Benzodiazepines (“benzos”) are powerful sedative drugs commonly used to manage anxiety, sleep problems, and even seizures. They’re some of the most frequently prescribed drugs today.
Use of benzodiazepines has been on the rise for years. The number of benzodiazepine prescriptions written annually in the U.S. increased 67% between 1996 and 2013—from 8.1 million to 13.5 million prescriptions.
Given their widespread use and availability, benzo addiction is common. What starts out as normal prescribed use can quickly escalate to addiction. Sometimes people intentionally misuse benzodiazepine drugs to get high; doing so greatly increases the risk of addiction and physical dependence.
If a loved one or you are suffering from benzo addiction, seeking help at a reputable outpatient treatment center like RECO Intensive in Delray Beach can help you forge a new path forward. Learn more about benzo addiction and treatment below.
Signs of Benzo Addiction and Dependence
Addiction and physical dependence often go hand in hand, but they’re not the same thing.
- Addiction involves compulsive drug or alcohol use, uncontrollable cravings, and an inability to stop using, despite negative consequences. If the idea of not being able to take the drug triggers strong feelings of anxiety or panic, this is a sign of addiction.
- Physical dependence is when you need the substance to prevent withdrawal symptoms; developing a tolerance is often one of the first signs of physical dependence.
Benzodiazepine withdrawal symptoms vary in duration and intensity, depending on how much of the drug a person has been taking, how long they’ve been taking it, and the drug’s potency.
How long it takes for withdrawal symptoms to begin also depends on the specific drug brand. Shorter-acting benzos like Xanax and Ativan generally cause withdrawal symptoms within 6 to 8 hours of stopping, and symptoms are often intense. Longer-acting benzos like Valium and Klonopin usually don’t produce withdrawal symptoms for 24 to 48 hours.
Withdrawal symptoms can include:
|· Increased heart rate||· Muscle aches|
|· Anxiety||· Blurred vision|
|· Panic attacks||· Dizziness|
|· Insomnia||· Increased sweating|
|· Restlessness||· Depression|
|· Irritability||· Difficulty concentrating|
Heavy users may experience more serious side effects, such as hallucinations, delirium, altered sensory perceptions, depersonalization (feeling detached from oneself), and seizures.
You should never stop taking benzodiazepines abruptly, which can lead to a rebound effect (the return of symptoms the medication had been controlling, like insomnia or anxiety). Slowly tapering off the drug under medical supervision is strongly recommended.
Effects of Benzo Addiction
Benzodiazepines are central nervous system (CNS) depressants. They work by disrupting signals from the brain to the body. Even when taken as prescribed, benzos can slow breathing and heart rate and impair balance, reflexes, and coordination; they can also impair thinking and make you lose the sense of time. When misused or overused, benzos can cause dangerous daytime drowsiness and sleepiness, loss of coordination, and impaired memory and thinking, and other problems.
Benzodiazepines are meant for short-term use only. Over time, abusing these powerful drugs can lead to life-threatening problems, including seizures and convulsions.
Treatment for Benzo Addiction
While it may be possible to successfully detox from benzodiazepines on your own, withdrawal symptoms can be very uncomfortable and difficult to manage at home. A reputable inpatient or outpatient detox center will help you manage withdrawal symptoms—sometimes with medications, such as beta-blockers or antidepressants.
While detoxification will get the drug out of your system and address physical dependence issues, you may still have a strong urge to use. This is where outpatient treatment can help.
World-Class Outpatient Care at RECO Intensive
Intensive outpatient programs (IOP programs) are designed to further recovery for those who have completed a detox program or don’t need one. IOP bridges the gap between active rehabilitation and independent living.
RECO Intensive’s Delray Beach outpatient drug treatment program provides world-class care overseen by an outstanding team of clinicians and therapists. Our skilled team utilizes intensive therapies and group programs to treat the lingering effects of addiction to help you create healthy boundaries and pathways for lifelong recovery.
We accept most insurance plans, including BlueCross/BlueShield, HealthNet, Aetna, and many others. Call us to learn more at 561.808.7986.