The Dangers of Benzodiazepine Addiction: What You Need to Know
Benzodiazepines are drugs that have multiple uses in medicine, but can also be quite dangerous when used improperly. What makes them so harmful? And how can you avoid their addictive potential? This article will explore the dangers of benzodiazepine addiction, including what symptoms to look out for and how to seek treatment if you or someone you love has become addicted to these drugs.
Benzodiazepines are drugs that are used to treat anxiety, insomnia, and muscle spasms, and they can be quite effective in their treatments if used appropriately. Unfortunately, many people who use benzodiazepines for extended periods of time will become dependent on them and end up with benzodiazepine addiction. It’s important to understand the dangers of benzodiazepine addiction and how it can affect your life to avoid becoming addicted to these medications yourself and minimize any risks associated with exposure or withdrawal from benzodiazepines should you choose to discontinue using them.
What are benzodiazepines?
Short-term use can be very effective in treating a wide range of conditions, including anxiety and panic disorders, insomnia, muscle spasms, seizures, and alcohol withdrawal. Long-term or heavy use is likely to lead to tolerance and addiction. Some benzodiazepines are prescription drugs, but many are controlled substances that are only available on a limited basis under federal law.
Examples include alprazolam (Xanax), clonazepam (Klonopin), kava (sometimes used as an alternative treatment for insomnia) and lorazepam (Ativan). They’re also sometimes referred to as benzos or benzo blues. Common street names include blue valiums, downers, goof balls and tranks. Benzodiazepine drugs are generally sold illegally by drug dealers, who obtain them from individuals who have prescriptions for them. Because these drugs have become so popular with drug dealers, they’re often manufactured illegally and mixed with other ingredients, such as sugar pills—which makes it more difficult to tell if you’re buying what you think you’re buying when you buy benzos on the street. The potential risks associated with taking benzos don’t end there—they’re also addictive, which means users may experience symptoms of withdrawal when they stop taking them after prolonged use.
How did I become addicted?
Many people who become addicted to benzodiazepines do so by doctor’s orders. They have prescribed benzos for panic disorders, insomnia, or other ailments, and they take them just as directed. The problem is that these drugs have a high potential for abuse and dependence. Over time, users find that they need more and more to get the same effect. They end up taking doses much higher than those recommended by doctors and without proper follow-up care many eventually lose control over their drug intake.
In fact, some estimates suggest that half of all patients who use benzodiazepine for longer than six months will develop an addiction. Those at the highest risk include seniors, women (who tend to be prescribed higher doses), and those with mental health issues like depression or anxiety. Those who combine alcohol with benzos are also at risk of becoming dependent. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been using them—withdrawal symptoms can begin within hours after your last dose and last for weeks if not treated properly.
Why am I still taking benzos?
People who become dependent on benzodiazepines (benzos) often ask themselves, Why do I still take these drugs? They seem to cause more problems than they solve. And why don’t I just quit? Many benzo users eventually want to wean themselves off their medications, but find it difficult and even dangerous. Why is it so hard to quit taking benzos? The answer lies in understanding how benzos work in your body and brain. Benzos are sedative-hypnotic drugs that act on GABA receptors in your brain. These receptors help regulate anxiety levels by increasing or decreasing nerve cell activity in certain areas of your brain. When you take a dose of a benzo, you essentially put a brake on overactive nerves that contribute to anxiety—and when you stop taking them, those brakes remain engaged for some time afterward.
Should I tell my family doctor?
If you find that you’re having trouble quitting benzos—or if you find your dosage has crept up over time, and you are becoming more dependent on these drugs—it’s important to seek professional help. If you take benzos regularly, ask your family doctor about going through benzodiazepine withdrawal under medical supervision. The process will be smoother and safer, and it’ll also be easier for doctors to manage any health issues that might arise. If you can’t see a doctor or don’t want to go through withdrawal in a clinical setting, there are other options available. Some people choose to taper off their medication by themselves, using a method called self-tapering. This involves slowly reducing your dose over several weeks until you no longer need them at all.
However, self-tapering is not recommended as there is no way of knowing how long it will take or what complications may arise during withdrawal. In some cases, tapering off benzos with a doctor’s supervision can even be reversed if necessary. There are also support groups such as Narcotics Anonymous (NA) and Benzodiazepine Anonymous (BA) where you can connect with others who have struggled with addiction and share experiences. These meetings provide an environment where members feel safe talking about their problems without judgment from others. Having others around who understand your situation is helpful when trying to quit because it gives you someone to lean on when things get tough.
Where can I find more information?
It’s important to be educated about addiction, particularly if you or someone you love suffers from an addiction. There are several great resources online that offer information on specific kinds of addictions and conditions. As with any other health issue, it’s better to know what you’re dealing with before acting. Here are some sites worth looking into: Addiction Resources, Addiction Center and National Institute on Drug Abuse. If you need immediate help, contact your local treatment center. The staff can connect you with additional resources as well as guide you through various recovery options.
What should I do if I suspect someone has a benzodiazepine addiction? Any suspicion is cause for concern. Contacting a medical professional is always recommended in such cases, but if you don’t have access to one or live in an area where there aren’t many resources available, seek another trustworthy adult who can either help intervene directly or refer you to those who can.
How do I get off them?
This can be difficult for people taking high doses of benzos and who have been using them for an extended period of time. It’s recommended that you get off them by tapering down your dose under a doctor’s supervision to avoid withdrawal symptoms. However, there are certain symptoms you should look out for when withdrawing from benzodiazepines: dizziness, confusion, blurred vision, breathing problems and even death are possible side effects associated with discontinuing these medications abruptly. If you do decide to withdraw on your own, you must taper slowly over a two-week period and never stop cold turkey.
Additionally, it is also crucial that you stay hydrated while going through withdrawal, as benzo detoxification can cause dry mouth as well as headaches. In addition to being careful about how you go about getting off benzos, it is also very significant that you talk to your doctor about any other medications or drugs that may interact negatively with benzodiazepines before stopping treatment. Taking too many drugs at once could lead to severe complications. If you suspect someone might be abusing benzos or know someone who has overdosed on them, call 911 immediately and try not to leave them alone until medical help arrives.
The effects that benzodiazepines have on our brains are grave. Not only do they impair judgment and decision-making skills, but they can also cause irreversible damage if used for too long or at too high a dose. Research suggests that there is a strong link between prescribed benzodiazepine use and eventual abuse or addiction—and also that more than half of all addicts have previous benzo prescriptions in their history. If you are being treated with benzos for anxiety or depression, be sure to work closely with your doctor.
Remember that benzos should always be used as part of a comprehensive treatment plan involving therapy and other non-pharmaceutical interventions. And don’t hesitate to reach out for help if you feel like your use has become problematic. It’s important to remember that although benzos may seem like an easy fix, they come with significant risks. And occasionally, it takes time (and professional support) to find what works best for us when we’re feeling anxious or depressed. But getting off these medications completely can be worth it in the end. In fact, research shows that people who discontinue benzodiazepine use experience less severe withdrawal symptoms than those who try to quit using heroin or alcohol.
So take care of yourself by speaking up about how you’re feeling, seeking help from a mental health professional and substance abuse counselor, and finding new ways to cope with stress and anxiety—all while working toward reducing your dependence on these medications. You deserve better!