Benzodiazepines are central nervous system depressants. This means they slow brain activity. For this reason, benzodiazepines, commonly called benzos, are typically used to treat sleep or anxiety disorders.
Benzodiazepines do present the risk of abuse or addiction, especially for those who have abused other substances. Once addiction begins, a person may become physically dependent on the drug and experience withdrawal symptoms when not taking it.
According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, the severity of withdrawal depends on the drug abuse, how long a person has been abusing it, and the dose. Symptoms of withdrawal include:
- Dysphoria (being uneasy or generally dissatisfied)
- Hypersensitivity to light, sound, and touch
- Increased heart rate and blood pressure
Help for withdrawal symptoms comes mainly from assisted treatment. Benzodiazepine withdrawal can be mentally and physically challenging. Having professional, medical support to help you through this time makes a difference.
Certain medications can help a person taper off the use of benzodiazepines, taking gradually decreasing doses until withdrawal is manageable. However, medication-assisted therapy alone may not be enough to help a person stay off benzodiazepines.
Medications are often paired with other forms of treatment, such as behavioral therapy and counseling. Comprehensive approaches to treatment work best for healing from addiction.
The Center for Substance Abuse Research (CESAR) explains that side effects for benzodiazepines vary greatly according to the type of drug, dose, and the person taking it. Side effects may include:
- Breathing troubles
- Dry mouth
- Impaired memory and thinking
- Loss of appetite
- Slurred speech
- Vision changes
When taking high doses of benzodiazepines, such as with abuse, you can also experience mood swings, hostile or irregular behavior, slowed reactions, and euphoria.
Certain benzodiazepines were intended to have a slow release of effects. When people take multiple doses or high amounts of doses at once, they may not feel the effects right away. But the chemicals build up in the fatty tissues of the body, and may result in over-sedation, characterized by the following:
- Impaired judgment, memory, and thoughts
- Lack of coordination
- Slurring of speech
- Weakness in muscles
- Other Effects
Abuse of benzodiazepines, as with many drugs, can result in intolerance. This condition occurs when you take a drug repeatedly and no longer feel the effects of it. If people experience tolerance, they tend to take more or higher doses of the drug to achieve the desired effects.
People who have abused other depressants, such as alcohol or barbiturates, may not as readily feel the effects of benzodiazepines. Regardless of tolerance, if a person who regularly abuses benzodiazepines stops or tries to stop, he or she may undergo withdrawal.
If you experience withdrawal when not taking a drug, you most likely have an addiction to it. Addiction is characterized by intense cravings for the drug, strong urges to seek the use of it and habits that support this use. Benzodiazepine addiction is manageable, though, especially with the right medical and professional support.
Where Do People Get Benzodiazepines?
Benzodiazepines are depressants, also called tranquilizers or sedatives, and are prescribed for sleep troubles or anxiety. You can get them with a medical prescription. In fact, the majority of people abusing these drugs obtained them through a prescription first. Some common street names for benzodiazepines are downers or tranks.
More than 15 types of benzodiazepine medications are available today, including flunitrazepam. This drug, brand name Rohypnol, has come to be called the “date-rape drug” because it has been found at use in many sexual assault cases, according to CESAR. Other common benzodiazepines include Valium, Xanax, Librium, and Ativan.
The American Academy of Family Physicians reports that benzodiazepines typically aren’t the only drug of abuse. People tend to pair them with stimulants, particularly opioids like prescription painkillers and heroin.
What Medications Are Used For Treatment?
The safest way to treat benzodiazepine withdrawal is through tapering of dosage. To successfully taper medication use, medical staff use a type of benzodiazepine that allows people to get the effects of the drug while slowly weaning off it.
Diazepam, Valium by brand name, is one such drug. It can be effectively used in medication-assisted therapy for a few reasons. It has a slow elimination rate; this means it leaves the body slowly over time. This allows the body to adjust gradually to the decrease in benzodiazepine levels in the blood.
With drugs that are quickly eliminated, people can experience withdrawal symptoms between doses. Another reason diazepam works is that it comes in small doses, and not all benzodiazepines do. With small doses, it is possible to reduce the dosage over time, even giving half doses when the patient is ready.
Other medications are available for the treatment of benzodiazepine withdrawal tapering, such as Klonopin. When making a decision about medication to treat addiction, it is best to have a proper assessment and full diagnosis. This way, you can ensure the treatment of addiction as a whole, not just the physical symptoms.
Medication is often used in combination with other approaches, such as counseling and therapy. Rehab centers may offer methods that work to your individual needs as well. Gender-based therapy, alternative therapy, and dual diagnosis are just a few of these methods. Whatever treatment decision you make, it should be one that addresses all of your treatment needs.
How To Get Help For Addiction Today
With the increased amount of prescriptions written every year, abuse of prescription medications is on the rise. It can be easy to become addicted to benzodiazepines, even if you never intended to.
If you are struggling with benzodiazepine abuse, reach out before the problem gets too big for you to handle alone. Contact us today at Vertava Health to learn more about benzodiazepine withdrawal, treatment, and rehab centers that can help.