Benzodiazepine (Benzo) Addiction

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What You Need to Know About Benzodiazepine and Abuse

Due to the opioid crisis, the spotlight has shifted to highlight the problem of prescription drug abuse and addiction. Other prescription drugs get abused other than opioids. Another class of drugs that get abused are benzodiazepines.

Doctors are diagnosing many patients with anxiety, and in some cases, the patient needs medication to help relax and relieve stress. The class of drugs used to relieve anxiety is benzodiazepines. Misuse of these drugs has led to addiction issues. If you suspect your loved one is misusing or abusing benzodiazepines, here are some things you need to know. 

What Are Benzodiazepines?

Benzodiazepines are a class of drugs that are only available through a doctor’s prescription. The physician prescribes this medication to help with feelings of anxiety and problems with sleeping. You may also hear this medication referred to as benzos. There are around a dozen different medications under the umbrella of benzos. While some of them can treat multiple conditions, almost all of them can treat anxiety. In some cases, this drug is prescribed as a seizure medication.

Benzos work by slowing down the activity in the brain. After taking the medication, you can expect to feel or have uncoordinated movements, slowed reaction times, drowsiness, and much more. h\Half-life, abuse potential, dosage, and absorption time varies between the 12 different kinds of benzos. 

Benzodiazepines fall into two main categories, short-acting and long-lasting effects. The Drug Enforcement Administration regulates which benzos are used for which type of ailment. In some cases, you can receive this type of drug through an injection, but they’re primarily prescribed in a pill or capsule format. 

Most Commonly Prescribed Benzos

Your loved one’s doctor made a deliberate choice when selecting the necessary benzo for treatment. They weighed concerns such as dosage and half-life before selecting a medication. Here are the most commonly prescribed benzos:

  • Alprazolam: Commonly sold as Xanax, this medication takes around an hour or two for the effects to occur. It has a half-life of around 12 hours.
  • Flunitrazepam: Sold under the name Rohypnol, you will feel effects in an hour or two, and it has a long half-life of about 18 to 26 hours. 
  • Bromazepam: Otherwise known as Lexotan. It reaches peak effectiveness in one to four hours with a half-life of 20 hours. 
  • Lorazepam: Sold under Ativan, this drug takes one to four hours for effectiveness with a half-life of around 15 hours.
  • Chlordiazepoxide: Also, known as Librium, it takes one to four hours to reach its peak of effectiveness and has a half-life of around 100 hours. 
  • Diazepam: Sold under Valium. It takes an hour or two to reach effectiveness with a 100-hour half-life. 
  • Clonazepam: Known as Klonopin, this medication takes around one to four hours to reach its peak and offers a half-life of the 34 hours.

Of course, your loved one may be getting their benzos off the black market. The street names for these drugs are a little different than their official names. Here are a few street names to familiarize yourself with the jargon.

  • Downers
  • V’s (Valium)
  • Z bars (Xanax)
  • Nerve pills
  • Tranks

What Is a Benzo Addiction?

Your loved one probably began taking benzos with a prescription, and the abuse began slowly over time. It could be that they started taking more than was prescribed, or they began buying their pills on the black market. 

In 1970, the Controlled Substances Act made benzodiazepines Schedule IV drugs. This means the potential for addiction is high and the medical benefits are limited. Not everyone who is prescribed benzos becomes addicted. If your loved one is prescribed benzos, help them stay compliant with their doctor’s orders. Your loved one may have become addicted to the feeling of extreme relaxation.

Signs of Benzo Addiction

If you’re loved one is addicted to benzos, there are going to be signs of that addiction. The signs may be physical, psychological, and behavior or some combination of all three, making it essential that you know as many signs as possible. 

Physical signs of drug abuse

Drug use takes a toll on the human body, and your loved one will show some physical signs of abuse. These may include:

  • Fainting
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Tremors
  • Seizures
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Slurred speech
  • Impaired coordination
  • Slowed heart rate
  • Shallow breathing
  • Slower reflexes
  • Dilated pupils
  • Lightheadedness
  • Blurred vision
  • Pale, cold skin

Psychological signs of benzos abuse

Since benzos are primarily used to treat a psychological condition, it shouldn’t be surprising that there are psychological signs of drug abuse. These can include:

  • Mood swings
  • Cognitive dysfunction
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Irritability
  • Depression

Behavioral signs of benzos abuse

As your loved one begins to abuse drugs, you may notice behavioral signs. Here are some things to look out for:

  • Secretive behavior
  • Financial issue
  • Missing work and school
  • Isolates themselves from others
  • Abandoning responsibilities

More Warning Signs of Drug Addiction

Benzos Addiction Treatment Process

If you have a loved one facing a benzos addiction, you need to help them get treatment. In some cases, this means an in-patient treatment facility and for others, it means outpatient treatment. Here are some things that you can expect from the treatment process. 

  • Detox: The first step to combat drug abuse is to rid your body of the drugs through the detox process. 
  • Withdrawal Symptoms: When you stop taking the benzos, you may experience physical side effects. Your doctor may prescribe medication to help you weather the symptoms until you’re drug-free. 
  • Therapy: Once the drugs are out of your system, you need therapy to ensure that you stay clean. This therapy can take many forms to find what works best for you. 

Underlying Causes

With a benzos addiction, it’s almost guaranteed that there’s an underlying cause for the addiction. You probably started taking benzos to deal with anxiety. There may be other mental health issues that helped your drug addiction to flourish. These causes can include:

Before you can overcome your drug addiction, you must deal with these underlying causes. You and your therapist will create goals to help you to deal with these causes. 

Drug Addiction Treatment Center Professionals

During your time in detox and treatment, many professionals will help you along the way. Each has its own job to do, and their own educational backgrounds. Here are some professionals you may meet:

  • Physicians
  • Nutritionists
  • Therapists
  • Psychiatrists
  • Nurses
  • Counselors

Learn More About Our Team

One-on-One Therapy

As part of your treatment for drug addiction, you can expect to work with a psychologist or therapist in a one-on-one setting. It’s a good idea to be as honest and open as you can during these sessions. The two of you will work on looking at the issues that left you vulnerable to drug addiction in the first place and to ensure you aren’t susceptible to using again moving forward. 

During these sessions, you will also work on the underlying causes of your addiction. If you began taking benzos for anxiety, you’ll need to find new ways of dealing with it. You might suffer from depression and other mental health issues that need to be addressed at these meetings.

You can your doctor will create a schedule for your appointments. You probably won’t need to go more than once a day. It’s beneficial to plan for several sessions per week. 

Group Therapy

More than likely on a daily and possibly more than once a day, you’ll attend group therapy sessions. These sessions include others suffering from drug addiction. While not all the participants abused benzos, they understand drug abuse and its cycle firsthand. Discussions include role-playing and advice. You’ll find new ways to deal with your addiction once you return and ways to deal with your triggers. It’s always beneficial to hear what does and does not work for others like you. 

A counselor leads group therapy sessions. However, they are only there to keep the talks on track and ensure that everyone who wants to gets a chance to speak. They are also evaluating your progress and everyone else’s progress. You may find yourself attending group therapy several times a day, but you and your doctor will work together to create a schedule that works for your recovery.

Family Therapy

Drug addiction can cause large rifts in families. It will take time and work to repair the damage done to the relationships and trust. However, your chances for a successful recovery can heavily depend on your family’s support. 

Your therapist may elect to work with individual members of your family in a one-on-one setting or to meet with all the members of your family at once. The therapist may also create some combination of the two. Everything is designed to give you the best chance to remain drug-free after you leave the treatment center.

At Fairwinds Treatment Center, we understand how difficult drug addiction is to overcome and the steps necessary for a positive outcome. Whether you need an inpatient or outpatient solution, we’re ready to help you take the first step on the road to recovery and will stay with you until you’re ready to succeed on your own. Contact us today to learn more about our program and treatment facility. 

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If you are ready to discuss treatment for yourself or a loved one, the Fairwinds admissions team is here to help.

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