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Benzodiazepine Addiction and Abuse
Benzodiazepines, also known as “Benzos” are a group of chemically similar drugs classified as Tranquilizers and Sedative-Hypnotics, usually prescribed for patients that suffer from:
- Panic attacks
- Muscle tension and/or spasms
- Mental disorders
- Alcohol withdrawal
- Panic caused by hallucinogens
Benzodiazepines can be legally prescribed but are widely abused by some patients. Abuse of Benzodiazepines occurs when patients take more than their prescribed dosage, when users take benzos without a prescription, or when users combine benzos with other drugs. Benzodiazepine abuse can turn into addiction quite easily. Drugs like Xanax, for example, are highly addictive. Benzos have additionally been used as date rape drugs.
It is common for people who use Benzos to combine them with opioids and/or alcohol. An estimated 41% of alcoholics have abused Benzodiazepines; a common reason being the prevention of withdrawal effects. Often times, addicts find combining Benzos with other drugs produces an intense high. An estimated 80% of Benzodiazepine abuse is connected with polydrug abuse (combining multiple drugs in one sitting), especially Heroin and Methadone, thus creating a fatal drug combination.
The number of annual deaths related to Benzodiazepine addiction is increasing. In 2015, 4,000 female deaths and 5,000 male deaths were attributed to Benzodiazepine addiction. In 2003, 23% of people who died by an Opioid overdose also tested positive for Benzodiazepines.
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Benzo Abuse & Addiction
After some time passes, the mind and body adapt to the presence of a Benzodiazepine, making it less effective. This is known as tolerance. As a person’s tolerance increases, they need to take increasing amounts of the drug to experience the same effect. Eventually, the individual develops a dependence and experiences cravings for the Benzodiazepine. Eventually, dependency leads to a full-blown addiction. Addiction to a Benzodiazepine is typified by a deep need for the drug and significant changes to the chemical composition of the brain.
Characteristics of Benzodiazepine addiction include:
- The user takes Benzos in larger amounts or over a longer time than was intended.
- The user has a persistent desire or has made unsuccessful efforts to cut down or stop Benzo use.
- The user has spent a great deal of time obtaining, using, or recovering from the effects of Benzos.
- The user experiences cravings, or strong desires or urges to use Benzos.
- The user fails to fulfill obligations at work, school, or home due to Benzo use.
- The user continues to use Benzos despite persistent or recurrent social or interpersonal problems.
- The user gives up important social, occupational, or recreational activities due to Benzo use.
- The user uses Benzos in situations in which it is physically hazardous to do so.
- The user continues Benzo use despite having a persistent or recurrent physical or psychological problem.
- The user needs to use more Benzos to achieve intoxication or the desired effect.
What Benzodiazepines Are Abused
Benzodiazepines are available via pill (oral consumption), and rarely, intravenously. Abusers also often crush and snort them, despite this being especially dangerous. Popular Benzodiazepines, all of which may be abused, include:
The Effects of Benzos
In general, Benzos produce a feeling of calmness within 30-45 minutes, although extended release versions may take up to 1 hours. Most users experience few immediate adverse effects. Benzos alter the neurochemistry in the brain, and the user can develop a fast dependency on the drugs. Side effects of Benzodiazepine use include:
- Antisocial behavior
- Loss of interest in daily activities and self care
- Spending large amounts of money on drug use
- Increased aggression
- Slurred speech
- Intense euphoria
- Psychotic episodes
- Red eyes
- Respiratory arrest
- Slow breathing and heart rate
- Persistent cravings
- Withdrawing from loved ones
- Central nervous system depression
- Muscle weakness
- Withdrawal symptoms
- Cognitive dysfunction
- Poor memory
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Who Benzodiazepine Addiction Affects
Those who are most at risk of Benzo addiction are those with co-occurring mental disorders, those with a family history, those who abuse opioids, and alcohol abusers. Factors such as peer pressure, unemployment, and a low-socio economic status increase the likelihood of Benzodiazepine addiction as well.
Drugs like Valium, Ativan, and other Benzos are popularly used across all age groups — from teenagers to senior citizens. Xanax use in particular is on the rise, as modern-day culture promotes relaxation through a variety of media outlets. Teenagers are often open to experimenting with Xanax and other Benzodiazepines, and family members are often frustrated and concerned in seeing their children’s drug use.
Benzo abuse in pregnant women can produce a host of recognizable traits in the unborn baby, including a cleft lip, lower muscle tone, and withdrawal symptoms.
Benzos are most frequently prescribed to people 65 and older, as the elderly community has a higher susceptibility to many mental health conditions such as depression. Doctors are increasingly prescribing Benzos to senior citizens, and dependencies are increasingly reported in turn.
Alcoholics often mix Benzos with alcohol in order to increase the intensity of the endorphins released during drug use, many not knowing the dangerous risks of the combination.
Find Benzodiazepine Addiction Treatment
Users experiencing harsh side-effects are encouraged to seek professional treatment in a rehab facility. Both inpatient and outpatient facilities enable individuals to restore their minds and bodies to wellness with the help of therapists, medication, and support. Inpatient rehab facilities provide additional monitoring of withdrawal symptoms, where outpatient facilities assist individuals while they remain ingrained in their daily lives. Contact a treatment provider to discuss available options.
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