When people try to stop using benzodiazepines, one-third of them will have health issues, such as seizures, if they have been taking the drug for more than six weeks. Medical detox is required for the treatment of benzodiazepine dependence (Ativan, Ambien, Klonopin, Xanax, Valium).

Individuals who are recovering from a brain injury typically go through inpatient or outpatient programs that provide cognitive therapy and counseling sessions. Many inpatient programs offer similar amenities and pleasant environments, allowing patients to recuperate in a cozy, soothing setting.

What are benzodiazepines and how do they work in the body?

Benzodiazepines are a type of anti-anxiety medication that has been in use for more than 50 years. There have been worries about the connection between these medications and addiction.

Despite the addiction risk posed by these medications, that information has yet to spread into public consciousness.

 In reality, benzodiazepines are frequently used to treat a medical problem. These medications are also taken by thousands of people for recreational purposes, and they may be unaware of how these medicines function and why they might end up in addiction.

How do they work?

Benzodiazepines, also known as “benzos,” are a type of drug that enhances the effect of the neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain. In some aspects, this is similar to how alcohol works on gamma-aminobutyric acid receptors. It is mainly used to treat anxiety, insomnia, seizures, muscle spasms, and alcohol withdrawal.

The most common benzodiazepines are alprazolam (Xanax), clonazepam (Klonopin), lorazepam (Ativan) diazepam (Valium), chlordiazepoxide (Librium), clorazepate (Tranxene), and estazolam (ProSom).

Benzodiazepines are commonly prescribed to people who have had issues with substance abuse; the method of using benzos for this purpose is known as replacement therapy. 

This type of treatment is used for alcohol, opiate, or benzodiazepine addiction. It simply means that the patient is substituting their abused substance with a benzodiazepine.

Addiction to benzodiazepines, whether this is in replacement therapy or not, can cause serious illness or death if left untreated.

How to Identify Benzodiazepine Addiction

Benzodiazepine addictions can go unnoticed by the user or their loved ones for months, even years. Even if the drugs are used carefully within a physician’s recommended “safe window,” addiction to benzodiazepines can develop.

When a medical prescription has run out or a user begins seeking more powerful effects, strange habits, or indications of benzodiazepine addiction might appear.

He or she may require expert assistance if a friend or loved one begins exhibiting any of these actions:

  • Taking another person’s pills without their consent.
  • “Doctor shopping,” or visiting multiple doctors to obtain several prescriptions, is another practice that may be used by scammers.
  • Forging prescriptions
  • Taking or obtaining a friend or loved one’s prescription without their knowledge.
  • Purchasing benzodiazepines illicitly, such as from a street vendor.
  • Taking more benzodiazepines or for a longer time than intended.
  • Spending a significant amount of time obtaining, utilizing, and recovering from benzos.
  • If you find yourself feeling anxious or irritable, it’s possible that you have become dependent.
  • The person is taking a higher dosage of the benzo in order to get the same result.
  • At home, at work, or in school, they are performing poorly.

Tolerance to benzo drugs develops quickly, requiring more of the substance to have the same effects as before.

Benzo usage might lead to substance abuse if a person becomes dependent on them. The individual may start shirking people and activities he or she used to like in order to obtain and use Benzos. These are some of the hallmark symptoms of addiction, as identified by clinicians.

Benzodiazepine addiction, withdrawal symptoms, and detoxification.

Benzodiazepine addiction is a real problem. The symptoms of benzo addiction are very similar to that of alcohol or opiate dependency, including the symptoms of withdrawal when use is stopped suddenly.

In America, it is believed that 4% of the population has an addiction to benzodiazepine. In the UK, studies reveal that benzos are used regularly by approximately 0.5% of adults, and about 1 in 50 individuals between 16-64 years old regularly took benzos from 1996-2005.

Benzodiazepines can cause tolerance if used long term or high doses, meaning that more of the drug is needed to achieve the same effects.

Withdrawal Signs and Symptoms

Withdrawal symptoms can begin soon after total cessation of usage. Benzodiazepine withdrawal can be dangerous, causing delirium tremens, which are hallucinations accompanied by confusion and shaking.

Withdrawal symptoms involve seizures, psychosis, and other major issues. Because of this, it is always recommended that a person withdraws from benzos under the care of a medical professional.

Benzodiazepine withdrawal symptoms may begin six hours after the last dose and typically peak within 48 to 72 hours. Symptoms may last for up to two weeks.

Benzodiazepine detox

Detox typically takes between one and six months, depending on the person’s age, how long they have been taking benzos, their medical history, and other health issues.

During this time of treatment, a patient will receive counseling and cognitive therapy sessions. Many people find it helpful to be around others who are going through the same process, and there may also be a need for medications to reduce anxiety or other withdrawal symptoms.

If you or someone you know is having withdrawals from benzodiazepines, please seek medical assistance right away.

There are two types of detox: inpatient and outpatient. Inpatient means you stay at the facility, while outpatient means you live at home and commute to the facility for appointments.

Benzodiazepine addiction treatment clinics may offer outpatient detox, such as 12-step programs (e.g., Narcotics Anonymous, Alcoholics Anonymous), SMART Recovery, medication-assisted therapy (MAT), individual counseling, and/or group counseling with other recovering addicts.

Inpatient or residential treatment programs offer around-the-clock care and monitoring. These types of drug rehab centers may provide medical detox, which usually requires the use of medications such as buprenorphine (Subutex), methadone, or naltrexone (Trexan).

These medications help manage cravings and withdrawal symptoms so that addicts can focus on the psychological aspects of treatment.

Other medications may be used for specific circumstances, including other benzodiazepines or antidepressants.

Treatment options for benzodiazepine addiction including behavioral therapies and medications.

Individual therapy involves one-on-one sessions with a therapist to address the issues that led to drug abuse.

Group therapy involves sessions with other addicts, which allows participants to share experiences and stories as well as provide support for each other.

The initial approach is often cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), which helps change a person’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviors related to drug abuse.

Benzodiazepine addiction treatment may involve supportive therapies like Eliminativization, where the therapist helps patients gradually reduce their reliance on drugs by targeting specific issues that make them turn to benzos. They address negative thoughts about themselves and replace them with positive ones.

Addicts learn how to recognize situations that trigger drug cravings and how to cope with these triggers.

Medications for benzodiazepine addiction include anticonvulsants, which reduce the risk of seizures, antidepressants, methadone (Dolophine), naltrexone (ReVia) or buprenorphine/naloxne, and adrenergic blockers.

In some cases, a medication such as buprenorphine (Subutex) may be used to meet the criteria for maintenance, and then slowly weaned off the drug after a period of months or years.

Some people who aren’t dependent on benzodiazepines still use them recreationally; however, because their effects are similar to those of alcohol, they can easily lead to addiction.

What are the risk factors for developing a benzodiazepine addiction?

People with mental health conditions like depression, anxiety, PTSD, bipolar disorder (manic depression), and schizophrenia are more likely to become addicted to benzodiazepines.

Those who have had alcohol or drug abuse issues in the past may also be at risk.

Benzodiazepines like Xanax can build up in older adults’ bodies if they have been using them for a long time.

Benzodiazepines are also commonly given to patients following surgery or other medical procedures. This can lead to dependency and addiction when the drugs are not properly managed.

What are the long-term effects of a benzodiazepine addiction on physical health?

Those who use benzodiazepines for extended periods of time might be at risk for physical symptoms such as muscle weakness, low blood pressure, and compromised immune function.

In addition, those who become dependent on the drugs might experience symptoms of withdrawal when they stop taking them. Those symptoms can include seizures or life-threatening health problems.

The physical effects of a benzodiazepine addiction can vary depending on the specific drug used.

Withdrawal symptoms from benzos can range from depression, panic attacks, hallucinations, and seizures. These symptoms may last for weeks or months following discontinued use of the drugs.

Benzodiazepines can also increase the risk of accidents, injuries, and falls due to side effects such as sleepiness, slurred speech, and impaired coordination.

Mental Health Effects of Benzodiazepines

Benzodiazepine abuse and addiction has also been associated with an increased risk of psychiatric disorders such as depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideation.

Those who use benzodiazepines on a long-term basis may become dependent and require more and more of the drug to achieve the same effects or to avoid experiencing withdrawal.

The longer people continue using benzodiazepines, the higher their risk of dependence.

Some research suggests that the use of these types of drugs may increase the risk for Alzheimer’s disease or dementia in older adults who have used them for long periods of time.

Benzodiazepine addiction is typically treated with behavioral therapies and medication, which can be administered by a doctor or another health care provider.

Some people who are addicted to benzodiazepines may need long-term treatment, possibly for several months or years, in order to overcome the addiction.

Psychological therapies that have been shown to be effective at treating benzodiazepine addictions include cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and contingency management (CM).

Cognitive behavioral therapy focuses on changing the thoughts that lead to drug use or cravings and teaching skills that can help people avoid relapsing. CBT has been shown to lower the risk of relapse in patients trying to overcome an addiction.

Contingency management, which gives tangible rewards for positive behavior, has also been found to help people stop using benzodiazepines.

How to get help with a benzodiazpine abuse problem or dependence issue?

There are a number of different rehab centers including private detoxification facilities.  Alcohol Rehabilitation Centers are available for all those who are suffering from alcoholism, drug addiction, benzodiazepine addiction, and any other substance abuse problems.

The first step would be to contact your general physician or primary care provider who can prescribe a short-term course of treatment that is enough to overcome the acute withdrawals and ideally get you hospitalized during this process.

An intervention may be necessary in some cases when an individual is addicted to benzodiazepines and refuses treatment. An intervention is a gathering of friends and family who come together with a therapist or counselor in order to confront the person struggling with addiction about their problem.

During the intervention, the individuals who care about that individual might share their concerns and experiences with benzodiazepine abuse.

It is ideal to bring medical treatment when you are under substance withdrawal. It will help you to feel better much faster than if you go without medication.

What to expect while receiving treatment for benzodiazepines addiction?

As with any treatment, the specific type of care required will vary based on a person’s age and the severity of their problem.

Some people who abuse benzodiazepines may need to stay in a detoxification or rehab facility for several days or weeks until withdrawal symptoms subside. 

During this time, they will be monitored by medical professionals who are trained to deal with substance abuse, mental health disorders, and withdrawal symptoms.

This is the period during which medications may be administered in order to help patients get through withdrawal safely.

Those who have become addicted to benzodiazepines also need long-term treatment that focuses on modifying their behavior. This type of therapy will also help to address any other mental health disorders that may be contributing to the addiction and will teach patients how to successfully avoid relapse.

Some people require more than a year of treatment before they can stop using these drugs without experiencing physical withdrawal symptoms.

Conclusion

Benzodiazepine addiction can be difficult to overcome because it is often accompanied by other mental health disorders like depression or bipolar disorder. If you think you may need help getting over your addiction to these medications contact our team.

We’re available 24/7 for all those in need of interventionist or detoxification services. If you’re ready to seek help now, please don’t hesitate to contact us.