Benzodiazepine Addiction

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What are Benzodiazepines?

Benzodiazepines are prescription medications used to treat conditions such as anxiety, insomnia, panic and trauma. Some well-known and frequently prescribed benzodiazepines include Xanax, Valium, Klonopin and Librium. With anxiety and panic disorders regularly topping the list of America’s most prevalent mental health disorders, benzodiazepines are likewise among the most commonly prescribed medications. Unfortunately, they are also among the most commonly misused prescription drugs; according to the 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, nearly two million people aged 12 and over had misused prescription-strength tranquilizing drugs including benzodiazepines in the past year.

Often referred to as “benzos,” these medications have sedative, hypnotic, anti-anxiety, anticonvulsant and muscle relaxant properties. They produce a sleepy, relaxing and euphoric high that is powerfully addictive: the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration reported nearly 800,000 benzodiazepine-related substance use disorders diagnosed in 2017. While compared to other substance use disorders this number may not seem high, it is essential to note that it comprises nearly half of the number of people who reported misusing benzodiazepines. This is a strong indicator of the real addictive power of these drugs and emphasizes the importance of recognizing benzodiazepine abuse and getting treatment right away.

Avalon Malibu provides effective, high-quality treatment for benzodiazepine addiction, other substance use disorders and co-occurring mental health disorders in the Los Angeles area. Our beautiful substance abuse treatment center, The Cottage House, is home to our nationally accredited treatment program for drug and alcohol addiction. Avalon provides on-site detox, a full-time residential program and intensive outpatient programming for adult men and women seeking an unparalleled, comfortable and rejuvenating recovery experience. Please contact us today if you or someone you care about is ready to begin healing from benzodiazepine addiction.

How do Benzodiazepines Work?

Benzodiazepines enhance the effects of chemical communicators in the brain called neurotransmitters. In particular, benzodiazepines boost a neurotransmitter called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), which is known for suppressing activity in brain cells that cause anxiety and stress. Benzodiazepines, therefore, make effective medications for stress, panic and anxiety disorders; short-term or sporadic use of these drugs is generally recognized as beneficial for patients who are diagnosed with these concerns.

However, long-term use, overuse or misuse of these drugs is problematic due to the potential for tolerance and addiction. Repeated use of benzodiazepines leads to the brain requiring larger amounts of the drug to achieve the same effect, which in turn leads to chemical imbalances in the brain that cause cravings and addiction. In some cases, even individuals who begin taking benzodiazepines as prescribed can become addicted when they feel as though their prescribed dose is no longer effective, and they start taking more.

Since benzodiazepines are a common medication for anxiety and panic disorders, many individuals who enter treatment for benzodiazepines also have a co-occurring mental health disorder. They may have initially used the medications to treat anxiety or panic disorder, or they may have an underlying disorder without a diagnosis but began using unprescribed benzodiazepines to self-medicate. In cases like benzodiazepine addiction, it is essential to seek treatment at a center like Avalon Malibu in the Los Angeles area that is equipped to treat both substance abuse and mental health concerns.

Drug-Induced Psychosis and Benzodiazepines

Along with co-occurring disorders, there is another mental health risk associated with misusing these drugs: a phenomenon known as drug-induced psychosis, in which abusing a mind-altering substance causes problematic mental health symptoms that last beyond physical sobriety. Benzodiazepines come with a high risk of this concern because they directly influence brain pathways that control anxiety, stress and fear. Using benzodiazepines frequently will drain these pathways of their natural ability to remain balanced and stable, resulting in symptoms similar to an anxiety or paranoia disorder even if the individual did not have these concerns before becoming addicted.

At Avalon Malibu, we treat addiction effectively while providing lasting solutions for related mental health symptoms like drug-induced psychosis or co-occurring disorders. Without addressing all sides of the problem, the individual will be at a higher risk for relapse and will struggle to find long-lasting sobriety.

How are Benzodiazepines Used?

Benzodiazepines come in pill form. They may be referred to as “benzos,” “xannies” (Xanax), or “bars.” Physicians do not recommend benzodiazepines for long-term use because their potential for misuse and addiction is widely known in the medical community. Individuals who abuse benzodiazepines often maintain their drug supply by obtaining several short-term prescriptions from different doctors. They may also forge prescriptions or buy “secondhand” pharmaceutical products on the internet or through dealers.

Some of the legitimate uses for benzodiazepines include:

Insomnia: There are significant prescriptions for insomnia, but only for short-term, severe insomnia. Benzodiazepines for insomnia are to be used as needed rather than daily or on a regular schedule.

Anxiety disorder: Benzodiazepines are frequently recommended by physicians for short-term use in patients who have been diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD).

Seizures: Benzodiazepines are also prescribed as a powerful anticonvulsant for individuals suffering from epileptic seizures. They are proven effective in preventing lingering spasms.

Panic disorders: Because benzodiazepines have fast-acting anti-anxiety effects, many physicians prescribe these drugs to relieve panic attacks in individuals with panic disorders.

Drug and alcohol withdrawal: Benzodiazepines are widely prescribed for short-term use for those who are withdrawing from alcohol. The drug helps in the detoxification process and reduces the risks associated with severe alcohol withdrawal. 

Abuse of benzodiazepines is highest among young adults between the ages of 18 and 35. Heroin and cocaine abusers are also statistically more likely to use these drugs, as a large number of people entering treatment for narcotic or cocaine addiction also report abusing benzodiazepines.

Are Benzodiazepines Dangerous?

It is a common misconception that drugs prescribed by a doctor are not dangerous. Despite their medical uses, benzodiazepines can be harmful when misused. Taking large doses or frequent doses over time leads to tolerance and physical dependency, which cause long-term chemical imbalances in the brain and can lead to physical health concerns of the heart and circulatory system as well as respiratory problems and more. Additionally, when used recreationally alongside alcohol or other depressants, benzodiazepines can be life-threatening.

Symptoms of Benzodiazepine Abuse:

  • Drug-seeking behavior
  • Emerging or increased symptoms of anxiety
  • Neglecting responsibilities like work or school
  • Withdrawing from friends, loved ones or hobbies
  • Drowsiness
  • Memory loss
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Slow reaction time
  • Poor coordination
  • Slurred speech
  • Irritability
  • Drug cravings
  • Mood swings
  • Unpredictable behaviors
  • Risky behaviors
  • Continuing drug use despite consequences
  • Legal or financial trouble

What is Treatment for Benzodiazepine Addiction Like?

Benzodiazepines are powerful drugs. An individual who is addicted to or abusing benzodiazepines will likely need a professional detox service to help them get physically sober, and then will require professional addiction treatment to heal psychologically and spiritually.

Detox is a three to seven day period during which the individual is kept safe and comfortable through medical attention or medication as their body processes the last traces of substances out of its system. Individuals should not attempt to detox on their own, as the symptoms associated with this phase of recovery can be painful and dangerous.

Residential treatment is most often recommended after detox, as these programs offer the most intensive and safest option for men and women who are learning to live a sober lifestyle. Individuals live on-site as they receive treatment on a full-time basis — they will be exposed to diverse therapies that aim to guide them to a keener understanding of the disease of addiction and the best ways to manage their symptoms in day-to-day life.

At Avalon Malibu, we provide both detox and residential treatment in modern, comfortable and private accommodations. Our expert staff ensures that each client receives the therapies and medical interventions that are best for their needs. We are also equipped to provide specialty care for clients who have a co-occurring mental health disorder such as anxiety, depression or trauma. In addition, we offer intensive outpatient treatment for clients who are transitioning out of residential treatment, or for clients who may not need full-time care following detox.

If you believe that you or your loved one may be developing a benzodiazepine use disorder, it is imperative that you reach out to a medical professional to discuss the problematic drug use. This is the best way to have the affected individual evaluated for signs of addiction and to get them into appropriate treatment as soon as possible. The Avalon Malibu team is always here to answer your call and help you get started — our compassionate, discreet and highly trained admissions staff is available by calling 888-958-7511. 

Find Relief from Benzodiazepine Addiction at The Cottage House

The Cottage House at Avalon Malibu is licensed under the California Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs (ADP) to treat substance use disorders including addiction to benzodiazepines, and to treat other co-occurring behavioral health issues. The program is also licensed for inpatient detox to treat adults in what is considered to be a non-medically supervised, sub-acute detoxification program.

Our licensed, expertly trained and highly experienced psychotherapists, staff and physicians fully comprehend the complexity of drug addiction and specialize in providing effective, holistic care for men and women with substance use and behavioral health disorders. At Avalon Malibu, our goal is for every client that comes to us with an addiction to gain greater insight into the meaning of their life. The men and women in our programs turn the pain of the past into a stepping stone toward a future built on choice, free from compulsion.

When drug behaviors like benzodiazepine abuse become a defining factor in a person’s life, it’s time for them to seek help. Their addiction may be the result of deeper issues that need to be uncovered and confronted. Families and friends are negatively impacted, as are other aspects of life like the individual’s career, long-term health and personal fulfillment. The Cottage House at Avalon Malibu offers our clients freedom from the grip of addiction and shows individuals a better way forward. Our luxurious residential treatment facility provides a relaxing and supportive environment where people can experience new roads and ways to embrace a fulfilling sober life. Reach out to us today at 888-958-7511 to find out how we can help you or your loved one break the chains of substance abuse and rediscover their health and happiness.

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