Benzodiazepine, or benzo for short, is a drug used in prescription medications for the treatment of anxiety-related disorders. Many people do not even know of their addictive nature since doctors are the ones that give these dangerous pills to them. In reality, those that take these drugs longer than six months at a time or increase dosage due to tolerance have a high risk of becoming addicted. This is due to the drug’s effect on the brain and nervous system, causing dependence and reverse reactions when the drug is not administered. Although there have been hundreds of benzos created throughout our existence, the benzos that are approved for prescription by the FDA include Xanax, Ativan, Librium, Valium, Versed, and Halcyon.
Signs and Symptoms of Benzodiazepine Addiction
Although benzos are a controlled substance and are thought to be used by individuals with prescriptions, their addictive tendencies still take control over lives. Many individuals use these drugs recreationally because they are gifted or illegally sold. Benzos are even said to be used often as a date-rape drug, being slipped into drinks as a powder form to inhibit others’ ability to make decisions. Because of benzo’s addictive nature, tolerance forms quickly leaving benzo users feeling like they need more to receive the desired effect. In time a large dose is required to feel the sense of calm and painlessness that the drug is prescribed for and by then addiction is knocking at the door. Once the prescription runs out or a doctor suggests discontinued use of the drug, these users might feel the need to doctor shop or use illicit street drugs to continue the cycle of addiction. These behaviors are a telltale sign of benzo addiction. Other signs may include:
- Inability to focus on tasks
- Blackouts and memory lapses
- Decreased desire for hobbies and interests
- Loss of appetite
- Intense mood swings
- Lethargy and apathy
Stopping the use of a prescription for Benzodiazepine can prove to be fatal from intense withdrawal symptoms. It is highly encouraged that those who wish to stop taking a prescription first get the advice from their doctors. Because of the dangers of benzo withdrawal, FHE Health provides medical detox to help guide a patient to sobriety with the aid of medical professionals. Along with medical detox, patients will be offered in or outpatient services, sober living skill education, cognitive therapy, and aftercare options.
Medical Detox for Benzodiazepines
All of these drugs are central nervous system depressants, which mean they directly affect the body’s ability to feel anything. Because of their effect on the nervous system, they are known as the most dangerous drug to detox from. Benzos are supposed to be prescribed to patients with a specific timeline of dosing, with the aim to eventually wean off from the drug and find other solutions for treatment. Many doctors, instead of finding other forms of treatment, will just keep prescribing their patients with benzos for a longer period of time. This is dangerous, since the longer you take benzos, the higher your risk of developing an addiction.
Benzos are supposed to be prescribed for short periods of time. When benzos have been taken over a period of a few months or longer, tolerance starts to form. Tolerance is when it may take a larger dose to feel the desired effects since the body is already used to the amount of the drug being administered daily. Developing a tolerance to benzos is dangerous since it usually leads to dependence. Dependence is when the body does not function at its best unless the drug is present in the body. When tolerance rises, the body stops making the natural chemicals that the drug works to replace, causing the body to not function properly when the drug is not present. When the body is dependent on benzos, withdrawal side effects occur when the drug is not taken. Medical detox is the process of removing chemicals from the body with the oversight of a medical staff. FHE Health suggests that anyone that wishes to become independent from benzos go through a medical detox program. This ensures that the entire process is guided and under medical supervision in case anything were to happen. Also, a medical staff can provide withdrawal medications if need be. When a person who is addicted to benzos goes through medical detox they experience symptoms of:
- Flu-like symptoms
- Suicidal thoughts
- Panic attacks
Intensive Therapy Programs
After medical detox, a person with an addiction to benzos should seek treatment for the addiction. It is important to implement other methods of treatment besides detox so that the required skills and knowledge of how to stay sober can be implemented in life. Addiction recovery is not just about refraining from drug use, but it is about rediscovering the self. Group and individualized therapy will allow a recovering addict to discover the underlying causes of addiction so that they can recognize their weak points during their sobriety journey. Also, it is important to implement strategies for relapse prevention. Many deaths caused by overdose happen in early recovery since tolerance levels decrease and recovering addicts will take a large amount of the drug that they can no longer tolerate. Techniques and methods for preventing relapse will give a newly sober individual the motivation needed when faced with triggers and cravings after treatment ends.
Our aftercare goals are to provide an individual who is newly clean from benzos a safe and inviting place to come or live that motivates their recovery. It is highly suggested that those that have just completed treatment consider living in a continued treatment environment in our gender-specific sober living homes. This gives recovering patients the option to not have to jump right back into the routine of their life before treatment. Often the reverting back to old patterns gives a person added reason to return to old behaviors, namely using benzos again. Additionally, living in a gender-specific environment will provide you with a supportive group of people that care about your sobriety goals and want you to succeed. All alumni of our treatment and detox programs have access to the same advantages that our treatment facility provides. Also, our alumni staff is very productive and holds a weekly meeting and a quarterly family event where alumni can come and interact with their FHE Health friends and family. If you or a loved one struggles with an addiction to benzos, you do not have to beat it alone. Come join the family at FHE Health, where you will never be alone in your addiction again!