Drug dependence is a real problem in our world today. Individuals all over the place are suffering from substance use and abuse. This problem has affected families in every single community. There are many different kinds of drugs and substances out there. In many situations, people abuse illicit drugs like cocaine and heroin. Not only is the use of these drugs illegal, but it is also extremely dangerous. On the other hand, people can also experience dangerous situations while using legal drugs. Many medications have actually proven to be habit-forming. One such category of medications is benzodiazepines. Also known as benzos, benzodiazepine medications include drugs like Xanax and Valium. They are fairly common in the medical world.
These prescription drugs are used to treat conditions like anxiety, insomnia, panic attacks, and other disorders that can disrupt people’s lives and mental health. Anxiety disorders are common among the population. In fact, the National Institute of Mental Health reports that 18 percent of all adults in the US suffer from some form of an anxiety disorder. Benzodiazepine medications are used to treat these issues in a lot of patients. And many individuals have found these drugs to be very helpful in treating various issues in their bodies.
However, despite the fact that benzos have helped to treat problems with anxiety and other such things, they are definitely capable of being harmful. These prescription drugs can be extremely dangerous if a person uses them long-term. And they can be very harmful to those who abuse or misuse these drugs. Sometimes, people become physically and mentally dependent on benzos, causing many problems in their everyday lives. So, it is very important for those who are using benzodiazepine medication to be aware of the dangers that could come as a result of using these drugs.
About Anxiety and How It Affects Those Who Suffer From It
As we mentioned earlier, a lot of individuals suffer from anxiety on a regular basis. Dealing with this issue can be very overwhelming. Anxiety disorders can be very distressing and can even prevent people from functioning normally if they are left untreated. Types of anxiety disorders include generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), panic disorder, social phobia/anxiety disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD.) These different conditions vary in their symptoms. But, some common signs of having some form of anxiety disorder include:
- Restlessness or irritability
- Mood swings
- Panic attacks
- Trouble sleeping (insomnia)
- Sweating profusely
- Twitching or nervous tics
- Fear and worry that can be debilitating
- Poor concentration
- Racing thoughts
- Muscle tension
- The compulsive need to do rituals to alleviate irrational fears
Certainly, living with any of these symptoms on a regular basis can be miserable and can interfere with someone’s ability to live a normal life.
How a Benzo Medication Can Be Used to Treat Anxiety
Many times, it can be difficult for people to understand just how certain drugs work. But, for those who are using medications to treat various issues in their bodies, it is very important to have information about the positive and negative effects of these substances. First, let’s talk a little bit about why people use these substances to help treat anxiety. Many people have found that using a benzo medication can help to prevent the effects of this particular disorder.
Remember, there are several different types of anxiety disorder. Benzodiazepine medications are used to treat these disorders because they work to produce a neurotransmitter that causes relaxation and sedation. They work quickly to stop the effects of anxiety in a person’s body. Benzos have tranquilizing effects. Many times, when a person is suffering from anxiety, his or her brain and body will go into a state of overactivity. As a result of this activity in the brain, the person will begin to feel overwhelmed. Thus, anxiety can affect people mentally, emotionally, and physically. However, benzos can cause calming effects in the brain, tranquilizing the overactivity. Once this happens, the individual can feel much less anxious.
So, the use of benzo medications can help the individual to feel more emotionally at ease. In response, this counteracts the symptoms of anxiety, providing relief and even ending panic attacks. So, what’s the danger?
Are Benzos Addictive? The Side Effects of Benzodiazepine Medications
Even though benzodiazepine medications can be effective in treating anxiety disorders, they can be extremely dangerous. In fact, it’s generally agreed upon that these drugs should only be prescribed for short periods of time to treat acute anxiety attacks and symptoms. So, for many years, they were widely prescribed for long periods of time to treat even the mildest symptoms. However, research has shown that these drugs can actually increase anxiety over time. Furthermore, they can also cause a host of side effects, become addictive, and even cause fatal withdrawal symptoms for some users. These are some of the side effects of benzodiazepine medications:
- Fatigue, drowsiness, or sleeping too much
- Blurred vision
- Agitation, depression, or uncharacteristic mood swings
- Low blood pressure
- Changes in breathing patterns or heart rate
- Potentially fatal overdose
- Increases in anxiety over a long period of time
- Poor memory or concentration
- Tolerance, physical and psychological dependence, and addiction
Most noteworthy, the most serious consequence of taking benzodiazepine medications besides the risk of overdose is the risk of developing an addiction to these drugs. Many people wonder, “Are benzos addictive?” After all, these medications are meant to be helpful and are not designed to create a dependence or addiction problem. Those who use these medications rarely do so with the knowledge that they could develop a benzo addiction. But, the truth of the matter is that, because of the positive effects of these substances, people who are dealing with anxiety, insomnia, and other such problems often turn to these medications. They seek the calming effects of these substances because of the discomfort they’re experiencing at the moment. This desire to experience the results of benzo use, often cause people to use the substance outside of the recommended use. In other words, people may begin to use the medication more often or in higher doses than their doctors have instructed.
So, is it possible to become dependent on benzos? In a word, yes. And, without the proper help of a professional treatment facility, individuals can become addicted to these substances.
Dealing with Benzodiazepine Addiction
Benzodiazepine addiction is one of the most dangerous drug habits a person can have. That’s because, other than alcohol, benzodiazepines are the only drug that can cause fatal withdrawal symptoms. So, without proper medical care and a supervised detox, people withdrawing from benzodiazepines can have seizures- some of which are deadly. Likewise, other withdrawal symptoms from this class of drugs include:
- Sleep problems and insomnia
- Anxiety, irritability, and depression
- Panic attacks
- Muscle pain and headaches
- Restlessness, inability to sit still
- Blurry vision
- Chest pain
- Tremors and shakes
- Suicidal feelings
- Diarrhea and gastrointestinal problems
- High blood pressure
- Fluctuations in body temperature
- Poor memory and concentration
- Seizures and convulsions (which can be fatal)
- Loss of appetite
- Excessive sweating
- Tingling, numbness
- Trouble speaking
Because benzodiazepine withdrawal is so dangerous, it is never recommended that patients reduce their dose, stop taking their medications or attempt to detox themselves from these drugs. Additionally, without supervision and medical care, detoxing from benzodiazepines can kill.
Benzodiazepine Detox at Diablo Valley
A detox from benzodiazepine medications should be done carefully. For instance, in a medical detox facility, nurses and doctors assess patients and determine the best course of action. This may involve slowly weaning a patient off of the drugs or prescribing anticonvulsants to prevent or control seizures, such as drugs like phenobarbital. Also, the psychological effects of withdrawal must be addressed. For someone who has been taking benzodiazepine medications for a long time, the mental dependence on them can become severe.
Finally, without therapeutic support and help with managing anxiety (through behavioral therapy or non-habit-forming drugs), a patient may return to using benzodiazepines after detox is complete. So, it is absolutely essential to treat not just the addiction to the medication, but underlying causes that contribute to the use of these drugs, like anxiety disorders. At Diablo Valley Drug and Alcohol Services, we offer safe detox for benzodiazepines as well as therapeutic support to help patients treat their anxiety in a safe manner. In addition, for help with a benzodiazepine dependence, call today at 925-289-1430.
**Originally posted on December 28, 2018. Updated on March 28, 2019.