Benzodiazepines are a group of drugs that, on the one hand, possess characteristics that give them legitimate therapeutic purposes but on the other are highly addictive when used inappropriately. Perhaps you are visiting our website today because you or someone you care about is using benzodiazepines outside of the supervision of a medical professional. If so, be aware that once tolerance sets in, addiction to benzodiazepines is very likely.
The good side of benzodiazepines is that they can be used to treat legitimate conditions including insomnia, anxiety, and stress-related disorders. The most common benzodiazepines on the market are Valium (diazepam), Xanax (alprazolam), Librium (chlordiazepoxide), Ativan (lorazepam), Restoril (temazepam) and Dalmane (flurazepam). Perhaps you have even been prescribed one of them yourself.
The bad side of benzodiazepines is that they are used recreationally to help a person relax or ‘chill out’. Some abusers even use the drugs to counteract the effects of stimulants such as cocaine or ecstasy. Such a practice is extremely dangerous and should be avoided at all costs.
The Basics of Benzodiazepines
Benzodiazepines are officially classified as prescription-only sedatives. As previously mentioned, they have legitimate therapeutic uses for treating a variety of conditions. In low doses, benzodiazepines present the same effects on the brain and central nervous system as alcohol, though to a lesser degree. In large doses, however, they can lead to violence and a condition similar to alcohol drunkenness.
Perhaps the biggest problem with benzodiazepines as a therapeutic treatment is their limited efficacy. In other words, using one of these drugs to treat insomnia or anxiety yields results only for a limited amount of time. They become ineffective the longer they are taken. This characteristic opens the door to tolerance and addiction.
At low doses and for a limited amount of time, benzodiazepines can be effective as a treatment for certain conditions. But if a patient exceeds either dosage or duration, the body can quickly develop tolerance to the drug in question. Once tolerance sets in, a person needs to take more of the drug in order to achieve the same effect. This is what leads to addiction. The stronger the tolerance, the higher the volume taken. Eventually, the person becomes totally dependent on benzodiazepines.
Benzodiazepines also present a unique trap to users: excessive use can trigger additional anxiety. Should this happen, a person initially taking benzodiazepines to combat anxiety will have a tendency to use more in order to combat the additional anxiety the drugs are causing. This creates a vicious circle, which ultimately leads to addiction.
Signs of Benzodiazepine Addiction
As with just about any other drug, benzodiazepines produce certain signs and symptoms that make it possible to identify addiction. Those signs and symptoms manifest themselves physically, psychologically and behaviourally.
In terms of physical and psychological symptoms, excessive benzodiazepine use can result in:
inexplicable fatigue and grogginess
- periods of amnesia; both short- and long-term
- intermittent irritability
- confusion, anxiety and aggression.
One of the most common behavioural signs of benzodiazepine addiction is the need for the addict to have multiple doctors. What is behind this? The addict is using his or her doctors to write benzodiazepine prescriptions. Multiple doctors are necessary because using a single doctor would increase the chances of suspicion that something is wrong. Multiple doctors spread prescriptions over a longer period of time, thus reducing the likelihood of any of them finding out.
Benzodiazepine addicts may also spend an inordinate amount of time ‘shopping’ online. That’s because these drugs are readily available across the internet. An addict who has exhausted his/her supply of doctors may turn to online transactions to get the drugs he/she craves.
Treatment for Benzodiazepine Addiction
It has been our experience that the most difficult part of benzodiazepine treatment is getting the addict to admit that a problem exists. The nature of these drugs dictates that many people addicted to them do not recognise their addiction or the underlying physical cause of it. This applies especially to the addict who started out by taking benzodiazepines for a legitimate therapeutic purpose.
Once a problem has been recognised, the addict must begin the process of withdrawal. Unlike other drugs that can be stopped cold turkey, benzodiazepine withdrawal must occur gradually so as not to subject the body to harmful side effects. That said, withdrawal does still produce uncomfortable symptoms, including:
- anxiety and restlessness
- short-term depression
- palpitations and respiratory difficulty
It is important that benzodiazepine users not attempt to quit by themselves or cold turkey. Withdrawal from benzodiazepines should always be done in a controlled environment under the supervision of a medical professional. In fact, medically supervised withdrawal is the first step toward overcoming benzodiazepine addiction.
Successful withdrawal is followed by rehabilitative therapies that include one-on-one and group counselling. Therapists may also use other kinds of treatments they believe will be appropriate for individual clients. As to where treatment takes place, that depends on the seriousness of the situation.
We tend to recommend private residential treatment for the most serious benzodiazepine addictions. We believe residential treatment is the best option because it affords the opportunity to receive concentrated care in a distraction-free environment that is well-suited to recovery. In cases where residential treatment is either unnecessary or not possible, patients can seek out treatment from their GP.
You Can Get Started Today
Benzodiazepines are drugs that can lead to serious physical and emotional problems or even death. They are not drugs to be taken lightly, even if you begin using them under the supervision of a doctor. If there is any chance you are suffering from a benzodiazepine addiction, you need to do something about it right away.
Addiction Helper is an independent referral organisation offering free assessments, advice, and treatment referrals. We can help you get started on the road to recovery today. Simply by calling our 24-hour helpline, you will have access to trained professionals more than capable of assisting you in your search for effective treatment. With one phone call and a commitment to getting well, you can overcome benzodiazepine addiction.