Benzodiazepines, more commonly known as benzos, are a type of tranquilizer drug. Common brands you may have heard of include Xanax, Valium, Klonopin, Ambien, Halcion, Restoril and Lunesta. This class of sedative drug is typically used to treat insomnia, muscle spasms, seizure disorders and anxiety attacks. Benzos can relax your mind and body to help you get a better night’s sleep. They are even used for short-term relief to help lessen the effects of alcohol withdrawal syndrome when prescribed in low dosage.
Although benzos are classified as minor tranquilizers, but do not let the word ‘minor’ fool you. Unfortunately for many people, this type of medication is highly addictive and it can take up to two years to completely recover from the effects.
This is a comprehensive article that takes you through the signs and risks of benzo abuse, and will show you how to recognize benzo abuse signs and risks in order to help someone in need. We’ll also cover what withdrawal from benzos can be like, and finally what The Haven has to offer in the way of detoxification from benzodiazepines, the utterly important first step toward recovery.
If you wish only to read about our detoxification process itself, please scroll down and begin reading at the section titled About Our Benzodiazepine Detox Program. Otherwise, please continue to read on. The best of luck to you, but with help from The Haven, luck is something you may not need!
The Popularity of Benzos
Prescription pill abuse, regardless of the morality of the doctor, begins at the doctor’s office. It has to. There’s nowhere else for prescription pills to come from. If they are forged, they are now designer drugs. Therefore, every single prescription pill that gets abused was once prescribed to somebody.
Currently, sixteen different benzodiazepines exist on the US pharmaceutical market! Plus, a 2013 report from Psych Central said Xanax was the most commonly prescribed drug in the country! Ativan came in fifth and Valium came in ninth!
According to the FDA, there are approximately 50 million Xanax prescriptions in the US alone. More than one in seven American citizens has a prescription for Xanax, on average. Don’t stop the shock now… there are 28 million Ativan prescriptions, 27 million Klonopin prescriptions, 15 million Valium prescriptions, and 9 million Restoril prescriptions.
Sometimes it feels as if we truly are a nation on drugs.
The more available something is, the more likely it is to be used by the masses. No wonder benzodiazepine death has been on the rise since 2002, as you’ll see in the chart below, provided by the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
Signs of Benzodiazepine Abuse
As with all pills that are in essence legal, it’s important to recognize the difference between use and abuse. If someone you know suffers from severe anxiety and was prescribed Xanax, he or she may experience some euphoria, a little dizziness and/or drowsiness, slurred speech, shortness of breath, or even exhibit signs of minor dependence. This does not necessarily mean he or she is abusing.
However, if any of the signs listed below are exaggerated, occur too often or for too long, or are accompanied by more serious signs, which you’ll read about below, there may be abuse happening. Also, if someone does not have a prescription for a benzo he or she is taking, this is a major sign of abuse which can lead to addiction.
- Excessive drowsiness
- Slurred Speech
- Very slow movements
- Trouble breathing
- Abrupt mood swings
- Poor job performance
Risks of Benzo Abuse
From the American Academy of Family Physicians: “Many… benzodiazepine users in the United States meet the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th ed., criteria for substance dependence.” So already you have the inherent risk of addiction, and with benzo addiction come many more severe risks.
Benzos reduce your heart rate. They lower your blood pressure, your body temperature, and your breathing rate. These are essential functions of human life. Heavy benzo abuse can cause heart failure, respiratory failure, a coma, and even death. According to the Journal of Family Practice, deaths from benzos rose five-fold from 1999 to 2009. Over that same period of time, trips to the ER due to benzos rose by 89%.
Along with what’s discussed above, the risks of benzodiazepine abuse include, but are not limited to:
- Lack of muscle response
- Loss of consciousness
- Extreme confusion
- Extreme Agitation
Two more things worth noting are that benzo use is comparable to being drunk when operating a motor vehicle, and that in older people, benzo use increases the risk of hip fracture by at least half.
Recognizing Benzo Abuse & Stepping In
It bears repeating that it is possible for someone to experience effects similar to a high even if that person is taking the prescription legally and safely. Regardless, if you suspect someone is abusing benzos and you see pill bottles in his or her possession somehow, take a look. Now may be the time to step in, intervene, and being the process of helping… especially if you already suspect abuse.
Of course, you can step in and help yourself too. With the use of benzos, legal or not, and as with the use of most prescription pills, abuse can soon lead to addiction. Plus an overdose could be fatal. What high could possibly be worth that?
Stepping in and intervening when it comes to someone we know has a problem is never an easy thing to do. We love these people, and we do not want to hurt them, but we love them enough to know they are hurting themselves, and perhaps at a deadly rate. In such extreme cases, professional intervention is recommended. When it comes to simply trying to help someone you love, keep these tips in mind:
- Do not call the person an addict or even accuse them of being an abuser.
- Do not demand the person seeks help. Simply state your concerns.
- Encourage the possibility of help, but do not be forceful.
- Maintain the rapport you already have with the person. Acting differently will likely arouse suspicion.
Benzodiazepines Addiction and Withdrawal
Many people are prescribed benzos by their doctor with little or no followup. Often, the more you take, the more you become addicted to benzos.
While initially prescribed to help you sleep and feel less anxious, the longer you use tranquilizers the more likely you are to have panic attacks or have trouble falling asleep. Long-term benzo use can even lead to new symptoms such as depression or lack of energy.
Benzos work similarly to how alcohol and barbiturates work, in that the GABA receptors in the brain are overstimulated. GABA stands for gamma-Aminobutyric acid, which is the most abundant inhibitory neurotransmitter in the entire central nervous system. Translation: the more GABA, the more sedated you feel. Therefore, the withdrawal symptoms tend to be relatively similar.
Remember this, though: any pain or discomfort felt along the path to recovery will be forgotten about once the bliss of sobriety and normal living comes rushing in. Any struggle at this point along the path is well worth the normalcy and stability of a life without abusing benzodiazepines.
Common benzo withdrawal symptoms include:
- Low energy
- Disturbed sleep
- Social isolation
- Poor concentration
- Mood swings
What follows is a list of benzo withdrawal symptoms, but please be aware that with help from us here at The Haven, not only can most of these be avoided, but all of them can be helped. As you read this list of symptoms, be aware that quitting without the assistance of professional treatment puts you much more at risk than quitting with the proper help.
Get Help for Benzo Addiction
All benzos can cause physical dependence – you should use caution when trying to stop taking these medications. Withdrawal complications can occur as there is a high risk of muscle cramping, tremors, vomiting, strokes, heart attacks, hallucinations or seizures if you suddenly stop taking tranquilizers.
A medically supervised detoxification is a necessary first step to get well so you can safely begin the recovery process. Our detox program safely and effectively removes all traces of benzos and other substances from your body.
Reach out to The Haven TODAY and discover how we can help you recover from dependence on benzodiazepine medications.
About Our Benzodiazepine Detox Program
Benzodiazepine detoxification treats dependence on benzodiazepines, which are a group of sedatives used for a variety of medical symptoms such as anxiety disorders, muscle spasms, insomnia, seizures, and alcohol withdrawal syndrome. More popular benzodiazepines are Xanax, Valium, and Ativan, but there are a dozen others on the market. They act on the central nervous system, producing almost immediate effects of sedation, muscle relaxation, lower anxiety levels, and can be prescribed for short-term, intermittent use.
Physical dependence has been reported with as little as one month of use, and can cause addiction faster than any other substance. Detoxing from benzodiazepines without medical supervision can be extremely dangerous. Although not every addict faces life-threatening circumstances, precautions should be taken. The Haven Detox provides comfort, safety and education while working with top-recommended doctors to achieve the best results for each patient.
How to Detox From Benzodiazepines
In general, mood-altering substances are the strongest reinforcing addictive substances for patients with a predisposition for chemical dependence. Benzodiazepine has a rapid onset of action, generally a high potency effect per dosage and a brief duration of action. Chronic benzodiazepine use can cause depression, nausea, sleep difficulties, and anxiety attacks. Ataxia, intoxication, coma, respiratory depression, and death are symptoms of an overdose. These drugs taken in combination with other drugs of abuse by patients with addiction disorders, increases the potential for fatal overdose. There is also a significant risk of seizure, stroke, heart attack, or hallucination if you stop taking the drug suddenly, so it is imperative to seek medical help for Benzo detox.
Recovering from benzodiazepine dependence is most effective in restoring the body’s natural balance when in a calm and well monitored setting, with support, care and comfort.
What to Expect During Benzo Detox
It’s important to treat both the physical dependence and the cause for needing the drug and its effects. The longer benzodiazepines are taken as treatment, the less effective they become in actually curing anxiety disorders. While they chemically cause relaxation, the effect is short lived, so it’s important the condition for which this drug is prescribed is treated with additional help.
At The Haven Detox, patients are encouraged through a variety of methods, to discover and treat the root of their addiction. Through group and individual therapy, the client learns about their addiction and how to prevent relapse in the future. Our clinicians begin with a comprehensive evaluation of each client to gain a working knowledge of their medical history, history of abuse as well as psychological conditions which may be of concern. A physical assessment, including a vision screening, will also be completed.
Once the initial health assessment is completed, our clinical staff members work closely with patients to design a treatment plan tailored to individual needs. Committing to detox is the best way to ensure your individual recovery needs are met, providing a calm environment allowing you to concentrate on the steps which need to be taken to live free from addiction.
Quitting can be scary. Doing it alone is ten times scarier. With the right professional help, which The Haven Detox offers, your addiction or the addiction of someone you know can and will be cured, but detoxification is the first step.
If you or someone you know is abusing or addicted to benzos, please call The Haven today. We know how to make this necessary process go as smoothly as possible.