Benzodiazepine Addiction Treatment
Benzodiazepines, also known as “benzos”, are prescription tranquilizers that are commonly used to treat anxiety, panic disorders, insomnia, seizures, and muscle spasms.
They may also be used to help calm and sedate patients before a medical procedure. Benzodiazepines work in the body by increasing dopamine (the feel-good neurotransmitter) and calming nerve impulses, which helps relieve anxiety.
Despite the fact that benzodiazepines are some of the most commonly prescribed medications, they are highly addictive. Consequently, it’s important for anyone who has been prescribed a benzodiazepine to only take it as directed by a physician. Some common benzodiazepines prescribed by doctors include lorazepam (e.g. Ativan), alprazolam (.e.g. Xanax), diazepam (e.g. Valium), and clonazepam (e.g. Klonopin).
Given that benzodiazepines are prescribed by doctors to treat legitimate medical conditions, how do you know when benzodiazepines have become a problem?
Using benzodiazepines recreationally or in any way not prescribed by a physician can be considered abuse. When benzodiazepine use transforms into taking more medication than prescribed, negative emotional or physical side effects while not using the drug, a desire to keep using despite health complications, or an impact on relationships, employment, or quality of life, it may be time to consider benzodiazepine addiction treatment.
If you’re concerned about potential benzodiazepine addiction for you or a loved one, consider these warning signs:
- Using medication in any way not prescribed by a doctor
- An increased tolerance for the drug—needing more to get the same e!ects
- Going to multiple doctors for new prescriptions
- Benzodiazepine use frequently interferes with work, school, or home-life
- Putting yourself or others at risk while under the influence of benzodiazepines
- Trying to cut down or stop using benzodiazepines, but can’t
- Having symptoms of withdrawal such as craving the drug, nightmares, insomnia,fatigue, irritability, anxiety, or depression
- Stealing or selling prescriptions or engaging in illegal activities to pay for morebenzodiazepines
- Lying about or becoming defensive when asked about benzodiazepine use
Long Term Effects of Benzodiazepine Abuse
In addition to the short-term health, financial, and familial problems that can occur due to benzodiazepine addiction, abuse of this drug can have several long-terms effects, as well. These may include:
- Brain damage
- Memory loss or impairment
- Speech problems
- Mood swings
- Suicidal Thoughts
- Liver damage
Benzodiazepine Addiction Treatment at Nexus
Treatment for benzodiazepine addiction at Nexus is supervised by a group of knowledgeable and compassionate healthcare professionals.
These mental health professionals who specialize in addiction medicine and recovery provide tools and support to aid each individual in the recovery process.
With a focus on individualized care, our treatment team is able to customize programs to meet each client’s individual needs. There are a wide-range of treatment modalities available, including group and individual therapy, family education groups, psychiatric care, and holistic therapies, which can all be tailored based on a client’s progress and future goals. Clients leave Nexus with a new set of life and coping skills that allow them to maintain sobriety as they transition back into their communities.
Alumni & Family Testimonials
“I have great respect for Nexus Recovery and its associated leadership. I believe in their mission to provide ethical treatment and attention to clinical detail. I have seen many lives come in the door broken and exit with purpose, I am one of them.”
Benzodiazepine Addiction Combined with Other Addictions
Benzodiazepines can cause numerous side effects that range in severity. Mixing benzodiazepines with other medications increases the risk for overdose.
Some of the most common side effects are:
- Impaired vision
- Impaired Coordination
- Feelings of depression
Over time, prolonged use of benzodiazepines can cause a person to become physically dependent on them. They may begin to experience withdrawal symptoms and have trouble sleeping or experience feelings of depression. Suddenly ceasing use can lead to dangerous side effects. Rather than suddenly stopping, many recommend gradually tapering use and enlisting the help of medical professionals. Suddenly stopping use of benzodiazepines can result in tremors, muscle cramps, and seizures.
Most overdoses associated with benzodiazepines are the result of a person mixing the drug with another substance. Barbiturates, Opioids, alcohol, and antidepressants used in conjunction with benzodiazepines can cause life-threatening consequences. Most commonly, depression of the central nervous system can cause a person’s rate of breathing and heart rate to drop to dangerously low levels. A person may lose consciousness, may end up in a coma, or may die as a result. These risks are increased significantly when benzodiazepines are combined with other substances that create sedation.
How Do Benzodiazepines Work?
Benzodiazepines are one of the most widely prescribed medications used for numerous conditions, such as anxiety or panic disorders. Most notably, they are used to treat:
- Muscle relaxation
Benzodiazepines work by triggering the release of a chemical in the brain that reduces anxiety, relaxes muscles, and induces drowsiness. Used for short periods of times, these medications are generally safe to use and have minimal side effects. Long-term use, however, is more controversial because of the risk of addiction and potentially dangerous side effects.
There are numerous types of Benzodiazepines that range in potency and in how quickly they take effect. Some of the most popular Benzodiazepines prescribed are:
Effects of Benzodiazepines on the Central Nervous System
Because benzodiazepines work as tranquilizers or sedatives, these medications work by decreasing brain activity to make a person drowsy or calm.
Benzodiazepines are often prescribed for short-term treatment; however, those who continue to use them long-term can experience alarming side effects. Doctors have begun to observe a new emerging trend that links doses and cognitive impairments. Long-term use has led to a growing number of people forgetting things they previously knew and forgetting how to perform tasks they used to know as well.
In addition to this development, another alarming trend shows that long-term use of benzodiazepines is positively linked to increased risk for Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases. Studies show that these impairments are consistently visible in people who have experienced impairment due to use of benzodiazepines, regardless of age, meaning that the impact of aging did not play a role in this trend.
Taking the First Step to Recovery
Abusing benzodiazepines can be incredibly dangerous.
When used as intended, the medications can be extremely helpful in managing specific conditions; however, long-term abuse of benzodiazepines can cause dangerous chemical changes in the brain. Accepting help for benzodiazepine addiction can be difficult, especially if another condition in need of treatment is present. The thought of not having a crutch through prescription medications can make it difficult to admit there is a problem and take the first step towards recovery.
Recovery generally begins with admitting there is a problem and taking steps towards entering treatment. Addiction treatment is often initiated by an intervention. Interventions are staged by family members, friends, and loved ones who want to help someone accept help for an addiction. Following an intervention, a person will typically transition into a recovery center immediately in order to avoid last-minute binges or room for the person to change their mind. Once in recovery, an individualized treatment plan can be established. This ensures a person’s unique needs in treatment are addressed so that the experience is as effective as possible.
Inpatient/Outpatient Benzodiazepine Rehab
Benzodiazepine abuse can lead to the development of life-threatening issues should a person suddenly stop using. The longer a person abuses the drug, the more likely they are to have complications that may continue for a long period of time. Managing these symptoms without the help of a treatment team can be difficult and it is easy to begin abusing the drug again in an effort to avoid experiencing side effects. Because these symptoms can become life-threatening, it is often recommended that initial detox and treatment be completed under the care of a medical team.
Addiction to benzodiazepines may develop as a result of misusing a medication that was prescribed to treat a condition. This often means that someone with a benzodiazepine addiction will have a co-occurring mental health disorder that may need treatment as well. This makes professional treatment vital to successful recovery. Mental health conditions can cause a person to begin misusing drugs in an attempt to self-medicate for symptoms of the illness. Although the drug may work effectively when taken as directed, once a person begins using it in any other way, it can contribute to the worsening of the condition. For this reason, it is important to treat the addiction and mental health needs simultaneously in order to improve outcomes.
Benzodiazepine Withdrawal/Managing Withdrawal
Quitting benzodiazepines is no easy task. The drug causes chemical dependencies to develop quickly and withdrawal symptoms can be dangerous. Even if a person has only used low dosages or taken the medication as prescribed, benzodiazepines can still produce difficult withdrawal symptoms. Some of these may include:
- Muscle pain
- Sleep disturbances
- Panic attacks
- Increased tension or anxiety
- Heart palpitations
- Muscle tremors
It is recommended that withdrawal take place under the observation of a medical team. In many cases, withdrawal may require a person to slowly wean off of the medication rather than stop all use abruptly. This can help manage the symptoms of withdrawal although they will still be experienced.
Ongoing Recovery & Support
Because benzodiazepine addiction often develops as a result of misusing a prescription, developing healthy coping mechanisms and alternative coping options for those in need of help is imperative.
Treatment can help a person learn new ways to manage stressors or triggers and explore alternative options for managing mental health conditions.
Sobriety requires life-long management in order to remain intact. Addiction does not simply disappear overnight and it requires lifestyle changes in order to overcome. With education and support from a specialized team, it is possible to overcome benzodiazepine addiction.