Identifying and Treating Benzodiazepine Addiction in Patients

Identifying and Treating Benzodiazepine Addiction

Benzodiazepines are a class of prescription drugs commonly used to treat anxiety and insomnia in patients. However, these pills can also be very addictive for many individuals and can lead to serious dependence and withdrawal symptoms when taken over a long period of time. Benzodiazepine addiction affects people from all walks of life and is considered to be a serious national health issue, as these drugs are prescribed more and more frequently to patients of all ages and demographics.

What Causes Benzodiazepine Addiction?

Benzodiazepines work on the central nervous system to reduce anxiety. They do this by activating the GABA receptors in the brain, which reduces nerve activity and causes sedation, relaxation, and feelings of calm in the patient. These drugs are prescribed to treat a range of conditions and symptoms like anxiety disorders, panic attacks, insomnia, and seizures and convulsions. Commonly used benzodiazepine drugs include:

  • Xanax
  • Valium
  • Ativan
  • Klonopin

Unfortunately, these drugs can also be habit-forming, leading to benzodiazepine addiction in some patients. The sedative effects of benzodiazepines can cause cravings for more in some individuals, and eventually, the body can develop a physical dependence on these substances. According to a study published in the American Journal of Public Health, benzodiazepine prescriptions tripled in the United States between 1996 and 2013 and benzodiazepine overdoses quadrupled in the same time period. This study indicates that benzodiazepine addiction is a growing problem in the country, as more and more people have access to these drugs.

Effects of Benzodiazepines

Benzodiazepine addiction can be the result of taking these drugs long-term since the body can develop a physical tolerance to the substance and become dependent on it. The side effects of benzodiazepines can also cause pleasant feelings for some individuals, causing them to seek out more pills to reproduce the calming effect of these drugs. The short-term side effects of benzos include:

  • Euphoria
  • Relaxation
  • Sedation
  • Relief of anxiety
  • Sleepiness
  • Dizziness
  • Slowed cognition

However, these short-term effects can quickly give way to more serious symptoms, including vomiting, double vision, slurred speech, confusion, mood swings, tremors, impaired coordination, and muscle weakness. Long-term side effects of these drugs can include benzodiazepine addiction, depression, cognitive dysfunction, increased anxiety, irritability, and interpersonal problems.  For patients who take too many benzodiazepines or mix these drugs with other substances, such as alcohol, the result can be a fatal overdose.

Benzodiazepine Addiction

Benzodiazepines can be easily habit-forming. Over time, the brain and body develop a tolerance to these drugs and require more to feel the same effects, and eventually require more just to maintain regular function. Benzodiazepine addiction can be fatal because the withdrawal from these drugs can cause massive seizures, meaning that patients with a dependence on benzos often require a medical detox in a supervised setting. The other symptoms of benzodiazepine withdrawal include:

  • Tremors
  • Sweating
  • Increased heart rate and blood pressure
  • Changes in respiratory rate
  • Headaches
  • Muscle pain and weakness
  • Trouble concentrating and with memory
  • Anxiety and panic attacks
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Depression and suicidal ideation
  • Potentially fatal seizures

Because the withdrawal from benzodiazepines is so intense, it is generally unsafe to stop taking these medications without supervision from a doctor, and people who suffer from a benzodiazepine addiction frequently require a medical detox from the drugs.

Treating Benzodiazepine Addiction

The first step in treating benzodiazepine addiction for a patient is a safe, medical detox. This is necessary because the withdrawal symptoms of this addiction can be fatal due to seizures. In addition to detox, many patients who suffer from benzodiazepine addiction got started on these drugs due to a problem with anxiety or panic attacks. To truly help these individuals and give them a chance at a healthy life, treatment must include a plan for helping them to identify and address any underlying anxiety problems that may have contributed to a benzodiazepine addiction. Simply taking away the drugs leaves many individuals with a debilitating anxiety problem that must be dealt with in order for these patients to build whole and fulfilling lives. Unfortunately, some facilities simply detox patients without helping them to address the factors that contributed to their benzodiazepine addiction. This is not the case at Wellness Retreat Recovery. At this facility, benzodiazepine addiction is treated comprehensively, with traditional and holistic methods designed to help clients develop healthy habits and to achieve well-being both physically and emotionally. If you suffer from a benzodiazepine addiction and need help, call Wellness Retreat Recovery today at 888-738-0692.