Benzodiazepine Abuse, Addiction, and Treatment in Orange County, California
Benzodiazepines, also known as “benzos,” are a class of drugs that are prescribed for mental health disorders like anxiety and panic attacks as well as a wide range of ailments such as epileptic seizures and alcohol withdrawal symptoms. Benzodiazepines are similar to sedatives and tranquilizers because they slow down activity in the central nervous system (CNS). Some of the most popular benzodiazepine medications include Xanax, Valium, and Klonopin.
Nearly 30.6 million adults use benzodiazepines annually. While the majority of benzodiazepine use is pharmaceutical, up to 17.2% of benzodiazepine use is considered misuse or abuse. Abusing benzodiazepines, whether you have a prescription for them or not, can be extremely dangerous and habit-forming. Physical dependence on benzos can form in as little as two weeks, meaning addiction can develop rapidly.
If you or a loved one are struggling with benzodiazepine abuse and addiction, help is available. Contact Sheer Recovery today to learn about our medical detox and treatment options.
Most Popular Benzodiazepine Drugs
Alprazolam (Xanax) is the most widely prescribed, popular, and well-known benzodiazepine medication. It is also one of the most frequently abused prescription drugs in America.
Other widely abused benzodiazepines include:
- Diazepam (Valium)
- Clonazepam (Klonopin)
- Lorazepam (Ativan)
- Chlordiazepoxide (Librium)
- Triazolam (Halcion)
- Temazepam (Restoril)
Most benzodiazepines come in tablet (pill) form but some brands, such as Valium, can be administered intravenously in a medical setting.
Understanding Benzodiazepine Abuse and Addiction
Most benzodiazepines are Schedule IV Controlled Substances indicating a low potential for abuse or addiction, however, research has shown that benzodiazepine drugs are some of the most widely abused pharmaceutical medications in the United States. In fact, some benzodiazepines like Xanax are so addictive that doctors are hesitant to prescribe them for time periods longer than two weeks.
Benzodiazepines work by promoting the binding and reuptake of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), an inhibitory neurotransmitter in the body that helps regulate the central nervous system. When you take a benzodiazepine medication, it slows down the CNS and produces calming, sedative-like effects that reduce anxiety and panic symptoms. While this mechanism of action is extremely effective at treating an array of health conditions, it also makes benzodiazepines a targeted drug of abuse by drug users and other high-risk individuals.
Studies have found that between 2.3-18% of Americans have abused benzodiazepines in their lifetime and nearly 10% of these individuals met the criteria for drug dependence or addiction. Since 2010, public health officials have seen an increase in emergency department visits involving benzodiazepine toxicity.
Short-Term Side Effects of Benzodiazepine Abuse
In low or normal doses, benzodiazepines effectively relieve anxiety, panic, and insomnia. These medications are also generally well-tolerated with minimal side effects. However, high doses can lead to moderate to severe side effects, such as:
- Blurry vision
- Muscle weakness
- Poor coordination
- Slurred speech
- Difficulty concentrating
- Memory loss (amnesia)
People who are under the influence of benzodiazepines may seem very tired, forgetful, or careless. In high doses, benzodiazepine intoxication can look a lot like alcohol intoxication.
Symptoms of Benzodiazepine Overdose
Extremely high doses of benzodiazepine drugs can result in a life-threatening overdose. Combining benzos with alcohol or opioids can substantially increase this risk. Symptoms of benzodiazepine overdose include:
- Extreme confusion
- Rapid, unpredictable mood changes
- Lack of motor control
- Irritability and agitation
- Extreme drowsiness
- Difficulty breathing
Long-Term Risks of Benzodiazepine Abuse and Addiction
Over time, benzodiazepines build up in the body and alter the brain’s neurochemistry. This leads to the development of tolerance (needing to take higher doses to achieve the same effects), physical dependency, and mental addiction to the drug. People with underlying mental health conditions, a family history of addiction, or polydrug use may be at an increased risk for benzo addiction.
Once addicted to benzodiazepines, people may engage in compulsive, habitual drug use at the sacrifice of their own well-being. This can affect a person’s social life, career, family, and personal development.
Long-term benzodiazepine abuse not only increases the risk of addiction but can also lead to symptoms that mimic many of the medical uses for benzodiazepines. For example, chronic benzo abuse can cause anxiety, insomnia, and body tremors–all of which the drug is medically meant to treat. That’s why it is always important to only take benzos as prescribed.
Other long-term dangers associated with benzodiazepine abuse include anorexia, headaches, memory problems, vision loss, and uncontrollable tremors. The best way to avoid these long-term consequences is to seek help from a professional detox and addiction treatment center.
Benzodiazepine Withdrawal and Detox
Stopping benzodiazepines cold turkey is extremely dangerous and ill-advised because sudden benzo withdrawal can be life-threatening. In fact, benzos are some of the most dangerous drugs to detox from. Without medical treatment, withdrawal can result in troublesome symptoms such as:
- Panic attacks
- Difficulty concentrating
- Sleep disturbances
- Heart palpitations
- Stiff muscles
- Hand tremors
- Changes in perception
- Suicidal ideation
The best way to stop taking benzodiazepines is to slowly taper off them under medical guidance. People who take their medication as prescribed may be able to work with their doctor to taper off, while those struggling with a substance use disorder are more suited for a medical detox and treatment facility.
Medical detox centers offer 24-hour support and supervision, effectively reducing the risks associated with benzodiazepine withdrawal. Doctors often switch patients to long-acting benzodiazepines and gradually reduce the dose they receive each day. The tapering method can reduce the intensity of withdrawal symptoms and prevent complications like seizures or psychosis.
Staff may also monitor vital signs, facilitate therapy sessions, and provide emotional support.
Treatment for Benzodiazepine Addiction
If you or someone you love are struggling with benzodiazepine addiction, detox is only the beginning. Detoxification clears your body of the substance and helps you get past the symptoms of withdrawal, but it doesn’t address the root cause of your addiction.
At Sheer Recovery, we offer comprehensive treatment for benzodiazepine addiction. Treatment options include:
- Residential inpatient treatment
- Partial hospitalization program (PHP)
- Intensive outpatient program (IOP)
Treatment begins with a comprehensive medical and physical evaluation so we can determine your treatment needs, identify any chemical imbalances or co-occurring disorders you struggle with, and develop a custom-tailored treatment plan designed uniquely for you. Then, using a combination of evidence-based and holistic therapies, we can help you establish healthy habits and a sober lifestyle.
Find Help for Benzodiazepine Abuse and Addiction Today
Sheer Recovery sets itself apart from other California recovery centers by offering a safe, private, and comfortable residential environment. Our executive-level residences are lavish with semi-private and private rooms, stunning ocean views, and a host of therapeutic amenities that make you feel safe and secure during treatment. Our therapists gently guide you through group and individual therapy sessions, preparing you to return to your daily routine clean and sober. We even provide assistance during aftercare so you can achieve long-term recovery.
If you or a loved one are struggling with benzodiazepine abuse and addiction, please call us today. Our dedicated admissions team is available 24 hours a day to answer any questions you may have and help you start your recovery journey.