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Throughout medical history, doctors have relied on sedative drugs in order to aid patients in relaxation, treat panic attacks, treat insomnia and other sleep disorders, and treat seizure disorders.
However, from early bromides to barbiturates, to benzodiazepines and modern opioids, sedatives have often been discovered to beget addiction and dependency when made broadly available. Today, sedative abuse is a serious problem in the United States, contributing to our nation’s opioid drug overdose epidemic and spanning all demographics and geographical borders.
Sedative medications are central nervous system depressants, which means that the drugs act to depress brain activity in the central nervous system. Benzodiazepines, the most commonly prescribed sedatives, belong to the sub-class of sedative hypnotics, as do certain sleeping medications called Z-drugs like Ambien and Lunesta. Barbiturates also belong to this class, but have largely been replaced by the marginally safer benzodiazepines, as abusing barbiturates is more likely to lead to addiction, overdose, and other unpleasant physical symptoms.
Other CNS depressants include anesthetics and opioid narcotics. While, in the short term, sedative use can be an essential part of the treatment process for certain conditions, abusing sedatives comes with serious risks, including the risk of sedative addiction, dependence, and abuse. In fact, certain sedatives are so highly addictive that they are classified as controlled substances by the drug enforcement administration.
Prescription sedative drugs, particularly benzodiazepines like Valium and Xanax, can create both psychological dependence and physical addiction and dependence when taken for prolonged periods of time. This means that the person taking the sedative medication will need to take increasingly high doses of the drug in order to experience the desired effect and that they may experience withdrawal symptoms when they stop taking sedatives.
Many sedative addictions begin with a prescription, with physical dependence developing unintentionally; furthermore, statistics from 2002 to 2011 indicate that abusers of prescription drugs are most likely to acquire their medication from friends or family members.1 In this way, the casual approach that many people have adopted toward sharing sedatives has led inexorably to an increase in prescription sedative misuse and sedative addiction.
Like most forms of a substance use disorder, sedative abuse doesn’t typically become a problem overnight; it starts with one-time usage, eventually becoming a habit before it morphs into a full-blown addiction. Some of the signs and symptoms of sedative addiction include:
Due to the way that sedatives interact with brain and body chemistry, it is inadvisable to go cold turkey and undergo detoxification from sedative addiction without the assistance of medical professionals.
Sedative withdrawal symptoms can not only be unpleasant but can sometimes be deadly. Benzodiazepine withdrawal in particular is much like alcohol withdrawal in that it can lead to potentially deadly withdrawal symptoms like seizures or high blood pressure. Sedative withdrawal can also cause other symptoms like muscle spasms, mood swings, nausea, body aches, anxiety, and sleep disorders.
To help address these effects, sedative recovery programs are designed with comfort, pain management, and medical supervision in mind. Patients are monitored and evaluated throughout the process of detox in order to give them the best possible chance at continued sobriety, while also mitigating the negative psychological impacts of sedative abuse and dependency.
One reason that addiction treatment is imperative for anyone struggling with substance use is the risk of overdose that can come with sedatives. Risk factors for an overdose include underlying health conditions, taking a higher dose of sedatives than usual, mixing sedatives or combining them with other medications, or with other drugs used recreationally like alcohol.
While the risk of overdose that comes with opioid drug abuse is relatively well known, benzodiazepine overdose is also a significant risk. In fact, benzodiazepines, either alone or in combination with other drugs like alcohol or opioids, were responsible for over 12,000 deaths in 2020, the most recent year for which addiction and substance abuse statistics are available.
An overdose on sedatives is a medical emergency, and if you suspect someone has overdosed on sedatives, you should make sure they get proper treatment as soon as possible. Symptoms of an overdose on sedatives include slow and shallow breathing, non-responsiveness or unconsciousness, and skin that is cold and clammy or turning blue.
Though recovery from sedative use is usually difficult, with enough hard work and a proper treatment plan, it is indeed possible. Following detox, outpatient recovery programs like the one at RECO Intensive aid in further recovery and continued sobriety for those suffering from sedative dependency.
Our addiction treatment center is located in Delray Beach, Florida, and offers a wide variety of addiction treatment options to help combat the symptoms of addiction. We offer treatment programs for sedative use, alcohol abuse, and other forms of drug addiction, offering each patient an individualized treatment plan tailored to their symptoms and unique history.
Our substance abuse treatment programs offer emotional support to our patients through individual, group and family therapy as well as through a variety of holistic treatment options aimed at healing the whole person rather than addressing symptoms of addiction in isolation.
If you or a loved one is currently in the grips of an addiction to sedatives and you recognize that it’s time for a change, contact the seasoned recovery professionals at RECO Intensive today to learn more about our addiction treatment programs can help break the ugly cycle of substance abuse and about how you can enter treatment as soon as possible. There’s no time to waste in breaking free from addiction to sedatives and getting back on the road to a brighter future.
Discover a better life and call our recovery helpline today.