Nobody starts taking benzodiazepines, also called benzos, to become addicted. You take them because they were prescribed to treat a specific health concern.
Benzodiazepines are most often prescribed to treat:
- panic attacks
- alcohol withdrawal
- generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)
- some seizure disorders
You take them because they do what they’re supposed to do. The problem is, they may do their job a little too well.
“But how can a prescription sedative work ‘too well’?”
Benzos flood your brain with dopamine, which makes you feel good. And everyone wants to feel good. So taking them can easily lead to benzodiazepine abuse and benzo addiction. In essence, benzos are great, but they’re also dangerous.
If you or someone you love has been prescribed a benzodiazepine, it’s crucial you are aware of the symptoms and dangers of benzo addiction.
3 Things You Should Know About Benzodiazepines
According to a U.S. National Center for Health Statistics report, approximately 66 million doctors’ appointments result in the patient leaving with a benzo prescription. In other words, for every 100 adults who go see their doctor, 27 of them receive a prescription for benzodiazepine.
That’s a lot of people on an effective yet highly addictive sedative.
What’s worse is most of them probably don’t even understand how dangerous the drug can be. Most likely, they figure they’ll just take it for the medical condition prescribed and go about their lives feeling a little happier.
Before we get into some surprising facts about benzodiazepine abuse and addiction, first, let’s identify the most common benzos prescribed.
Perhaps there is one in this list you have even used, and you didn’t even realize it was in the benzodiazepine family.
- Lorazepam (Ativan)
- Clonazepam (Klonopin)
- Alprazolam (Xanax)
- Triazolam (Halcion)
- Diazepam (Valium)
Although these drugs are highly effective and prescribed often, they can lead to addiction and other health issues. And when combined with other drugs, including alcohol, using benzos can even be fatal.
Here are three things you should know about benzodiazepine.
1. You’d be surprised how easy it is to fall into benzo addiction
You’re probably already aware of how addicting opioids and cannabinoids are. Well, guess what? Researchers believe benzodiazepines are just as addictive.
It’s easy to understand why benzos are addictive. They give you a strong wave of pleasure that can become irresistible. This is especially if you deal with anxiety or other mental health concerns that leave you in a state of unrest. With benzos, that unrest dulls and is most often replaced with contentment or calm.
The danger of benzodiazepine abuse and addiction happens when you take the drug for a long time. As benzos accumulate in your body, they alter your brain’s structure and function. These alterations make you more susceptible to other neurotransmitter surges.
The rush of dopamine and the increase of other excitable neurotransmitters are enough to force anyone into benzo addiction. Rather than relying on the prescription to help you feel better from time to time, you end up craving the constant “high” of feeling happy, calm, and content.
That means your journey from benzo abuse to benzodiazepine addiction is short.
And that leads us to our next fact about benzos you need to be made aware of.
2. Quitting benzos can be incredibly difficult
Of course, overcoming addiction to anything is challenging. Beating benzo addiction is no exception. And, even if you’re not abusing the medication (you’re taking it exactly as prescribed, which is the difference between benzo dependence and benzo addiction), stopping it can be difficult.
You can’t simply stop taking benzos after taking them for more than a few days, whether you’re taking them as directed or taking more because of an addiction. Quitting abruptly can lead to severe psychological and physical withdrawal symptoms. And if you have moderate to high amounts of benzodiazepines in your system and attempt to quit cold turkey, you may even experience seizures and psychosis during withdrawal.
Some of the unpleasant withdrawal symptoms you could experience when quitting benzos include:
- changes in sleeping patterns
- muscle pain
- heart palpitations
- panic attacks
- trouble concentrating
But even if you took benzos exactly as they were prescribed, you could still experience challenging withdrawal symptoms. This often leads to you throwing in the towel on the idea of ever overcoming benzo addiction again.
Quitting benzodiazepines is difficult and dangerous, especially if your body and brain have become dependent. It’s crucial you seek professional treatment for benzo addiction. (How BOLD can help with Benzo tapers to get you off safely.)
3. Benzodiazepine use can impair your brain
Perhaps one of the most surprising and disturbing facts about these drugs is how benzodiazepine abuse (or dependence) can lead to cognitive impairment. Individuals who have used benzos for months or years easily forget things they once knew, have trouble recalling things, and can even forget how to perform tasks they could once do.
Another disturbing fact about long-term benzodiazepine abuse is that it doesn’t discriminate based on age. In other words, it doesn’t matter if you’re older or younger. When you abuse benzos, your cognitive impairment is inevitable.
And if we want to example this fact even further, how about the fact that, based on research, the more benzos you take, the higher your risk for developing Alzheimer’s Disease.
The Good News: Treatment for Benzo Addiction is Out There
Becoming dependent on or addicted to benzos wasn’t your intention. But it happened. And, you’re not alone. According to a 2019 study, 5.3 million American adults misuse benzos. And we’re willing to bet that none of them want to get to the point of benzodiazepine dependence or addiction.
Because it’s not what you planned, you may feel ashamed, guilty, and embarrassed. And this might make you not want to seek treatment for benzo addiction.
But you can’t quit benzos on your own. It’s dangerous, and the chances for relapse are greater without the support and guidance of a mental health professional.
Your first step to quitting is getting help. Here at BOLD Health in San Diego, we have some of the best treatment options for overcoming benzo addiction for good. Our team of professionals has experience helping individuals just like you. We understand. It’s hard. But it’s 100% possible with our help.
We offer two treatments for benzo addiction at BOLD Health:
- Outpatient Detox Program: There aren’t many providers in Southern California that offer this type of essential program. Our clinical team will supervise you during the day to ensure you come down from your benzo dependence or addiction safely.
And at the end of the day, you get to go home to your life and your family. This program is ideal if you have a stable home environment and support. With our help, we’ll help your support system at home know what to expect and how to help you through withdrawal when you leave our office.
- Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) for Benzo Addiction: Our IOP is an excellent treatment for benzo addiction. This intensive program includes one-on-one, group, and possible family therapy sessions on a rigorous, required schedule.
During your 10-week IOP treatment for benzo addiction, you’ll safely detox, share your struggles and successes with others going through the same thing, and learn the tools and strategies essential to beating addiction.
At BOLD Health, we take a unique approach to treating addiction. We don’t simply treat your symptoms of addiction. We treat you. Our holistic method means we take all of your past experiences and biological and psychological factors into account when developing your treatment plan.
With us, you’ll not only overcome benzo addiction, you’ll leave treatment having a better understanding of who you are. And that leads to a more fulfilling and rewarding life.