Benzodiazepines, or benzos, are psychoactive drugs known as Central Nervous System (CNS) depressants. They have a tranquilizing or sedative effect on the brain and are prescribed for treating medical conditions including anxiety, seizures, and insomnia. Drugs such as clonazepam, alprazolam, and estazolam are some examples of this class of drugs. Benzodiazepines are also sold illegally and abused by many young men and women in the US. Some common street names for these CNS depressants are Benzos, Candy, and Sleeping Pills.
The issue with benzo is that it’s notorious for causing dependence and addiction due to its highly addictive nature. This is the case even when it is used as directed. Long-term use or misuse increases the risk of addiction, e.g., taking more of the medication than prescribed.
There are certain signs and symptoms that are present when someone is addicted to this drug. Knowing what to look for can help you, or a loved one, get the professional help you need to stop benzo abuse.
Addiction to Benzodiazepine
Benzodiazepine addiction is a substance use disorder similar to addiction to other drugs. The disorder causes chemical changes in the brain that equates the condition to being like a “chronic disease” which you can get over only by undergoing drug treatment. The primary causes of benzo addiction are non-medical use, misuse, and abuse.
Misuse Or Abuse
Misuse and abuse include experimentation where you use the drug for pleasure or to experience effects in ways the drug was not intended to. Like taking benzo that was not prescribed to you or purely for the purpose of calming your mind. Crushing the tablet or changing its form for smoking, snorting, or injecting constitutes medication misuse and abuse. It is also an illegal and dangerous practice.
Taking Larger Doses
Taking more medication than prescribed builds your tolerance level over time. This means you will need larger doses of the drug to get the nerve-calming effect it produces. Instead of satisfying your craving once and for all, you will begin to engage in a ‘drug hunt” to find and use the sedative. This habit is called compulsive drug-seeking.
How Benzo Affects the Brain
Benzo has a tranquilizing effect on GABA-A, a neurotransmitter in the central nervous system. It slows down brain functions and sedates the nerves. When used as prescribed, it is effective in treating patients with anxiety or insomnia whose nerves are hyperactive or hypersensitive because of these conditions.
When the drug is abused, the brain grows accustomed to receiving it resulting in neurological changes that make the brain unable to function without it. Benzo abuse also distorts your thinking making you believe you must get and use the drug in spite of the negative consequences. Addiction worsens and the risk of overdose is greater when benzo is used with alcohol, barbiturates, or illicit drugs such as cocaine or heroin (poly-drug abuse).
Symptoms of Benzo Addiction
The following symptoms are associated with addiction to this CNS depressant.
- -Strong or overpowering cravings
- -Muscle stiffness
- -Sexual dysfunction
- -Withdrawal symptoms, e.g., nausea or anxiety when trying to quit
- -Severe mood swings
- -Compulsive drug seeking for recreational use
- -Taking more of the medication or for longer than prescribed
- -Feeling unable to function without the drug
- -Needing refills before the due date
- -Aggressiveness or hostility
- -Lying about being ill to get a new prescription
- -Using benzodiazepine prescribed to a friend or family member
- -Using benzo illicitly, e.g., buying, smoking, snorting, or injecting the drug
- -Impaired concentration
- -Memory problems, e.g., amnesia
- -Decreased reaction time
- -Poor coordination
- -Lack of judgment
- -Risk taking or disinhibition, e..g, reckless driving
Benzo Withdrawal Symptoms
Benzo affects cognitive functions and causes physical and psychological dependence when abused. Having an underlying mental health disorder such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) compounds the problem.
Even if you were to stop using the drug, the brain will continue to crave causing unpleasant symptoms that make it difficult to completely kick the habit. This is why physical and psychological treatment is necessary for ending benzo abuse. It is critical to seek a professional detox program as the following symptoms may develop during withdrawal. Some may be severe or life-threatening if you try to quit on your own, “cold turkey.”
- -Muscle aches and pain
- -Powerful cravings
- -Blurred vision
- -Suicidal thoughts
- -Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
Benzo Addiction Treatment
Benzo is a potent and highly addictive drug that can easily cause addiction when misused and abused. Because it distorts cognitive functions, and due to unpleasant withdrawal symptoms, it can be difficult to cease using. Addiction treatment aims at helping you withdraw safely from benzo and treating underlying psychiatric conditions associated with drug abuse.
Serious and sometimes life-threatening withdrawal symptoms can result in relapse, overdose, or injury to self or others. Withdrawing from benzo in a medical or professional setting such as at a detox center is a safe and recommended way of getting the drug out of your system. Medically-assisted detox may be done to gradually wean you off the drug. It is the most effective way to get you stabilized and prepared for receiving mental health treatment if necessary.
Therapy is usually required in patients whose addiction to benzodiazepine addiction is linked to co-occurring mental health disorders such as depression, bipolar disorder, or anxiety. It is common for persons with these conditions to turn to drug abuse as a way of coping. A therapist at the treatment center will conduct behavioral therapies such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) or Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT). They both aim at effecting changes in behavior that support abstinence and encourage long-term sobriety. Therapy may be done one-on-one with a therapist or in a group setting with your peers at rehab.
Relapse prevention planning is another main aspect of drug abuse treatment. Your therapist or counselor will help you to develop a plan to manage substance use triggers after you leave rehab. Recovering individuals who have a support network consisting of loved ones, recovering peers, therapist, and counselor may have a reduced risk of relapse. This network provides a place of refuge at times when the urge to use drugs is overwhelming. With someone to talk to and receive encouragement from, you may be able to better manage environmental drug use triggers such as stress or anxiety.
Return To A Drug-free Life With Treatment At 310 Recovery
At 310 Recovery, you can receive treatment inpatient or outpatient. The decision usually correlates with the severity of the addiction and other factors such as prior commitments to work or family. Our trained medical and mental health staff will do a complete physical and psychological evaluation to make a diagnosis. A treatment plan will then be tailored to suit your recovery needs. Our treatment programs include medically-supervised detox, CBT, holistic therapies, and relapse prevention planning to help return you to your community drug-free. Call us today to find out more about how we can help you regain control of your life.