Is Benzo Addiction Treatable?
Benzodiazepines, frequently referred to as “benzos”, are classified as psychoactive tranquilizers, with common medications including Valium and Xanax. Due to the highly addictive nature of these drugs, benzo addiction has become a prevalent issue among the public. When we follow clinical instructions, these drugs effective in treating anxiety and panic disorders, or sleep disorders such as insomnia; however, dependence and abuse can easily develop if these drugs are misused or taken without medical supervision. Fortunately, we can treat benzo addiction. But we must understand the nature of the drug, its uses, side effects, and indicators of abuse. Then, we can take proper steps to treat the addiction.
What Are Benzos?
Benzodiazepines first started circulating within the medical community in the 1960s and quickly became the preferential choice in treating various anxiety disorders. As psychoactive tranquilizers, benzos stimulate GABA, a neurotransmitter responsible for reducing central nervous system functioning. Because of this, benzos generate a sense of calm, relaxation, and sedation when ingested. Over time, an individual’s tolerance to this drug will increase as the body adapts to the constant presence of benzodiazepines, resulting in a higher dosage being needed to attain the same effect. Prolonged use eventually disables the brain from organically regulating the neurotransmitter GABA at which time the individual has developed a chemical dependence. Due to these adverse progressions, clinical supervision is required for all benzodiazepine prescriptions so that the physician can manage the medication and avoid these issues; however, individuals who have developed an addiction may manage to secure benzos illegally through the illicit drug market.
Benzos For Anxiety
Benzodiazepines are the primary medication used to treat anxiety disorders. These disorders include, but are not limited to Generalized Anxiety Disorder, various phobias, Panic Disorder, and Social Anxiety Disorder. A patient displaying mild symptoms of one of these disorders may be referred to a psychologist for therapy; however, these disorders are considered advanced and are commonly treated by means of medication. Benzos for anxiety include Xanax, Klonopin, and Valium, among others. These drugs treat anxiety by activating the brain’s neurotransmitter GABA which acts as the brain’s calming center.
Most benzo medications are quick-acting and alleviate symptoms of anxiety in a short amount of time. Responsible physicians overseeing a patient suffering from anxiety typically keep medication to a minimum to prevent dependence, but this is not always the case. If an individual develops a benzo addiction, the withdrawal symptoms rival those of opioids due to the extreme discomfort of its chemical absence. These painful withdrawal symptoms are often what urges the patient to continue usage, regardless if the supervising physician approves continuation or not.
Benzos For Insomnia
Because anxiety often interferes with an individual’s ability to go and stay asleep, the sedative quality of benzos effectively provides relief for patients suffering from insomnia. Common benzodiazepine medications that treat this disorder are Dalmane, Restoril, Doral, and Halcion. Many medical professionals are preferential towards benzo medications to treat insomnia due to it carrying less risk of dependence in comparison to barbiturates, which were frequently prescribed to manage insomnia before the time of benzos.
When instructions for usage are followed, benzodiazepine medications can improve a patient’s amount of sleep as well as quality. It is common practice for a physician to discontinue benzo medication after 4 weeks when treating insomnia since dependence is known to begin developing after that timeframe.
Benzodiazepines Side Effects
As a tranquilizer, benzodiazepines reduce cognitive functioning, resulting in an overall sedative state. Common side effects of benzo use include:
- Lack of balance
- Memory issues
- Slurred speech
- Muscle weakness
- Motor skill impairment
Signs of Benzo Addiction
As a prescription drug, benzo abuse is often insidious and can easily go unnoticed. Inadequate clinical supervision or acquiring these drugs illegally is often the driving force in the development of dependence. Besides the common side effects of benzo use, there are indicators that an individual has developed an addiction. They include:
- Changes in Appearance
- Lack of Hygiene
- Weight loss/gain
- Visiting multiple doctors
- Intense mood swings
- Extreme depression
- Neglecting responsibilities
- Lack of interest in activities or relationships once enjoyed
Benzo Addiction Treatment
If an individual begins exhibiting signs of addiction, such as a desperate need to continue benzodiazepine use, changes in appearance, or problems with memory, professional treatment is imperative. As mentioned previously, if an individual has been taking a benzo medication for more than 4 weeks, it is highly likely that a dependence has formed.
The first step in combating benzo addiction is detox. As these prescription drugs are among the most difficult to successfully withdraw from, it is highly recommended that the individual seeks medical assistance during this stage. If the user has been consuming benzos for over a month, an attempt to cease use independently can lead to life-threatening seizures or death. Clinically-supervised detox can guarantee that the individual can be safe during the withdrawal process.
Once an individual has shed all residual traces of benzodiazepines, it is important to seek additional care. Research has shown that cognitive-behavioral therapy, or CBT, is very effective in treating benzo addiction. Clinicians use CBT as a talk therapy to reinforce healthy decision making and develop coping skills to fight future temptations.Mmost psychotherapists and within professional addiction treatment centers offer CBT.
Professionals highly recommend addiction treatment for individuals struggling with benzo addiction. Due to the potency and addictive nature of these drugs, addiction treatment within a qualified center increases the likelihood of maintaining sobriety significantly. Most centers offer inpatient and outpatient services, as well as various therapies and workshops. When entering an addiction treatment program, an individual enjoys the communal embrace of like-minded peers within a safe and comfortable environment.
We Can Help
Benzodiazepines are highly addictive and difficult to withdraw from. The nature of this popular anti-anxiety medication, as well as its uses, side effects, and indicators of abuse are important to understand in order to combat benzo addiction. By successfully completing medically-supervised detox and entering a professional addiction treatment program, the chances of relapse are low while the chances of lifelong recovery are high.
As experts in the addiction and recovery field, we utilize scientifically-proven methods to combat addiction and help those in need to take back their lives. If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, call us today. You are not alone.