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The Problem of Teenage Benzodiazepine Addiction
Benzodiazepines, often referred to as Benzos, are a class of drugs that have powerfully calming effects on the central nervous system. They are typically prescribed to individuals suffering from anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, insomnia, panic attacks, seizures and other mental health conditions. Benzodiazepines are some of the most commonly prescribed drugs in America, despite the fact that they carry significant addiction risk. Many adolescents are prescribed Benzodiazepines, and many others abuse them recreationally, fueling growing rates of teenage Benzodiazepine addiction.
The problem is massive. 16 million teenagers used a prescription pain reliever, tranquilizer, or sedative in 2016, many of which were Benzodiazepines. Perhaps more disturbingly, up to 49 percent of teens are estimated to take Xanax with alcohol to enhance the effects of both, despite the fact that this is an especially dangerous combination. Tragically, teens who experiment with Benzos at a younger age are more likely to become addicted to Benzos in their adulthood, if not earlier.
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Consequences of Teenage Benzodiazepine Addiction
Benzos can cause in highly addictive patterns of abuse and are often combined with other substances such as Alcohol and Marijuana for different effects. One of the most dangerous side effects of teen Benzo abuse is anterograde amnesia, or “blacking out,” when large quantities are ingested. Blacking out means losing awareness, time, and full control of your actions. This is not the same as losing consciousness. When a teenager is blacked out, they are vulnerable to a variety of exploitations and dangers.
Teens are more likely to be perpetrators or victims of physical or sexual assault if they combine Benzos, like Xanax, with alcohol, or take a large amount of Benzos and black out. Teens driving under the influence of a Benzo endanger their lives and the lives of every other person on the road.
Aside from blacking out, other consequences of Benzo abuse include:
- Mood swings
- Blurred vision
- Muscle cramps
- Poor job or academic performance
- Poor memory
- Possible addiction to other substances
Risk Factors for Teenage Benzodiazepine Addiction
A major factor involved in teenage Benzodiazepine addiction is the presence of co-occurring disorders. Co-occurring disorders are underlying mental or emotional conditions like depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety, or low self-esteem that exist alongside a substance use disorder. Co-occurring disorders often lead sufferers to self-medicate by abusing substances such as Benzos. Teens are especially susceptible to a number of mental health disorders and are less likely to be diagnosed than adults. For example, 25.1% of individuals between 13 to 18 suffer from an anxiety disorder.
Teenagers may find Benzos like Xanax and Valium appealing due to their ability to calm the nervous system and ward off anxiety. Teens face challenges like pressures of academic performance, peer pressure to party, and the onset of depression and anxiety that can come from the inherent struggles of adolescence, making Benzo abuse more likely to occur.
Female teens are at especially high risk of Benzo addiction, as they are twice as likely to suffer anxiety and depression. Teens who feel isolated, lonely, or misunderstood are also at higher risk of addiction.
Exposure to music with suggestive lyrics of Benzo use can pique a teen’s curiosity to experiment, and teens with family members who use Benzos may find themselves exploring their family’s medicine cabinets.
Detox For Teenage Benzodiazepine Addiction
If a teen has developed an addiction to Benzodiazepines, they will have to medically detox, or safely purge their body of the chemical, in order to recover. Attempting detox at home unsupervised can be difficult and is not recommended because of withdrawal symptoms and potentially life-threatening complications. Withdrawal symptoms of short-acting Benzos (Xanax, Ativan, and Halcion), typically take 6 to 8 hours after last use to appear, while withdrawal symptoms of longer-acting Benzos (Valium and Librium) take 24 to 48 hours. Individuals attempting at-home detox can experience uncomfortable side effects, some of which are potentially dangerous, including:
- Intense cravings
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What To Consider Before Going to Rehab
Individuals seeking treatment for teenage Benzodiazepine addiction have different options for healing based on their treatment needs. Inpatient rehab facilities guide patients into wellness as medical staff safely supervise detox to reduce its uncomfortable effects. Patients in rehab receive cutting-edge medical treatment and psychological intervention for their substance abuse disorder. Patients can speak with a therapist to find ways of healing that can be used after rehab. Parents considering sending their teen to rehab for Benzodiazepines can ask potential rehabs about options such as:
- Teen-based 12-Step groups
- Student discounts
- Financial options
- Holistic/spiritual based healing treatments
- Traveling for rehab
- Aftercare programs
- Inpatient and outpatient rehab
- Length of treatment
- Keeping pace with their education
Making The Right Choice Today
Making the decision to transition from addiction to a life of sobriety can seem overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. Treatment providers are available to assist you every step of the way. Contact a treatment provider today to explore ways to help your teen heal.
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