Benzodiazepines are a class of legal prescription drugs used to treat anxiety, seizure, insomnia and panic. They are also sometimes used in clinical settings to relax patients before surgical procedures. Benzodiazepines work similarly to painkillers by producing relaxed feelings — but they do not relieve pain. In general, benzodiazepines should only be used on a short term basis because they are highly addictive, produce intense and long-lasting withdrawal symptoms, and can be fatal when combined with another substance during overdose.
What to Know About Benzodiazepines
The two most well known benzodiazepine drugs are Valium and Xanax, but there are other commonly used “benzos” as well. Ativan, Klonopin and generic formulas lorazepam, alprazolam and diazepam are also common. Although they are generally well tolerated when used precisely as prescribed, the chronic abuse of any benzodiazepine can cause serious problems. Combining a benzo with alcohol — which acts on the same neurotransmitter in the brain, the GABA receptor — is extremely dangerous and potentially fatal. Taking a benzo alongside a prescription painkiller such as Vicodin or oxycodone can be fatal as well.
The human body develops a tolerance to the benzodiazepine class of drugs quickly. This means taking more and more of the drug to achieve the same effects is necessary. People suffering from benzo addiction or abuse often combine it with another substance to get a stronger high faster. At the same time tolerance develops, the brain begins to rely on the drug to produce relaxed feelings. Stopping the drug suddenly causes the brain to become overexcited. This can end in benzodiazepine withdrawal syndrome, an extremely uncomfortable condition that can last for months, while waxing and waning in intensity.
Benzodiazepine Withdrawal and Benzodiazepine Withdrawal Syndrome
Benzodiazepine withdrawal syndrome can cause serious and life-threatening symptoms. An individual suffering from benzo addiction should never try quitting alone; getting help from a qualified benzo rehab is always advisable. Not only is benzodiazepine withdrawal syndrome more uncomfortable than opiate withdrawal, it can cause the original symptoms to return even worse than what they were before the benzos were prescribed.
Benzodiazepine withdrawal symptoms begin appearing as soon as dose reduction begins. Short-acting benzos such as sleep aids cause withdrawal onset faster than longer-acting benzos. In general, non-syndrome withdrawal symptoms increase in severity with the level of abuse. They include:
- Insomnia and nightmares
- Agitation and restlessness
- Worsening anxiety and depression, including suicide ideation
- Panic, hallucinations and paranoia
- Impaired cognitive skills affecting memory, concentration and decision making ability
- Problems with appetite, including weight loss
- Intense flu symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, increased urination, hot and cold spells, tremors and fatigue
- Sensory problems, including vision, hearing, taste and sensitivity to touch
- Uncomfortable changes in blood pressure, heartbeat
People who abuse benzodiazepines over a prolonged period of time and who quit using drugs suddenly are at greater risk of developing benzodiazepine withdrawal syndrome. A chronic benzo abuser should never quit unassisted because benzo withdrawal syndrome can be fatal. In addition to the symptoms described above, other problems include:
- Potentially fatal convulsions and catatonia
- Psychosis, mania and post-traumatic stress disorder
- Suicide and suicidal ideation
- Homicidal ideation, violence and violent behavior
- Delirium tremens
The Signs and Symptoms of Benzo Addiction
One of the greatest dangers of benzodiazepines is that prolonged use worsens the original symptoms of anxiety and stress. This means that taking a benzo can eventually worsen your ability to sleep or simply relax. Taking more and more becomes necessary, and quitting produces severe withdrawal symptoms that provoke most people into abusing benzos again. With the proper withdrawal regimen, however, quitting benzos is possible.
If you’re not sure whether or not you need help quitting your benzodiazepine, ask yourself:
- Do I suffer from withdrawal symptoms such as intense anxiety when I try to quit using?
- Do I get more than one prescription just in case I run out?
- Do I modify my prescription to get a faster high?
- Do I combine my benzo with another substance to get a stronger high?
- Do I take more than the recommended dose?
- Do I spend more time and more money trying to keep up with my benzo habit?
- Do I feel unable to cope with life if I don’t have drugs?
- Do I try to quit and then go back to using?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, it’s time to get help.
Benzo Rehab and Recovery
At 12 Keys Rehab, we provide full spectrum addiction recovery services to individuals struggling with substance abuse. Our certified staff members have experience treating the severe withdrawal symptoms associated with benzodiazepine dependence. We have helped many people live sober lifestyles, even when rehab has been tried before.
Benzo rehab begins with medically assisted detox. During detox, you or your loved one will benefit from round-the-clock care. We make it easier to sleep, eat and relax as you prepare for the therapeutic journey ahead. This journey will entail today’s most successful treatments and therapies as well as the 12 Steps design for living. Because our staff is trained in all aspects of addiction and mental health care, we are well qualified to address issues related to substance dependency and disorders such as depression, anxiety, post traumatic stress disorder, bipolar disorder and other problems frequently associated with benzo addiction.
We are very proud of our serene and beautiful facility, which is located on a private stretch of waterfront property in southwest Florida. We only enroll a limited number of clients at one time, assuring a family-oriented environment, a high level of individualized care and less intimidating group therapy sessions. Clients also benefit from our incredible activities that take advantage of the best of the south Florida lifestyle. 12 Keys Rehab is an enjoyable and successful place to recover from addiction, and it’ll be a place for you to start rebuilding a happier, healthier life.
Call 12 Keys Rehab for More Information
We are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to answer your questions about addiction and rehabilitation on a free and confidential basis. Call us now and find your path to freedom, starting today.
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