugs suddenly can be deadly. With benzodiazepine addiction, the brain and body have become chemically unable to function without benzos. As such, the only safe way to detox during benzodiazepine addiction treatment is to receive medical interventions that support brain functioning while it reestablishes chemical balance, and relearns how to function normally.
Dual Diagnosis in Benzo Addiction Treatment
People typically start taking benzos due to psychological distress. Most benzo users who struggle with benzodiazepine addiction are both chemically dependent upon these products and psychologically dependent. The fear of quitting benzos isn’t just about the potentially painful withdrawal effects. Most addicts worry about how they’ll feel once their anxiety returns, and about what they’ll do to combat it.
One of the most challenging aspects of benzodiazepine addiction, even for those who’ve legitimately received long-term prescriptions, is the fact that benzos can actually heighten the very symptoms that they’re prescribed to address. As dopamine-producing brain cells are worn out, and natural dopamine supplies further decrease, people can feel more anxious than they did before starting benzos. Problems like sleeplessness and muscle spasms can intensify. This adds to their fear of quitting. It also directly contributes to the need to use more benzos to maintain feelings of balance and normalcy.
For this reason, dual diagnosis treatment is a very important part of rehab for many benzo users. This is an element of addiction treatment that looks at both substance use disorder and any possible co-occurring mental health disorders or other comorbidities. By identifying the type of anxiety that a person is dealing with, rehab specialists can find the right alternative strategies for ensuring effective, long-term relief. In dual diagnosis treatment, patients are given:
- Clear and accurate diagnoses of their underlying conditions
- Access to alternative, non-habit-forming anxiety medications
- Training in the use of natural stress management techniques
- Access to therapeutic activities and skill-building workshops
- Cognitive behavioral therapy for encouraging a positive, proactive approach to anxiety management
With dual diagnosis treatment, rehab centers like Recovery Bay are able to set the stage for long-term success in benzo recovery.
Inpatient Treatment for Benzos
The physical effects of benzodiazepine abuse can be just as alarming as the symptoms of benzo withdrawal. Excessive and prolonged use of benzos can cause mood changes, drowsiness, blurred vision, and other forms of mental and physical distress. When people take more benzodiazepine medications than they’re prescribed or when they begin using illicit benzos that they’ve purchased on the street, they can also suffer from:
- Slurred speech
- Muscle weakness
With benzodiazepine addiction, using benzos no longer feels good, but stopping benzo use feels infinitely worse. Our benzo addiction treatment is designed to make it easy for people to break away from these medications. We offer multiple options in medical detox support, dual-diagnosis treatment, various options in talk therapy, and many other services and tools for expediting the return to overall balance and good health. Our inpatient treatment program is designed to give patients new coping tools, and new and healthier ways of managing their sleep disorders, anxiety disorders, or other conditions.
Our inpatient addiction treatment effectively removes people from all outside stresses and triggers and places them in a safe, supportive environment. With numerous, specialized medical professionals on staff, we’re also able to streamline our care to meet the unique needs of each individual. If you’re struggling with benzodiazepine addiction and need help in finding a way out, we’re here to provide it. Call Recovery Bay today to find out more about our inpatient rehab program and all other addiction treatment services that we offer.