Addiction, or a substance use disorder (SUD), is a serious, chronic condition. It’s a progressive mental health disorder, meaning that if left untreated, it gets worse (never better) with time. Currently, there are over 21.5 million Americans struggling with a substance use disorder (according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health). Of these, per the Surgeon General, Dr. Vivek Murthy, only 10 percent will receive the addiction treatment services they so desperately need in the form of drug rehab or alcohol rehab.
Addiction can take many different forms. It can manifest as an addiction to drugs, alcohol, or other destructive behaviors such as gambling. One such way that addiction manifests itself is in the form of benzodiazepine addiction. Benzodiazepines, or benzos, are a particularly addictive prescription medication that acts by altering the way in which your brain functions and produces important neurotransmitters, or brain chemicals.
Benzodiazepine addiction is a destructive form of addiction that can have various side effects on its users. What’s worse is the difficulty you may face when attempting to get off of benzos. Benzodiazepine withdrawals are among some of the most painful and dangerous of all withdrawal processes and often keep addicts using far beyond wanting to. Read on to learn more about benzodiazepines and how to go about receiving the life-saving benzodiazepine addiction treatment you may need.
Benzodiazepines, or benzos, as stated above, are a category of drugs that have a high addiction potential. They are a type of psychoactive drug that act as minor tranquilizers. Usually prescribed as a form of treatment for anxiety disorders, seizures, or muscular issues, they are prescription medications that all act upon the brain in the same way.
Benzodiazepines impact the natural GABA production of the brain. GABA, or gamma-aminobutyric acid, is an important neurotransmitter that is responsible for several integral processes in the body. GABA helps to send messages between the brain and the rest of the central nervous system.
GABA helps to relieve anxiety and stress within the body, as it relaxes the body whenever it’s released. It accomplishes this by reducing the activity of nerve cells throughout the nervous system. It helps to combat depression, anxiety, and stress. GABA is also helpful in promoting sleep, improving mood, and even easing premenstrual symptoms in women.
Benzodiazepines mimic the effects of GABA at the GABA receptor sites on nerves. In patients who don’t produce enough GABA naturally, or in patients who simply need more, benzos can help them find relief from a variety of ailments. However, there is a dark side to benzodiazepines.
Since benzos impact the way the brain naturally produces GABA, overtime, a physical dependence develops upon benzos. The brain will start altering the way it naturally synthesizes the neurotransmitter, thus becoming dependent on the medication in order to function. Without the intervention of the benzodiazepines, the brain will have a severe lack of GABA, which can have potentially life-threatening results.
Benzodiazepine addiction can start innocuously, even by mistake. If you remain on the medication for an elongated period of time, a dependence will develop whether you take the medication as prescribed or not.
Many people end up abusing benzos, however. The benzos cause a rush of GABA in the brain, which, in turn, results in a calming, euphoric effect. This is the sensation sought by benzo addicts, who will take larger doses of the medication than appropriate in order to achieve these effects.
Benzodiazepines are a highly addictive type of drug that has been overprescribed in recent years. Learn more about how to identify benzodiazepine addiction in yourself or your loved ones, as this type of addiction can present severe and dangerous physical harm to those who abuse benzos.
There are many benzodiazepine addiction symptoms that can be the red flags you need to spot this life-threatening addiction. Since addiction is a unique disorder in the way in which is manifests in different people, you or someone you love may not display all of the signs. However, the following list includes the most commonly seen benzodiazepine addiction symptoms and should be taken seriously if some of them are presented:
Benzodiazepine addiction symptoms may manifest in either a physical or psychological manner. Since benzodiazepine addiction can befall anyone, even those who are taking the medication in the correct dose every time, it’s important to be mindful of any stark changes in behavior or function.
Benzodiazepine addiction is a serious condition that can result in many different physical, emotional, and financial difficulties. Identifying the disorder is the first step in getting back to normal. Receiving medical intervention is crucial when it comes to benzodiazepine addiction, since the withdrawals from the medications are some of the worst out of any other substance. Read more about what goes into benzodiazepine addiction treatment and why you or your loved one should get help now.
If you or a loved one suspect that you may have a benzodiazepine addiction, it’s important to seek help immediately. Upon receiving an official diagnosis of a substance use disorder, it’s important to begin seeking benzodiazepine addiction treatment. What goes into benzodiazepine addiction treatment is a multi-step approach that requires completing the full continuum of care in order to be successful in recovery.
The full continuum of care refers to completing several different levels of care which acts as a step-down program. You start with higher levels of care that contain more medical and clinical intervention and slowly descend to lower levels of care which has a more hands-off approach. This method provides more support during the precarious beginning stages of benzodiazepine addiction recovery and slowly lets you have more personal responsibility and freedom when you can handle it without relapse.
The first step in benzodiazepine addiction treatment is detox, especially since benzos have such a notoriously difficult withdrawal process. Detox provides high intensity clinical and medical intervention with the ultimate goal of providing you with medical stabilization from your benzodiazepine addiction.
Upon your arrival to medical detox, you’ll initially be seen by the medical team, which is comprised of doctors, nurses, and other medical support staff. You’ll receive a medical assessment which takes a look at your overall physical health as well as the severity of your benzodiazepine addiction.
After your medical assessment, you’ll be provided with an individualized detox plan that addresses your personal needs. Your detox plan will be implemented by the medical staff and will provide you with different detox medications and treatment methods intended to address any of the potential detox side effects you may encounter.
As you progress through detox, you’ll also be under 24-7 medical supervision. This means that your vitals and physical condition will be constantly checked and monitored in order to make sure that you’re making progress and not at risk for any of the life-threatening withdrawal symptoms.
Since not all benzodiazepine withdrawal symptoms are physical, having access to the clinical support team is important too. This is composed of therapists, case managers, and other support staff members. You’ll be given different individual and group therapy sessions where you can begin to work on the underlying issues surrounding your addiction.
Once you’ve successfully completed detox and are medically cleared to continue in your benzodiazepine addiction treatment, the next step in the full continuum of care is inpatient or residential treatment. You’ll be moved to a facility that you’ll live at for the remainder of your time at this stage of treatment.
Here, you’ll be given more intense clinical intervention since less attention needs to be put on the medical aspect. You’ll still have access to a medical team which will continue to monitor your condition and provide any medication management you may need, but the primary focus of this stage is the therapeutic aspect of treatment.
You’ll receive various different addiction therapy techniques and have any potential dual diagnosis treatment addresses. By undergoing group and individual therapy, you’ll get to the core reasons behind your substance use disorder and be given different relapse prevention techniques to keep you on track in recovery.
Inpatient treatment does the heavy lifting in the benzodiazepine addiction treatment process. You’ll learn different life skills and coping mechanisms designed to help you in your life in recovery even long after treatment ends. The separation from the community at large during this stage also provides protection from outside temptations and distractions such as work, family obligations, and stress. This allows your full attention to be on therapy and your benzodiazepine addiction treatment plan.
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The next stage in the full continuum of care will be intensive outpatient, or IOP. This level of care differs from inpatient since you go from a full-time curriculum of therapy to only part-time. You also no longer live at the facility, which means you’ll need to find alternative housing. This may come in the form of a sober living home (halfway house) or simply returning home.
Regardless of the living arrangements you may have, you’ll still need to attend therapy sessions throughout the week at the IOP facility. Here, you’ll have several IOP sessions per week, which are usually multiple hours long. You’ll still receive fairly intensive clinical intervention with group and individual therapy to help you acclimate to live outside of rehab.
Since you have more personal freedom and responsibility to your recovery at this stage in addiction treatment, you’ll be given weekly random drug tests. This will help ensure that you’re staying on track in your recovery and are abstaining from drugs and alcohol on your free time.
IOP typically lasts several weeks, making these programs fairly short and sweet. However, they are very effective in helping act as a buffer between your early recovery and the potential relapse risks that exist in the community at large.
The final step in the full continuum of care is routine outpatient programs. These programs, also known simply as OP, are different from IOP. They require fewer less hours to be spent per week in therapy, sometimes as little as only one hour per week.
You’ll still need to provide yourself with alternative housing and commute to and from OP on your own. Clinical intervention is less at this stage, using less intense and frequent therapy sessions.
At this point in your benzodiazepine addiction treatment, you should be fairly self-sufficient, being able to handle the majority of the responsibility of your recovery.
OP is intended to ease the final transition in addiction recovery. It still provides some clinical intervention to help you whenever you find you may be struggling in recovery, as well as keeping you accountable to your sobriety by means of drug testing.
OP programs last for a longer period of time than IOP. OP will usually run for several months, giving you the support you need as you emerge from rehab as a sober individual. OP is just as important as any other step in the full continuum of care, because it is during the first few months of your recovery that the risk of relapse is its highest.
So, just how dangerous are benzodiazepines? Well, benzos present a unique risk to those who struggle with an addiction to them due to the ease at which you may suffer an overdose. Many people who take benzodiazepines also take other drugs and alcohol with them, also known as polydrug use.
Benzos often have negative interactions with other substances, which means when you drink or take other drugs while under their effects you can have serious physical consequences. Many people will unintentionally overdose by consuming alcohol while on benzodiazepines.
Benzos also have a very uncomfortable and dangerous withdrawal process. Despite being anticonvulsants by nature, the withdrawals from benzodiazepines can actually cause you to experience seizures as the brain attempts to regulate itself without the presence of benzos in your system.
Benzo withdrawal also has a number of serious psychological symptoms. Many people also experience hallucinations or even psychosis as a result of stopping their benzo consumption. Because of the serious nature of these withdrawal effects as well as the ease at which people become addicted to benzodiazepine, they should be taken very seriously and treated immediately.
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Hafner, J. (2016, November 17). Surgeon general: 1 in 7 in USA will face substance addiction. from https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation-now/2016/11/17/surgeon-general-1-7-us-face-substance-addiction/93993474/
Benzodiazepine. (2018, April 09). from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Benzodiazepine
National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2017, September 15). Overdose Death Rates. from https://www.drugabuse.gov/related-topics/trends-statistics/overdose-death-rates
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