Sleep is one of the most important aspects of living a healthy life. Restful sleep allows your body and mind to heal throughout the night, preparing you for the day ahead. It can help stave off disease and protect against injuries, but it also promotes good mental health.
Unfortunately, sleep disorders are among the most common ailments that affect adults in the United States. Anxiety is also exceedingly common, and it also contributes to sleep problems.
In fact, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that as much as a third of Americans don’t get the recommended amount of sleep, which is around seven to eight hours every night. Anxiety is also the most common mental illness, with roughly 40 million adults in the country struggling with some form of anxiety every year.
To combat the struggle to get to sleep, doctors and scientists have formulated dozens of medicinal sleep aids throughout the late 19th century to today. First, barbiturates were developed and sold in the U.S. as a powerful hypnotic drug, until their adverse effects and risk of addiction made them less popular.
In the 1960s, benzodiazepines became more popular, and they are still used heavily today. However, they share some of the same side effects that made barbiturates go out of style.
Estazolam is one popular benzodiazepine (benzo) that is used to treat anxiety, seizures, and sleep disorders. But it also carries a risk of addiction and chemical dependency. Could the benefits outweigh the risk? Learn more about Estazolam addiction and how it can be treated.
Estazolam is a prescription drug in the benzodiazepine class used for its anxiolytic, anticonvulsant, and hypnotic effects. In some cases, it can also be used as a muscle relaxant. Estazolam, like all benzos, is in a broader category of central nervous system (CNS) depressants along with alcohol, barbiturates, and other prescription sleep aids. CNS depressants work by suppressing the excitability of the nervous system and causing you to relax cognitively and physically.
Depressants also cause a number of adverse effects like tolerance, dependence, addiction, and depression. For that reason, estazolam is generally used as a short-term therapeutic remedy for insomnia or anxiety.
Doctors typically discourage patients from using benzos for much longer than four weeks at a time. If you become tolerant or dependent on a benzo, it can make insomnia or anxiety symptoms worse, because your body comes to rely on the drug.
Estazolam has a medium onset of action and medium duration of action, which makes it useful as a sleep aid. While fast-active benzos are more likely to be used as a recreational drug, estazolam is sometimes used for its intoxicating effects. If you use high doses of estazolam or frequent doses, it can cause intoxicating effects that are similar to alcohol.
Common effects include dizziness, relaxation, physical euphoria, loss of coordination, poor motor function, loss of balance, impaired decision making, and sleepiness. Heavy estazolam use also increases your risk of becoming addicted, getting into an accident, or causing a potentially fatal overdose.
The path to estazolam addiction starts when you start taking larger amounts of the drug to experience the effect a previous dose yielded. This is called tolerance. Tolerance morphs into dependence when you take estazolam to the point where once it leaves the body, you experience disturbances or withdrawal symptoms.
Basically, you become estazolam-dependent because you feel normal only when the drug is present in your body.
According to ScienceDirect, the following are possible withdrawal symptoms you can experience with estazolam and virtually any other benzodiazepine medication:
Less common symptoms that can present with benzos include:
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If you’ve been using estazolam, and you’re worried that you might be developing an addiction, there are some signs and symptoms to keep in mind. While it’s possible to become addicted to benzodiazepines after normal use, especially if you are an older adult, it’s more likely to occur if you abuse the drug recreationally.
Drug abuse can sometimes be kept hidden for a short time, but addiction is difficult to keep contained. If you are worried about a friend or family member, here are some signs and symptoms to consider:
If you have been using benzos, and you think you might be developing a substance use disorder, there are a few signs that can point to an emerging addiction. The first sign is typically tolerance, which is when your brain and body start to get used to estazolam. You may notice that your normal dose isn’t as effective as it used to be or that you need more of the drug to achieve the same effects.
As tolerance grows, you may start to become dependent on the drug, and you may start to feel uncomfortable symptoms if you stop or cut back. Dependence is a problem that affects chemical communication pathways in your brain. Your nervous system becomes reliant on estazolam and stops producing some of its own natural chemicals. When you stop using, the consequential imbalance causes unpleasant and even dangerous symptoms.
After a period of dependence, you may start to become addicted. Addiction is characterized by the continued use of a drug despite clear consequences. For instance, if benzo intoxication causes you to get into a car accident, but you still can’t stop using, you may be addicted.
Estazolam addiction is a serious disease that can have lasting consequences. However, addiction is treatable with evidence-based therapies and experienced medical and clinical professionals. Because estazolam can potentially cause dangerous withdrawal symptoms, treatment should begin with medical detoxification.
Detoxification is usually done at the highest level of care in addiction treatment, otherwise known as medically managed intensive inpatient services. At this level, patients are given 24 hours of medical care every day, and you will be treated with medications to manage symptoms and avoid complications.
After detox, clinicians will help you find the next step in your recovery journey. Addiction often requires long-term care and personalized treatment. You may be placed in an inpatient program if you have ongoing medical or psychological concerns, or an intensive outpatient or outpatient program.
In addiction treatment, you will be able to sit down with a therapist and get to the root of your addiction problem while addressing any underlying disorders. Behavioral therapies are often utilized to help prevent relapse and help you learn healthy coping mechanisms.
Estazolam may be a prescription drug that’s commonly prescribed, but that doesn’t mean that it’s harmless.
It can cause addiction, overdose, and deadly withdrawal symptoms. When abused, benzodiazepines can cause intoxication, just like alcohol. You may feel drowsy, lose motor skills, or experience impair judgment. Because of this, abuse can lead to accidents and falls that cause death or injury.
In some cases, users mix benzodiazepines with alcohol, opioids, or other substances that suppress your nervous system for a greater high. However, mixing drugs can compound their effects and lead to a deadly overdose. During a benzo overdose, your breathing can slow down to the point of oxygen deprivation, leading to coma, brain damage, or death.
Unlike other drugs, CNS depressants have the added risk of being dangerous during withdrawal. As the chemicals that excite your nervous system are suppressed as you become dependent on estazolam, they may start to build up.
If you stop suddenly, your nervous system will go into overdrive, causing anxiety, panic, tremors, and insomnia. In some cases, it can cause seizures and delirium tremens, which can be deadly without medical intervention.
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CDC. (2018, February 22). Sleep and Sleep Disorders. from https://www.cdc.gov/sleep/index.html
National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018, August 09). Overdose Death Rates. from https://www.drugabuse.gov/related-topics/trends-statistics/overdose-death-rates
Olfson, M., King, M., & Schoenbaum, M. (2015, February). Benzodiazepine use in the United States. from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25517224
Thomas, R. E. (1998, April). Benzodiazepine use and motor vehicle accidents. Systematic review of reported association. from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2277821/
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