Benzodiazepine Addiction And Abuse
Benzodiazepines, more commonly referred to as “Benzos,” are a type of pharmaceutical drug used to act on the central nervous system, providing feelings of sedation and stress relief. These types of drugs are prescribed to help ease the symptoms of both mental health and medical disorders such as anxiety, panic disorder, and alcohol withdrawal. Although they can be helpful for a variety of health issues, Benzos can also be highly addictive and lead to dangerous health concerns.
Benzodiazepines are tranquilizing medications that typically produce effects within an hour after taking the drug. They can be classified as fast-acting, intermediate-acting and slow-acting and are commonly used to treat symptoms of anxiety and panic attacks. These drugs work by affecting the neurotransmitter in the brain called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). GABA works to slow the central nervous system, producing calming, anxiety-reducing, and sedating effects.
Because Benzos have a high risk of becoming abused and addictive, they are classified as a Schedule IV drug, meaning they are highly regulated under the Controlled Substance Act. Doctors typically only prescribed these drugs for short-term use to avoid possible addiction, however, Benzos are still some of the most commonly prescribed medications in the nation.
Common Benzodiazepines include:
Benzos are often referred to by their street names such as Bars, Downers, Candy, Tranks, and several others. These types of drugs are commonly mixed with other substances, typically alcohol, to enhance the euphoric or sedative feeling, however, this is incredibly dangerous and can result in life-threatening effects.
Benzodiazepine Abuse and Addiction
When Benzos bind with the GABA receptors in the brain, the central nervous system slows down, relieving any mental stress. These sedative effects are desirable for many people, causing drug abuse. Abusing Benzodiazepines is highly dangerous and often leads to a destructive addiction.
Signs and symptoms of Benzodiazepine abuse include:
- Blurred vision
- Slurred speech
- Muscle weakness
- Constant drowsiness
- Using the drug without a prescription
- Doctor shopping to obtain more of the prescription
- Mood swings
- Inability to cut back or quit the drug use
- Engaging in risky behaviors after drug abuse
- Mixing Benzos with other drugs or alcohol
- Using other routes of administration for drug use (snorting, smoking, etc.)
When taken for a long duration of time, or after continuous abuse, Benzodiazepines can change the brain’s neurochemistry, resulting in both a mental and physical dependence. Drug dependence means the body has adapted to function with the substance in the body and may require more of the drug to reach the desired effects, also known as tolerance.
Benzodiazepine addiction is a chronic mental health disorder and requires professional help to treat. However, because these drugs are prescribed by doctors, many people are unaware of their dependency or addiction. It should be noted that addiction to Benzos can form even while under the doctor’s watch. To avoid this, speak with your doctor immediately if you suspect any signs of drug dependency, abuse, or addiction. You should never attempt to quit “cold-turkey” after a long history with Benzo use as the withdrawal effects can be dangerous, uncomfortable, and sometimes fatal.
Withdrawal Symptoms from Benzodiazepines
Though the withdrawal symptoms from Benzodiazepines may vary depending on several factors (type of drug used, duration of drug use, etc), without medical supervision, these symptoms can be painful and cause health complications, such as seizures or death. These symptoms may start within 24 hours after the last drug use and may last from a few days to several months.
Symptoms of Benzodiazepines withdrawal include:
- Increased anxiety
- Difficulty sleeping
- Panic attacks
- Heart palpitation
- Excessive sweating
- Drug cravings
- Trouble concentration
- Hand tremors
In cases of severe Benzodiazepine abuse or addiction, severe symptoms may occur, in which case, medical attention is needed to ensure the safety of the withdrawing individual. These symptoms include hallucinations, psychosis, seizures, suicidal thoughts, and suicidal attempts.