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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. Benzos are usually prescribed for patients that suffer from:
- Panic attacks
- Muscle tension and/or spasms
- Mental disorders
- Alcohol withdrawal
- Panic caused by hallucinogens
Although they can be prescribed, Benzos are widely abused by some patients. Abuse of Benzodiazepines occurs when more than the prescribed dosage is taken, when taken without a prescription, or when combined with other substances. Benzodiazepine abuse can turn into addiction quite easily. Drugs like Xanax, for example, are highly addictive. Benzos have additionally been used as a date rape drug.
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 their ability to prevent withdrawal symptoms. This can be especially dangerous because alcohol and Benzos are both depressants which means the effects of a slowed down central nervous system are intensified. 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 And Addiction
After some time passes, the mind and body adapt to the presence of a Benzodiazepine making it less effective. This is known as building up a 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. Over time, dependency can lead to a full-blown addiction. Addiction to a Benzodiazepine is characterized by a deep need for the drug and significant changes to the chemical composition of the brain.
Characteristics of Benzodiazepine addiction include:
- Taking Benzos in larger amounts or over a longer time than was intended.
- A persistent desire or unsuccessful efforts to cut down or stop Benzo use.
- Large amount of time obtaining, using, or recovering from the effects of Benzos.
- Cravings, or strong desires or urges to use Benzos.
- Failing to fulfill obligations at work, school, or home.
- Continuing to use Benzos despite persistent or recurrent social or interpersonal problems.
- Giving up important social, occupational, or recreational activities.
- Using Benzos in situations in which it is physically hazardous to do so.
- Continuing to use Benzo use despite having a persistent or recurrent physical or psychological problem.
- Needing to use more Benzos to achieve intoxication or the desired effect.
What Benzodiazepines Are Abused
Benzodiazepines are available in pill form for oral consumption and sometimes intravenously. Abusers may also snort crush and snort them, despite this being especially dangerous. Popular Benzodiazepines, all of which can 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 hour. 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, family history of addiction, history of opioid or alcohol abuse. 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 popular across all age groups, from teenagers to senior citizens. Xanax use in particular is on the rise, as modern-day culture promotes using the substance for relaxation. Teenagers are often open to experimenting with Xanax and other Benzodiazepines. Family members can become frustrated and concerned about their child’s drug use.
Benzo abuse in pregnant women can produce effects 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 to address these mental health conditions.
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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