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Benzodiazepine (Benzo) Addiction Treatment

Benzodiazepines are some of the most commonly prescribed medications. In the US, 12.6% of adults use them. Of these people, roughly 17% misuse benzodiazepines. 

Why do people get addicted to benzodiazepines and what are the treatment options?

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What Are Benzodiazepines?

Benzodiazepines are psychoactive drugs made from a combination of benzene diazepine chemical compounds. Benzodiazepine medications act as depressant drugs that slow brain activity.

Benzodiazepines were first synthesized in 1955 by Polish–American chemist Leo Sternbach. They were first sold in 1960 by the Swiss pharmaceutical company Roche (F. Hoffmann-La Roche AG). By 1977, they were the world’s most prescribed medications.

In the US, benzodiazepines are Schedule IV drugs; prescribed by doctors and sold over-the-counter. In the UK, they’re Class C controlled drugs; possession is punishable under UK law by seven years in prison.

Why Do Doctors Prescribe Benzodiazepines?

Benzodiazepines are among the most popular prescription drugs for mood disorders. Prescribed benzodiazepines are used to treat:

  • Anxiety – Feelings of dread, discomfort or unease about tasks and social situations. Benzodiazepines calm the nerves and allow users to feel more at ease stepping out of their comfort zones.
  • Panic disorder – Feelings of doom, danger and intense fear. Benzodiazepines help people overcome symptoms of agoraphobia, fear of flying and other situations that may seem dangerous or deadly.
  • Insomnia – An inability to sleep, often triggered by anxiety disorders. Benzodiazepines help people relax and fall asleep.
  • Agitation – Irritation over minor things; a tendency to overreact to maddening yet manageable situations. Benzodiazepines help people stay level-headed and rational in challenging predicaments.
  • Seizures – Sudden interruptions in normal brain activity and consciousness. Benzodiazepines help alleviate minor symptoms and instances of seizures. Two or more seizures a day (epilepsy) is a more serious matter.
  • Muscle spasms – Nerve twitches that cause involuntary movements. Benzodiazepines calm the central nervous system and mitigate these instances.
  • Alcohol withdrawal  – Benzodiazepines help alleviate symptoms of withdrawal, such as cravings, anxiety, emotional stress and physical pain: the same symptoms that cause some people to abuse alcohol in the first place.

Benzodiazepines are also used as calming medication in advance of dental procedures.

List of Benzodiazepines

There are many different types of benzodiazepines on the market. The following is a list of benzodiazepine brand names, accompanied by their generic names (in parentheses).

  • Xanax (alprazolam)
  • Klonopin (clonazepam)
  • Ativan (lorazepam)
  • Valium (diazepam)
  • Librium (chlordiazepoxide)
  • Restoril (temazepam)
  • Xanax XR (alprazolam)
  • Versed (midazolam)
  • Halcion (triazolam)
  • Klonopin Wafer (clonazepam)
  • Dalmane (flurazepam)
  • Tranxene (clorazepate)
  • Lorazepam Intensol (lorazepam)
  • Niravam (alprazolam)
  • Alprazolam Intensol (alprazolam)
  • Serax (oxazepam)
  • Diazepam Intensol (diazepam)
  • Doral (quazepam)
  • Tranxene T-Tab (clorazepate)
  • Tranxene SD (clorazepate)
  • Prosom (estazolam)
  • Zetran (diazepam)
  • Seizalam (midazolam)
  • Nayzilam (midazolam)
  • Loreev XR (lorazepam)
  • Byfavo (remimazolam)

Xanax and Ativan are two of the most commonly prescribed benzodiazepines for alcohol addiction treatment.

Side Effects of Benzodiazepines

People with benzodiazepine prescriptions may experience side effects. Some are common and only last a few days. Others may be more serious. It’s always best to check in with a doctor and report the effects of prescription medications.

  • Drowsiness – Since benzodiazepines work as depressants, users may feel drowsy after using the medication. This is benign and may pass. The cases where benzodiazepines cause heavy, constant fatigue are more serious.
  • Light-headedness – Benzodiazepines can give people feelings of overjoy, mania (too happy) and overly sentimental light-headedness. One might lower their dosage if such feelings overwhelm.
  • Confusion – Benzodiazepine can cause mild confusion and indecisiveness.
  • Unsteadiness – Benzodiazepine can comprise a person’s physical coordination. This is common in older users, who sometimes lose their balance and incur injuries on these medications.
  • Dizziness – Closely related to the symptoms of confusion and fatigue. Benzodiazepines slow brain activity and neurotransmitters, which can make some people feel dizzy.
  • Slurred speech – When people get dizzy, tired or light-headed on benzodiazepines, they may slur their speech.
  • Muscle weakness – People are less awake, alert and coordinated on benzodiazepines. Consequently, users generally aren’t at their optimal strength while on these drugs.
  • Memory problems – Temporary forgetfulness is an extension of dizziness, fatigue and general confusion. Benzodiazepines render the brain and memory less optimal.

While none of these symptoms are major causes for concern, they can get worse when people mix benzodiazepines with alcohol, hallucinogens and other drugs.

Benzodiazepines and Drug Abuse

Benzodiazepine addiction occurs when people exceed their prescription doses or buy such drugs over-the-counter for recreational purposes. Users typically engage in benzodiazepine substance abuse for the following feelings:

  • Euphoria – As with heroin, benzodiazepines cause feelings of euphoria in the mind and body.  As the body grows tolerant of the drug, higher doses are needed to create the same effect. This is when benzodiazepine addiction takes hold.
  • Mood – People abuse benzodiazepines to counter feelings of depression and anxiety. Benzodiazepine helps people feel tranquility and often overjoy and mania. These feelings can be addictive for otherwise depressive individuals.
  • Pain relief – Some people seek the euphoric sensations of benzodiazepines as a means of pain relief. Benzodiazepine dependence is common among people with chronic pain.

Benzodiazepine addiction can lead to a downward spiral of harmful side effects and increased overuse to counter these effects. It creates an unhealthy cycle of dependency that can be lethal, especially when mixed with other depressants like alcohol and heroin.

Benzodiazepine Addiction Withdrawal Symptoms

Benzodiazepine addiction is physical and psychological dependence. When a user abstains from such drugs, benzodiazepine withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Sleep disturbance – Without the sedative, nerve-calming effects of benzodiazepines, recovering users may have trouble sleeping due to tremors, fear and anxiety.
  • Irritability – Another symptom that benzodiazepines suppress; recovering users may feel increased irritability once they quit the drugs.
  • Increased tension – The withdrawal process might be accompanied by feelings of increased nervousness; much worse than before the person went on the medication.
  • Anxiety – For the user with a pre-existing anxiety disorder, such feelings could resume twofold as a part of benzodiazepine withdrawal syndrome.
  • Panic attacks – During severe symptoms of withdrawal, conditions that benzodiazepines might have kept in check, such as panic disorders, might resume much worse than before.

Other withdrawal symptoms may include hand tremors, perspiration, nausea, weight loss, headaches, irregular heartbeats and lapses in concentration.

Benzodiazepine Addiction Treatment

Across the US, drug treatment centers offer programs for people struggling with prescription medication addiction and benzodiazepine withdrawal symptoms. A treatment facility will usually offer the following:

  • Medical detox – Recovery from benzodiazepine addiction starts with the detox process, where the patient stops using benzos. As traces of benzodiazepine clear the body, the patient may experience severe withdrawal symptoms during the first 2-3 days. Detox is best done under 24/7 supervision.
  • Residential inpatient – After benzodiazepine detox, the next step in the treatment process involves 30-90 days of recovery. At residential treatment centers, patients get meals, rooms and amenities. Treatment involves individual counseling, group meetings, drug education, behavioral health and wellness activities.
  • Outpatient treatment – Intensive outpatient programs cover the same ground as residential treatment. The difference is that patients live at home and come in during the morning, afternoon or evening for treatment sessions. Outpatient treatment centers offer partial hospitalization (20-40 hours per week) and part-time outpatient (9-19 hours).

People seeking addiction treatment should inquire about the options of nearby rehab facilities. The best treatment provider will offer flexibility, customized treatment and additional care options (aftercare, sober living, etc).

Get Help Today

Don't go through the process of recovery alone. There are people who can help you with the struggle you're facing. Get in touch with one today.

Make a Call

Get Help: Benzodiazepine Addiction Treatment Centers

Across the US, addiction treatment centers offer help for people who struggle with drug and alcohol dependence and co-occurring mental disorders. If someone you know is hooked on benzos, alcohol, illicit downers or other drugs, get help today. Substance abuse treatment saves lives.

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