Prescription medications can be greatly beneficial to the millions of people in the United States who have treatable diseases and disorders.
However, the country is going through an addiction crisis, and prescription medications have played a significant role. While opioids are at the forefront of the current addiction epidemic, other problematic prescriptions can lead to addiction when they are overused or abused. Benzodiazepines, like the prescription drug Librium, can cause dependence, addiction, and even fatal overdose when abused.
Benzodiazepines (benzos) are psychoactive prescription drugs that are used to treat various conditions, including insomnia, anxiety, seizures, and muscular issues. Librium is primarily used to treat anxiety and sleep disorders. Like other benzos, it slows down the central nervous system to bring on feelings of relaxation and anti-anxiety, which makes it useful as a treatment for sleep disorders like insomnia.
However, the efficacy of benzodiazepines has caused them to be increasingly prescribed during the past few decades. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) states that between 1996 and 2013, the number of adults who filled benzodiazepine prescriptions spiked by 67 percent, from 8.1 million to 13.5 million.
And, according to some studies, the rates of both benzo prescription and overdose have increased significantly during the past several years.
In fact, mental health experts have warned that benzodiazepine addiction is every bit “as frightening and serious as the opioid crisis,” according to this CNBC.com report.
Benzodiazepines were once the most commonly prescribed medication in the world, and today, they remain a staple medical intervention. But how dangerous is this drug, and what happens if you become addicted?
Learn more about Librium addiction and how it can be treated.
Librium is the brand name for a benzodiazepine called chlordiazepoxide that acts as a central nervous system (CNS) depressant.
Librium, the first drug of its class, was initially discovered by accident when a byproduct substance was found to have hypnotic and anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) effects. It was first discovered in the late 1950s, and it was quickly sold and marketed as a therapeutic, hypnotic drug. Within its first year of use, it was used by more than 20,000 patients.
When it was first received, it was marketed as a safer version of barbiturates, another CNS depressant with similar effects. Barbiturates were known to cause unpleasant and even dangerous side effects, including dependence and addiction.
Benzos like Librium were said to offer the same benefits with limited adverse effects. By the 1960s, marketing for prescription anti-anxiety drugs like benzos was aggressively pursued to the point of controversy. Depressants were marketed to women, especially mothers, that were otherwise in good health. They quickly increased in popularity, and they were the most prescribed drug in the world by the 1970s.
Librium is a long-acting benzodiazepine, which makes it more useful as a sleep aid than some other benzos. Most help you get to sleep, but they don’t help you maintain sleep through the night. Librium’s long half-life and long duration of action provide longer effects as a sleep aid.
Though Librium is an effective medication for insomnia and anxiety, it has severe side effects, including some that bare a striking resemblance to the problems that caused doctors to abandon barbiturates in the 1960s and 1970s. Side effects include:
Librium is designated for short-term therapeutic use because long-term use can lead to dependence and the worsening of sleep problems and anxiety. Sometimes, benzos like Librium are used recreationally for their intoxicating effects. When Librium is abused, it can lead to a potentially fatal overdose, especially when mixed with alcohol.
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In addition to those side effects, Librium and other benzodiazepines can generate severe withdrawal symptoms once you abruptly stop using them. People who experience withdrawal effects from benzodiazepine have become dependent, meaning their bodies cannot function normally without the presence of the drug.
With benzodiazepines in general, withdrawal symptoms can occur at recommended doses. They especially occur after excessive and recreational use.
The withdrawal symptoms associated with Librium include:
Using Librium longer than recommended or using heavier doses than your doctor prescribes can lead to dependence and addiction. If you abuse Librium or if you’ve become dependent on it, there are a number of symptoms you may experience as a consequence, including many of the above side effects. Someone who is struggling may also exhibit some visible signs that friends and family may notice, including:
Librium addiction is a disease that has no known cure. However, it can be treated, and there are a number of therapy options for people looking to escape from the oppression of active addiction. Since benzodiazepines like Librium, can be potentially deadly during withdrawal, treatment usually starts with medical detox, the highest level of care in addiction treatment.
In medical detox, you will receive 24 hours of care from medical professionals for about a week, give or take a few days depending on your level of need. In detox, you may be treated with medication designed to wean you off of the drug or to manage uncomfortable symptoms. The primary goal of treatment is to address your immediate medical needs and ensure your safety through detox. After you complete detox, clinicians can help place you in an addiction treatment program that addresses your specific needs. There are three major levels of care after detox, including:
In addiction treatment, you will have the opportunity to formulate a treatment plan with your therapist, learn relapse prevention strategies, and address any co-occurring mental health problems. You may also learn life skills that can help you succeed in a new life of recovery.
As a benzodiazepine, Librium has a number of side effects that can be fatal, especially when it is abused or mixed with other drugs.
The first potentially fatal side effect you might encounter while taking Librium is drowsiness and lack of coordination.
Benzos can cause feelings of intoxication that are similar to alcohol. While these symptoms aren’t necessarily deadly on their own, they can be deadly if you get behind the wheel of a car, or if you get into some other type of accident.
If you abuse Librium recreationally, you risk having a benzo overdose. During an overdose, benzos can suppress your nervous system to the point of significantly slowing down your heart rate and breathing.
In some cases, your breathing can slow down considerably, or even stop, causing oxygen deprivation, brain damage, coma, and death. This is particularly common when benzos are mixed with other drugs that suppress the nervous system such as alcohol, opioids, and barbiturates.
This issue is becoming increasingly common. Between 2002 and 2015, the benzo overdose death rate increased more than fourfold.
Benzos can also be dangerous during withdrawal. If you develop a dependence on Librium and suddenly stop using it, you boost your risk of experiencing potentially fatal withdrawal symptoms like seizures.
CNS depressants have also been known to cause delirium tremens during withdrawal, which is a condition characterized by extreme confusion, seizures, panic, and catatonia. Without medical treatment, delirium tremens can be fatal.
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Garrison, A. (2018, August 03). Antianxiety drugs – often more deadly than opioids – are fueling the next drug crisis in US. from https://www.cnbc.com/2018/08/02/antianxiety-drugs-fuel-the-next-deadly-drug-crisis-in-us.html
LIBRIUM® C-IV[PDF File]. (n.d.). Silver Spring, MD: Food and Drug Administration. from https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2016/012249s049lbl.pdf
National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018, March 15). Benzodiazepines and Opioids. from https://www.drugabuse.gov/drugs-abuse/opioids/benzodiazepines-opioids#graph
National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2019, January 29). Overdose Death Rates. from https://www.drugabuse.gov/related-topics/trends-statistics/overdose-death-rates