“Benzos” are benzodiazepines. Street names for benzodiazepine drugs are “benzos” and “downers.” Benzodiazepines are a type of sedative (nervous system depressant) medication.
That’s right, it’s a prescription medication you can become dependent on and need addiction treatment for. Drug addicts often abuse these drugs to get “high.”
Benzos can cause addiction similar to opioids such as:
Table of Contents
- 1 How Do They Work?
- 2 Can You Get Addicted To Benzodiazepines?
- 3 Benzos and Polydrug Abuse
- 4 Benzo Addiction Symptoms
- 5 Benzodiazepine Overdose
- 6 Common Benzodiazepines
- 7 Withdrawal From Benzodiazepines
- 8 Benzodiazepine Withdrawal Timeline
- 9 Treatment for Benzo Addiction
- 10 Step 1: Medical Detox
- 11 Step 2: Treatment Program
- 12 Step 3: Psychotherapy
- 13 Getting Benzo Treatment In Florida
- 14 References:
How Do They Work?
Being a sedative means it slows down the functions of the body and the brain. Typically, benzos are used to help with anxiety, seizures, panic attacks, and insomnia. Using benzos short-term is usually safe but long-term use can lead to tolerance, physiological dependence, benzodiazepine rehab, benzodiazepine use disorder, substance use disorder, and/or other negative effects.
There is a natural chemical messenger in your brain (neurotransmitter) called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in your body. GABA reduces the activity in the areas of the brain responsible for:
- Emotions and essential functions such as breathing
When a person feels anxious, the brain is overstimulated. When you take benzodiazepines, the brain sends messages to counteract the overstimulation. This reduces the symptoms of anxiety.
Therefore reducing anxiety disorders. Benzodiazepines increase the effects of GABA on your brain and body which means they can:
- Make you feel relaxed and sleepy (sedation),
- Reduce your feeling of anxiety, and
- Relax your muscles
Can You Get Addicted To Benzodiazepines?
Yes, benzos are habit-forming. You can become addicted to them even if you take them as prescribed by your doctor or health care professional. If you have a history of drug or alcohol abuse, you are more likely to develop an addiction and need addiction treatment.
Also, if you use them over a long period you may develop a tolerance. This means that you will need higher doses to treat your condition or disease because you have become tolerant of the weaker formula of the drug.
Although some people might have a genetic disposition to become addicted to drugs, there is no doubt that factors in the environment also play a major part. The more common environmental influences are:
- Low social and economic status
- Peer pressure
Benzos and Polydrug Abuse
When Benzos are used in combination with other opioids, it can create serious detrimental effects upon mental health, sobriety, and physical health. In addition to increasing the risk of a possible overdose, polydrug abuse might even worsen psychological, medical, and criminal matters that are commonly seen among individuals who engage in drug use. It is highly recommended that treatment centers warn individuals who are concerned about the risks of drug combinations and therefore encourage treatment for drug abuse altogether.
When benzodiazepines are abused regularly in conjunction with alcohol and/or drugs, it can thoroughly influence the withdrawal timeline and severity. According to the Treatment Episode Data Set, (TEDS), the report published in 2011 stated that about 95% of the individuals that were admitted to a treatment center for benzo dependency or abuse also abused alcohol or another drug simultaneously. The abuse of other illicit substances might also increase the number and type of withdrawal symptoms that might occur.
Attempting to stop a benzo addiction “cold turkey” without the proper medical assistance isn’t recommended. Instead, the medical detox will be required for all benzodiazepine addiction. Generally, the medical detox process will involve the individual tapering off the drugs with the proper professional support and care. In addition to ensuring that the patients remain safe throughout the entire detox process, the medical personnel can also assist in alleviating any uncomfortable symptoms that can arise from withdrawal.
In a few cases, the medical detox will involve the substitution of a longer-acting benzodiazepine for a shorter-acting benzodiazepine during the taper process. Furthermore, to ensure the withdrawal process is smoother and the symptoms of withdrawal are reduced. Other medications might also be prescribed during the medical detox to treat more specific symptoms as well.
Benzo Addiction Symptoms
When used as prescribed, benzodiazepines relieve anxiety disorders and insomnia. Occasionally, people taking benzos may feel drowsy or dizzy. This side effect can be more noticeable at higher doses. And higher doses can cause more serious side effects.
Signs and symptoms of addiction include:
- Problems sleeping
- Uncontrollable leg movements
More serious effects include:
- Memory problems
- Changes in behavior (such as increased risk-taking)
- Delirium (mainly in older people)
- Possible increased risk of dementia (not scientifically proven yet)
Signs of Chronic Misuse
The signs of continuous misuse can be very general and include changes in appearance and behavior that affect relationships and performance at work and home. Signs in children include sudden changes in mood or decline in school performance. Chronic misuse can cause symptoms that imitate many of the conditions that caused them to be used in the first place including:
- Anxiety disorders
An overdose of benzos can lead to:
- Extreme sedation
- Shallow breathing
- Slurred speech
- Rapid and weak pulse
- Blurred vision
- Clammy skin
- Dilated pupils
An overdose can be fatal if the person:
- Uses benzos with alcohol or opioids
- Is older and takes too much
- Is taking other drugs and the effects build up in their body
- Alprazolam (Xanax)
- Diazepam (Valium)
- Clonazepam (Klonopin)
- Lorazepam (Ativan)
All benzodiazepines are habit-forming and can result in physical dependence. And physical dependence can lead to a tough withdrawal if the individual chooses to stop using the drug. Of course, symptoms of withdrawal vary from person to person but there are some common symptoms. Generally, medical experts don’t recommend using benzodiazepines for more than 2 weeks. If you use them for 3-4 weeks and then stop suddenly, you are likely to experience the symptoms of withdrawal.
Withdrawal From Benzodiazepines
Withdrawal happens when a person suddenly stops taking benzos (not recommended by doctors). The symptoms of withdrawal vary in severity and typically begin within 24 hours and may last from a few days to a few months. Research showed that 4-% of people who take benzodiazepines for longer than 6 months experienced moderate to severe symptoms of withdrawal.
There is a wide range of symptoms that can occur when you stop using benzos.
- Panic attacks and anxiety
- Restlessness and agitation
- Problems with sleeping
- Shortness of breath
- Gastrointestinal issues
- Feelings of unreality
- Headaches and muscle pain
Benzodiazepine Withdrawal Timeline
Because there is no definite guide to the symptoms, timeline, or severity of withdrawal, each person may experience withdrawal differently. It depends on factors such as:
- Duration of taking benzos that are commonly prescribed and widely prescribed
- Misuse of prescription
- Using benzos without a prescription
- An underlying mental health condition
- Using other drugs at the same time
- Misusing other drugs or alcohol
There are three potential phases for benzodiazepine withdrawal and each one has an estimated timeline. A person withdrawing from benzos should always have the guidance and supervision of a medical professional at treatment programs here at Miracles Recovery. Never quit suddenly without consulting a professional and developing a professional treatment plan with them.
Phase 1: Early or Immediate Withdrawal
Early symptoms of withdrawal are sometimes called rebound symptoms and occur shortly after you stop taking benzodiazepines. Withdrawal symptoms from short-acting drugs, like Xanax, might start sooner than long-acting drugs like Valium.
However, during the early stages of withdrawal, the person might notice the symptoms of the condition that the drug was being used to treat start to return or rebound. For instance, symptoms of insomnia or anxiety might come back or get worse after stopping the medication. Tapering off of the drug or using another drug to ease the withdrawal symptoms may make early withdrawal symptoms more manageable during benzodiazepine addiction treatment.
Phase 2: Acute Withdrawal
After the initial withdrawal symptoms, acute withdrawal begins. This is generally within a few days. Symptoms typically last 5-28 days, although some may last for several months.
Most of the withdrawal symptoms will occur in this stage. Individuals who have gone through acute withdrawal often say that this stage is the most difficult. During this stage, doctors may need to monitor the person and recommend other drugs to control the most problematic symptoms during their benzo addiction treatment.
Phase 3: Protracted Withdrawal or Post Acute Withdrawal Symptoms (PAWS)
Even though many of the symptoms diminish after the acute phase, there may still be some lingering side effects. Research published in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology reported that an estimated 10-25% of people who used benzodiazepines for extended periods may have withdrawal symptoms that last for 12 months or longer.
Protracted withdrawals might cause their own set of symptoms including:
- Difficulty concentrating
- Loss of sex drive
- Mood swings
These symptoms can be disturbing and might affect a person’s quality of life. They may appear without any warning and can cause a significant deal of distress. Supportive counseling and other therapies or medication at benzos rehab can help manage the symptoms and improve their quality of life.
Self-Treatment for Benzodiazepine Addiction
People who abuse drugs frequently deny they have a problem. They play down the intensity of their drug use or blame it on job or family stress. However, the most important thing that can be done at home is recognizing that there’s a problem and encouraging your loved one into seeking addiction treatment for prescription drugs and drug abuse.
It is very difficult to recover from benzodiazepine addiction because they change the chemistry of your brain. Trying to quit cold turkey is not likely to be successful and can be dangerous because of the symptoms of withdrawal. Therefore, it’ll require medical treatment.
Treatment for Benzo Addiction
The treatment of chronic abuse of benzodiazepines can be done with medical supervision, preferably at a hospital or drug rehab center. Typically, the treatment process will require inpatient rehabilitation, dual diagnosis treatment of co-occurring disorders, family therapy sessions, counseling sessions, and intensive outpatient programs all geared at rehab centers to treat anxiety and addiction. The overall main objective is to enhance and encourage sober life and a healthier lifestyle with the help of your entire family, supportive environment, and our compassionate and understanding health professionals.
There aren’t any medications approved for the treatment of benzodiazepine-use disorders. There are only a few medication treatment options available. Treatment might include antidepressants for depression and sleep problems as well as mood stabilizers. But for patients who have co-occurring disorders (called dual diagnosis treatment), an integrated therapy program addressing both issues is necessary.
Step 1: Medical Detox
In a benzo detox center with medical supervision, the first step consists of a gradual reduction of benzodiazepines to prevent withdrawal and seizures. This is usually much easier than the prolonged recovery phase during which the person tries to stay drug-free as a part of their active participation.
Step 2: Treatment Program
The purpose of detox is to prepare you for a benzo abuse or drug abuse treatment program. Depending on the severity of your addiction and your practical needs, you will enter one of these common treatment programs:
Inpatient Rehabilitation Treatment
In an inpatient rehabilitation program, you will live at the treatment facility in a secure structured, and supportive environment with 24-hour supervision, 7 days a week. This is the highest level of care for an individual to receive treatment.
Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP)
A PHP is similar to a residential program in that you will spend fully supervised days at the treatment facility. The difference is that it is 5 days a week and you will go home at night. You receive the same access to therapies and activities as a residential program.
In an outpatient program, you spend less time at the facility and in counseling sessions. There are two types of outpatient programs: Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) and a regular Outpatient Program (OP). The difference between the two is the amount of time spent at the facility and in benzodiazepine addiction treatment.
Step 3: Psychotherapy
After completing detox, when the individual is stabilized and the physical withdrawal symptoms have subsided, they are ready for the psychological phase of treatment. There are several evidence-based therapies available for substance use. Some of the most common and most effective are:
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
CBT is the most widely used therapy for benzodiazepine dependence. Both research and clinical practice with a clinical professional has shown evidence that it produces change, unlike many other forms of psychological treatment during a patient’s recovery process.
CBT treatment typically involves training to change thinking patterns. Strategies involve learning:
- To recognize your distortions in thinking that are causing problems and reevaluate them in the light of reality.
- Problem-solving skills to cope with difficult situations.
- To develop a better sense of self-confidence in your abilities.
It also involves efforts to change behavior patterns. Strategies include:
- Facing your fears instead of avoiding them.
- Using role-play to prepare for possibly uncertain interactions with others.
- Learning to calm your mind and relax your body.
The therapist and patient will work together to develop a personalized treatment plan and an understanding of the problems and create a treatment strategy. Therapists emphasize what is going on in the person’s life now, rather than what has led up to their substance abuse and mental problems.
Individual counseling, sometimes called talk therapy, psychotherapy, or treatment is a process where patients work one-on-one with a trained mental health clinician in a safe and confidential environment. This type of counseling allows people to:
- Investigate their feelings, beliefs, and behaviors
- They can work through challenging or powerful memories
- Identify parts of their lives they want to change
- Understand themselves better
- Set personal goals
- Work toward the change they want
Individual therapy is very helpful if the individual has depression, bipolar disorder, or any other significant mental health diagnosis that requires treatment at the same time as the substance use disorder (dual diagnosis treatment).
Group therapy is a form of psychotherapy that involves one or more therapists who lead therapy sessions of typically 5-15 people. Some people attend only individual therapy and some only use group therapy. Although any counseling for drug addiction is better than none, group therapy is generally preferred over individual therapy. During a group therapy session, you’re more likely to be challenged and supported by people who are also going through drug treatment.
Some of the principles of group therapy are:
- Instilling hope: Group members will feel hopeful when current or former members progress toward their goals.
- Universality: Group therapy brings together people who have similar experiences.
- Imparting information: Group members and therapists can help each other by sharing information and advice.
- Altruism: Members can support, reassure, and help each other.
- Development of socializing methods: Group members can give and get feedback that can help them handle social interactions outside the group.
- Imitative behavior: Members of the group may imitate the behaviors they see in the more experienced members or the therapists.
- Emotional release: Sharing feelings, experiences, and pain with a group can help release anger and pent-up emotions.
- Existential factors: Group sessions provide time and a place for exploring uncomfortable existential factors such as loss and death. Members also develop a stronger feeling of self-reliance by understanding that they are in control of their actions, behaviors, and choices.
Getting Benzo Treatment In Florida
That little pill that eases anxiety and insomnia is not as innocent as you might have thought at first. A lot of people take them. Unfortunately, a lot of people misuse and get addicted to them.
You or someone you care about can get help for an addiction to benzodiazepines in a treatment center in South Florida. Miracles Recovery Center is experienced in substance abuse treatment and counseling. Our staff is compassionate and caring and waiting for you. Contact us today.