Benzodiazepines, also called “Benzos,” are most often prescribed to treat severe anxiety but can be used to treat alcohol withdrawal, insomnia, muscle spasms, and some seizure disorders. The number of prescriptions written for benzodiazepines doubled from 2003 to 2015 and continues to rise. Why? Because they work.
The great thing about benzos, and the reason they are prescribed so often, is because they are incredibly effective at calming the brain and nervous system. So that means if you have anxiety or can’t sleep benzos are an effective treatment option.
But benzodiazepines can come with a price: benzo addiction.
In fact, research reveals benzos may be just as addicting as opiates and marijuana, if not more so. This is understandable since benzos increase your dopamine levels, one of your “happy hormones.” So why wouldn’t you want to feel “happy” more often?
Hint: Because relying on this form of false “happiness” is dangerous and can lead to addiction.
Some of the most common benzos linked to benzodiazepine abuse include:
- Xanax ©
- Valium ©
- Ativan ©
- Klonopin ©
- Halcion ©
Symptoms of Benzo Addiction
While not everyone prescribed these drugs will become addicted, it’s crucial to note dependence can occur in only a matter of days. Most benzodiazepines act quickly, within one hour of taking them, and can last for up to six hours. Many times, those addicted to Xanax and other sedatives don’t realize they are becoming addicted. This causes them to build up a tolerance for the drug quickly, leading to reliance and increasing the chances for overdose.
If you think you or someone you know is addicted to Xanax or other benzos, here are some symptoms to look for:
- Sleeping for extended periods
- Cognitive impairment
- Slurred speech
- Impaired coordination
- Muscle weakness
- Withdrawal from formerly enjoyable activities
- Missed school or workdays
- Nausea or vomiting
One of the most disturbing things about these drugs is that when you become dependent on them, they may end up causing side effects that mimic the very thing they were prescribed to treat: anxiety.
Many times, benzodiazepine abuse occurs in conjunction with other drugs such as opioids and alcohol. While benzo addiction alone is dangerous, combining them with other drugs is even more likely to result in fatality.
Dangers of Benzo Addiction
Becoming addicted to Xanax or other benzos can lead to a myriad of consequences. The most significant and perhaps most obvious consequence is overdose and death.
Because dependence on these sedatives is typically gradual and unintended, trying to cut back can be challenging. When you quit taking benzos, the withdrawal symptoms can be challenging to handle. With that said, you should never stop taking benzodiazepines “cold turkey.” Instead, seek the help and guidance of a trusted, high-quality addiction specialist like our team of professionals here at BOLD Health.
Benzo withdrawal symptoms can present themselves through:
Benzodiazepines are not meant for regular, long-term use. There is evidence to support negative impacts on the brain and body after extensive use. Some of these negative effects include:
- Blurred vision
- Body aches
- Cognitive decline: Benzos cause cognitive effects like drowsiness, increased reaction time, ataxia (impaired balance), and anterograde amnesia (the inability to retain new information). And studies show if you take benzos for an extended time, these impairments may become permanent.
- Hip fracture risk: One study found that long-term use of benzos increases the chance of a hip fracture in people over 65 by 50%
- Vehicle crashes: While the risk of vehicle crashes while using benzos remains the same whether using them short or long-term, the more dependence and benzodiazepine abuse, the more likely an accident will occur. The risk of being involved in a motor vehicle crash while using benzos equals having a blood alcohol level between 0.050% and 0.079% (the legal limit for alcohol is 0.08%).
Take a BOLD Step to Recover From Benzodiazepine Abuse
The first and perhaps most important step in overcoming addiction is to realize you or a loved one has become dependent.
The second step is to make sure you don’t lay on the guilt and shame. Anxiety is a complex mental illness involving both the mind and body. Generally speaking, taking benzodiazepines every now and then is not a bad thing. But if you aren’t careful enough, your prescription treatment can become benzodiazepine abuse.
Lastly, you need to take a BOLD step to get you or a loved one to work safely through addiction treatment. Again, don’t stop taking benzos cold turkey if you have become dependent. The best way to beat your addiction is with the help of a qualified, compassionate, and caring mental health professional like ours at BOLD Health.
How to Overcome an Addiction to Xanax and Other Benzos
Addiction Treatment Options at BOLD Health in San Diego
Detoxing your body from benzo addiction can be dangerous. But it’s crucial you take the steps you need to take sooner than later. Here at BOLD Health, we offer two of the best possible outpatient detox programs in San Diego.
Outpatient Detox Program
As one of the only providers of an outpatient detox program in southern California, we’ve helped patients just like you safely work through addiction. In this program, you can come down from your benzodiazepine addiction safely, under the supervision of our expert clinical staff during the day, and still go home at the end of the day.
This program is ideal for you if you have a stable home environment and family responsibilities but still require powerful addiction treatment. At BOLD Health, we treat you as a whole individual – mind, and body. We’ll take into account your medical history and work with you to find a schedule that is comfortable and safe.
Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) for Addiction Treatment
We also offer a highly effective intensive outpatient program (IOP), which is even more intensive than our outpatient detox program. If, after your initial assessment, our clinical team concludes you could benefit from our IOP, we may suggest this option.
Our IOP consists of a customized combination of individual, group, and family therapy (where applicable) and possible medication treatment.
No matter what addiction treatment option you enroll in at BOLD Health, our holistic treatment method treats your mind and body. We understand the value of taking your biological and psychological factors contributing to your mental health and addiction into account when working with you. And we walk with you every step of the way.
Don’t wait to get addiction treatment for yourself or a loved one. It could save a life.