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Facts about Benzo Addiction Treatment

Sometimes people are prescribed benzodiazepines to deal with panic attacks, stress or anxiety. The actual classification of these substances is in the sedatives category, and like many sedatives, these benzodiazepines can be very habit-forming and addictive. One of the problems with people struggling with the benzo addiction is that the withdrawal from benzodiazepines is extremely difficult to deal with, possibly fatal if not monitored properly.

Bit of History about Benzodiazepines

In 1959, the first benzodiazepine was marketed. It was considered an alternative to barbiturates and a ‘minor tranquillizer’. These benzodiazepines work by depressing the central nervous system (CNS). It does this by enhancing the effect of gamma-aminobutyric acid on the GABA-A receptor. These function as muscle relaxants, anticonvulsant, are hypnotic, and anxiolytic.

To be perfectly clear, these substances are useful in the short term. For the short-term treatment of anxiety and insomnia (between 2 and 4 weeks) where these problems lead to unacceptable distress, benzodiazepines can be highly effective. The long-term use is associated with withdrawal symptoms, the development of a tolerance and dependence.

These drugs function as central nervous system sedatives and share a common chemical structure. This is true whether the specific variant is known as Ambien, Halcion, Ativan, Xanax, Valium or any number of others.

Why are These So Addictive?

illustration-of-a-nerve-cellAccording to research from the University of Geneva, like many other drugs, benzodiazepine abuse leads to physical changes in the body. The use of the drug blocks certain brain functions, which means that it is possible for the body to release larger amounts of dopamine than would otherwise normally be possible. Increased levels of dopamine can lead to sensations of calmness and pleasure.

The use of benzodiazepines can lead to changes in certain receptors in the neural system and brain. As a result, the user becomes accustomed to having the substance in their system, and becomes more susceptible to drug-induced pleasure. Essentially, it leads to the brain telling our body that it wants more and more of the same substance over time. This is what leads to the need for benzodiazepine rehab. Without breaking the vicious cycle of dependence, the brain will not automatically recover.

These are extremely addictive medications, even if the user does have a prescription for them. This is why they are made available by prescription only and are never intended for recreational use. Aside from the fact that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not approve that type of use, benzodiazepines are sometimes prescribed off-label to treat pain and depression.

Signs and Symptoms of Benzodiazepine Addiction

People assume that the only time that someone develops benzo addiction is when they ingest the drug without a prescription. The truth is that people may erroneously develop the perception that if one pill leads to feelings of serenity and calm, a second pill will increase that effect and feel even better. This is what can lead to benzodiazepine addiction, because it requires the user to ingest a growing amount of the drug.

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In order to experience those initial pleasurable sensations and feelings of calm, the user is going to need a growing amount of the drug. Through overuse, it means that even people who have a prescription are going to run out of their medication much faster. This means that they have to find additional medication to ward off withdrawal symptoms. Sometimes this leads to people stealing medication from others, buying it on the street, or using alternative illicit substances to feel the same sensations as before.

Alternatively, the user might try ‘doctor shopping’. This means that the user is trying to get different prescribers to give out multiple prescriptions for the same medication. The user will not tell any of the prescribers about the other prescriptions that they are already receiving from others.

Symptoms of benzodiazepine addiction

As previously mentioned, benzo abuse is going to lead to central nervous system depression. This means that the user has a number of clear signs that he or she is abusing illicit substances. A few of the examples here may include:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Slurred speech
  • A loss of concentration
  • Lapses in memory
  • Overall lethargy
  • Sedation
  • Decreased anxiety
  • A decrease in balance
  • Overall feeling of drowsiness

Issues with Benzodiazepine Withdrawal Symptoms

If the user cannot get more of the medication, either illegally or legally, it is going to lead to benzodiazepine withdrawal symptoms. In those cases, benzodiazepine withdrawal treatment is able to offer relief during an otherwise extremely difficult time. These symptoms can develop in users who have been abusing the medication anywhere between three and six months. For regular users, these withdrawal symptoms may begin several hours after the addict last used. They will typically peak between 24 and 72 hours after last ingesting the drug. Some of the signs of benzodiazepine withdrawal include:

  • Restless leg syndrome
  • Muscles twitches
  • Depersonalization
  • Perceptual disturbances
  • Severe anxiety
  • Nightmares
  • Delusions
  • Hallucinations
  • Vomiting
  • Tremor
  • Sweating
  • Muscle cramps
  • Convulsions
  • Abdominal cramps

Depending on how much the user was actually taking, the symptoms of the benzodiazepine withdrawal fluctuate in severity. The method of abuse (injecting, ingesting orally or snorting) and the duration of the drug abuse are also going to affect the need for benzodiazepine treatment in a serious way. Especially for those with preexisting health issues, a medical detox unit is vital to ensure that the patient recovers safely.

Remember that withdrawing from sedatives can be fatal, which further indicates the need for supervised treatment and a medical detox where the patient is monitored rather than left alone.

Getting Benzodiazepine Addiction Treatment

holding-the-hand-of-sick-loved-oneEven if you or someone close to you is ready to stop using today, remember that abruptly ceasing use without getting help from trained addiction professionals is extremely dangerous. The abuse of benzodiazepines is nothing like cannabis dependence. A long-term, inpatient benzodiazepine addiction treatment is recommended. These trained professionals are able to deal with any health issues that might arise, and it is going to decrease the likelihood of a relapse.

It is important to remember that benzo rehab is not merely about ceasing use. It is about finding healthy alternatives to deal with stress, to deal with temptation, to deal with the concept of a relapse. If you or someone close to you struggles with dependence and want to make a lifelong change rather than ‘just be sober for a few days or weeks’, long-term inpatient treatment is statistically far more likely to get you the results you want.

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