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benzodiazepines addiction

Since their initial entry into the field of medicine and pharmacy in the 1960s, benzodiazepines have been shrouded in controversy. Benzodiazepines include drugs like Valium and Xanax to name the two most common ones, and while benzodiazepine uses are very real and have some benefit to them, the negative side effects and addictive properties of these drugs are just not worth it.

What Are Benzodiazepines?

Benzodiazepines are widely prescribed to treat anxiety, insomnia, alcohol withdrawal, nervous hysteria, fear, grief, etc. The benzodiazepines line-up are all depressant drugs, so they have a very similar effect on a person’s mind that opiate drugs, cannabinoids (marijuana), and GHB substances have on a person. While there is efficacy to benzodiazepines (they often do actually address what they are intended to address and have some measurable benefit to them) that still does not change the fact that great risk comes with taking them.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse found a study done by Dr. Christian Luscher and company at the University of Geneva, Switzerland. This was the first study that correctly ascertained exactly at what point benzodiazepines become addictive to a person, from a biological perspective at least. According to the excerpt from NIDA:

  • “Dr. Christian Luscher and colleagues at the University of Geneva, Switzerland, studied benzodiazepines as part of a larger project to identify the point of convergence for all neurobiological pathways to drug addiction. Their findings strongly suggest that this juncture occurs when dopamine surges in response to drug taking initiate a change in synaptic plasticity in dopamine-producing cells.”

What makes drugs addictive is the dopamine surge that drugs create, whether they are downers or uppers. This is the brain’s reward system jumping forward and exuberantly responding to the drug substance, sending dopamine rushes through the body, making the entire body and mind “feel good.” The science behind this gets very technical indeed, but the idea is that benzo drugs create a negative surge on inhibitory interneurons in the brain that themselves provide a negative surge to keep dopamine levels down. When the two negative surges meet, it makes a positive surge, which results in letting dopamine levels rise and create the euphoric high associated with benzodiazepine use.

The Effects of Benzodiazepine Addiction

Dr. Luscher’s study results were truly remarkable. The science behind addiction and the effect that dopamine-affecting drugs have on the brain are such that it takes a great amount of time to actually reverse these effects. This is why relapse rates are so severe. Even after several months in rehab and no more chemical dependency, the brain is still wired a certain way, and the desire for those drugs is still going to be there. In the words of Dr. Luscher himself in the same NIDA report:

  • “This was a nail-in-the-coffin study to show that activity of dopaminergic neurons leads to synaptic adaptation that is involved in addiction,” says Dr. Luscher. “This is why addiction is so difficult to treat. Even if you clear the drug from the body, there are long-lasting changes in brain architecture.”

Overdose rates because of prescription drugs are at its worst ever, far worse than overdoses from any other drug have been except for alcohol. Numbers of overdoses involving all drugs numbered at 64,000 in 2016, with the sharpest increase of course coming from the prescription drug fentanyl analogs with 20,000 deaths from that drug alone.

The statistics of deaths from benzodiazepines are also at highest ever rates and have been on a steady increase since 2012. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, from 2002-2015, benzodiazepine deaths that also involved opioids increased by more than two-fold in that same time period. Furthermore, deaths from benzo drugs reached a highest ever of just under nine thousand deaths in 2015, up from seven thousand deaths just five years prior to 2010.

While most doctors will agree that benzodiazepine drugs have their use and their value when used on a short-term basis, most doctors will also agree that when used for a longer period of time, benzodiazepine drugs begin to pose greater and greater risks for addiction. Furthermore, for those who take these drugs without a prescription of any kind, they are risking addiction with the very first incidence of taking them.

One article defines the risk and the real chances of getting hooked on benzodiazepine drugs, and how quickly casual, recreational abuse can become a full-on addiction:

  • “Despite their many helpful uses, benzodiazepines can lead to physical and psychological dependence. Dependence can result in withdrawal symptoms and even seizures when they are stopped abruptly. Dependence and withdrawals occur in only a very small percentage of people taking normal doses for short periods. The symptoms of withdrawal can be difficult to distinguish from anxiety. Symptoms usually develop at 3-4 days from last use, although they can appear earlier with shorter-acting varieties.”

Benzodiazepine Treatment

When people find themselves addicted to benzodiazepines, their best course of action is to utilize the help of an addiction treatment center. More specifically, they need to check themselves into an inpatient rehab program. Only such programs have the tools that benzodiazepine addicts need to effectively address both the chemical side of the addiction and the psychological side of the addiction.

Any doctor who is treating a benzodiazepine-addicted patient will tell him or her that they should not attempt to kick the habit on their own. That is dangerous and poses health risks of its own. Trying to quit this drug cold turkey can have dire results, and people who are hooked on it need to engage themselves in full residential treatment instead. Residential treatment centers can offer:

  • Full detoxification services. Extensive benzodiazepine use and abuse will have created a significant physical dependence on a person. Whether it uses medical or holistic means, benzodiazepine addicts will need the professional assistance of a full inpatient detoxification unit to help them wean down off of this highly addictive drug. In such an environment, recovering individuals will experience around the clock monitoring and assistance to help them with their withdrawal symptoms.
  • Extensive rehabilitation care. The chemical dependence to benzodiazepines is only the first half of such an addiction. There are also the psychological and spiritual implications of this substance that need to be addressed. If one receives detoxification services and then checks out of treatment without addressing the mental and personal aspects of the addiction, they will likely relapse. Extensive rehabilitation care provides counseling, therapy, one-on-one services, coping strategies, relapse prevention, electives, life skills, and other such necessary recovery techniques.
  • Aftercare assistance. Life after rehab is not so easy, as transitioning back out into the real world for a newly recovered benzodiazepine addict can be quite stressful, stress being something that benzodiazepine addicts do not do well with. Aftercare provides ongoing support and help though and this is able to get them through those first very tricky months after rehab is complete.

New Beginnings is able to offer excellent benzodiazepines addiction recovery services to their clients, such that can address all of these addiction problems, no matter how tough they might be. For more information on how New Beginnings can help you or someone you love, call today at 855-338-6592.

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