What are Benzodiazepines?
As a type of tranquilizer, benzodiazepine causes mild to severe depression in the brain and central nervous system. This drug could be helpful if you’re dealing with over-active nerves. Benzos work by increasing the effects of gamma-aminobutyric, or GABA, a neurotransmitter chemical the brain uses to send messages to other nerves in the brain. GABA reduces the brain’s nerve activity and reduces brain activity when paired with benzodiazepine. Some examples of benzodiazepines are Xanax, Ativan, Valium, and Klonopin.
Under the supervision of a physician, benzodiazepines may be safe to use and are often prescribed to treat the following:
• Panic disorders (like panic attacks)
• Anxiety or Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
• Muscle spasms
• Alcohol withdrawal
• Premenstrual syndrome (PMS)
• Sedation for surgery
• Social anxiety disorder
The Effects of Benzodiazepine Addiction
On the street, benzodiazepines are referred to as benzos or downers. Addicts use them to get high just as they would opioids (narcotic drugs like hydrocodone, oxycodone, morphine, or fentanyl). In fact, benzos can be habit-forming. All come in tablets, and they’re often crushed to be snorted.
When used long term, a person may develop a tolerance and need higher doses. Side effects of benzodiazepine misuse include the following:
• Sedation or fatigue
• Memory impairment
• Balance issues
• Nausea or vomiting
• Change in appetite
• Weight gain
• Dry mouth
• Reduced libido
• Respiratory depression
• Mental depression
• Change in heart rate
• Low blood pressure
If you are prescribed benzos, you should proceed with caution. Also, keep in mind that it is dangerous to combine the drug with alcohol, which can cause additional respiratory depression. Referring to breathing that’s not adequate to supply oxygen to the body, respiratory depression could result in death. Furthermore, you should not take benzos if you are pregnant. The Food and Drug Administration classifies benzos as pregnancy category D, so they could potentially cause fetal harm. If a breastfeeding woman is taking benzos, the benzodiazepines can enter the breast milk and cause weight loss and lethargy in newborns. So, it is not recommended nursing mothers take them.
It is important to remember that you may still become addicted even if you are using the benzos as directed by your health care provider. This is especially true if you have a history of substance use. While benzos are effective in treating issues like insomnia or anxiety, they should never be misused.
The Difficulty in Overcoming a Benzodiazepine Addiction
Keep in mind that it is difficult to recover from a benzo addiction because the drug alters the chemistry of your brain. If you suspect that you or a loved one is suffering from an addiction to benzos, help is available. It is best to contact a drug and alcohol treatment center. Remember that it is not safe to quit on your own cold turkey. Doctors and medical staff at a treatment center will taper off your use to reduce the severity of withdrawal symptoms. This will help you kick the habit safely without the risk of relapse. It is important to understand that seizures and death can occur if you stop taking benzos.
If you are concerned about an overdose, here are the signs to watch for:
• Dilated pupils
• Clammy skin
• Shallow breathing
• Rapid pulse
• Weak pulse
If you abruptly stop taking benzodiazepines, you may experience:
• Issues concentrating
• Hand tremors
• Sleep problems
• Panic attacks
• Increased anxiety
• Dry heaving and vomiting
• Muscle pain
• Perceptual changes
The severity of the withdrawal symptoms often depends on how long you were on benzos and what amount you were taking.
Determining Your Level of Addiction
Benzos are classified by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) as Schedule IV drugs, which means they have a lower risk of addiction than drugs like codeine, Vicodin, OxyContin, etc. However, you should still be careful using them.
An estimated one-third of the people who use benzos for at least six months will face health issues, like seizures, when trying to quit taking the drug. Treatment for benzo addiction will begin with medical detoxification. This is the process of eliminating the substance from the user’s body. Due to the potential complications with benzo withdrawal, medical supervision is necessary until detox is complete.
Once the person is stable, they will go through inpatient or outpatient programs that offer therapy and counseling. Many inpatient facilities provide homey settings and amenities so that former users can recover in a comfortable, calming environment.
Prescription benzodiazepines have been used for more than 50 years. Over the years, there have been lots of research done concerning the link between benzos and addiction. In the publication Addiction, over 60,000 articles have been written correlating the terms dependence and abuse with benzodiazepines.
Despite the heavily reported dangers, many don’t believe there are adverse effects to using benzos to help with a medical condition. Thousands of people use the drugs recreationally, though, and they likely don’t see that this can lead to addiction.
According to American Addiction Centers, most addictions work at the subconscious level. Someone obsessed with benzos isn’t really choosing to seek out and abuse the drug. Their damaged brain cells prompt them to get and take more benzos. However, the conscious mind will still be working during the substance misuse period. By trying to connect with that conscious mind, loved ones might be able to influence a change for the better.
Making the Decision to Get Help
In fact, to get a loved one to go to rehab, the most effective tool may be an intervention. Interventions let families outline the symptoms they’ve noticed and discuss the benefits of drug rehab. At the end of the intervention, the addict will hopefully not be able to deny that they have a problem. They should be able to see that rehab will improve their situation.
Of course, staging a successful intervention isn’t always easy. Interventions for benzos typically go as follows:
• The addicted person will be invited to attend a meeting where they will be surrounded by family and friends.
• Every attendee brings and gives a speech about changes they’ve noticed, memories, and what they would like to see in the future.
• When the person agrees that rehab is in his or her best interest, the meeting ends and the process of entering rehab begins.
You may also choose to enlist the help of an interventionist, a mental health professional who can be present and help guide the intervention. Afterward, they may transport the addicted person to rehab.
Is Seeking Treatment Worthwhile?
Achieving sobriety will be a difficult journey. If you’re battling an addiction to benzodiazepine, you may be wondering if rehab is worth the cost, especially if you’ve already relapsed before. You may wonder if rehab and professional assistance can really help you obtain sobriety. The answer to that depends on the type of rehab you choose.
Inpatient rehab has higher success rates than outpatient, non-resident treatment. If you select inpatient, you’ll actually be living on-site at the center for a set period of time. While you may have to detach from your normal at-home life, that could be just what you need to achieve sobriety. Rehab centers are generally designed to take you far away from temptations.
You can expect structure and organization in an inpatient setting. You’ll start the morning with breakfast and often have groups (divided by gender), activities, meals, snacks, and free time to socialize and read or reflect. All residents get 24-hour access to professional treatment specialists.
Green Mountain Treatment Center
At Green Mountain Treatment Center, you can expect tranquility. Set on 72 acres in the mountains of New Hampshire, our facility has received a rating of 4.9 out of 5 for Treatment Effectiveness, Accommodations and Amenities, and Meals and Nutrition. Also, we provide the following:
• Inpatient drug rehab or outpatient programs (IOP)
• Structured 30-day, 60-day, or 90-day drug rehab programs
• 12-step program, clinical treatment, or both depending upon the needs of the client
• Holistic programs
• Medical detox on-site by experienced and professional staff
• Co-occurring disorder treatment (such as mental illness)
• Gender-specific or gender-separate treatment
• Safe and peaceful drug rehab environment
• Focused programs
• Skill-building sessions
• Group and individual therapy
• Community-based exercises
• Clinical psychotherapy
• Exercise therapy
• 12-Step curricula
At Green Mountain Treatment Center, our specialists even provide extended care and sober living for after rehab. With recovery programs founded on a combination of 12-step work and clinically-backed treatment from caring professionals, our individualized approach to treatment will help you or your loved one achieve lasting recovery
New Freedom Academy
Another great area rehab option is New Freedom Academy, which is set on 17 acres of serenity in New Hampshire. With a rating of 4.7 out of 5, our center is known for having a high ratio of specialists to residents. After all, there are only 20 beds at the facility. Our staff takes a thoughtful and grounded approach to rehab by emphasizing a lifestyle change. While we believe MAT, or Medication-Assisted Treatment, can assist, we focus on changing lives through healthy habits. Our facility uses yoga and exercise and has an on-site chef to prepare healthy meals. Further, we specialize in Residential Treatment and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. In reviews, our residents praise the tailored treatment and our staff’s dedication.
Our center also features:
• Gender-separate living accommodations
• Evidence-based clinical treatment for addiction and co-occurring disorders
• Access to weekly off-site Family Recovery Workshops
• 24/7 on-site medical staff
• Nutritious chef-prepared meals
• Meditation and yoga
• Workshops and educational programs
• Paintball, bowling, and mini-golf outings
You Can Overcome an Addiction to Benzodiazepines
As you can see, help isn’t far away. In fact, you can get it in just one click. You don’t have to suffer from an addiction to benzodiazepine drugs. Get the help you need through the right rehab center and begin your journey to recovery. After admitting you have a problem, the first step is researching your options.
It’s important to remember that very few people recover from substance use disorder without outside help. The issues that come with kicking an addiction can be difficult to bear. This is even more true for benzodiazepine addiction, which can cause life-threatening withdrawal symptoms. Thankfully, there are treatment options available. Once you get help, you’ll be able to restart your life, rebuild your relationships and get back to work.