While the opioid epidemic rages, benzos only added fuel to the fire with 30% of opioid overdoses also involving a benzo. As for alcohol, it intensifies nearly all the side effects and given that benzodiazepines are a depressant, they can lead to respiratory failure and death. Ironically, benzos are used to help mitigate the symptoms of withdrawal from alcohol.
With the pace of life moving at breakneck speed and anxiety seeming to be perpetually on the rise, relentlessly touching more and more people, many of us are looking for ways to calm down. To quiet the noise.
With anxiety being fueled by any number of triggers these days, and there truly is a lot, panic sets in and those two metastasize like a cancer in our minds. Disrupting our day to day routines, making for restless, insomnia filled nights that exacerbate the anxiousness with which we approach each day.
Rather than welcoming the warm sunrise and opportunities it can bring, you start to dread the marathon that every new day starts to feel like. The exhaustion compounds and builds on itself, fueling further worry and unease.
For many that cycle simply becomes overwhelming and they seek solutions.
Thankfully, science has developed and delivered an option in the form of prescription drugs, specifically, benzodiazepines. A class of drugs defined by their depressant effect on the central nervous system, these sedative-hypnotics are approved to treat generalized anxiety disorder, insomnia, seizures, social phobia and panic disorder according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and are also used as premedication before some medical procedures.
They work to calm or sedate someone by raising the level of the inhibitory neurotransmitter GABA in the brain and slowing down the excitability of neurons.
Naturally, this was a welcome relief for many and it caught on like wildfire. The prescription numbers prove that, with benzos, as they’re known informally, becoming one of the most widely prescribed drugs in the United States with more than 112 prescriptions filled in 2007 and the number of Americans who filled a prescription increasing by 67% between 1996 and 2013.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) adds that “researchers concluded that 12.5% of adults in the U.S. used benzodiazepines, which extrapolates to about 30.5 million persons”.
To put those numbers in perspective and into more relatable terms, 12.5% of adults is equivalent to 1 in 8.
You certainly know at least 8 people and, statistically speaking, 1 of them uses benzos.
And if the word “benzodiazepine” isn’t quite that familiar, consider some of the most commonly prescribed ones:
1 or 2 of those will likely ring a bell.
Of course, any medication or drug, whether prescribed or not, is a double-edged sword that comes with inherent risks. These are no different and there is a serious risk for developing a benzodiazepine addiction.
To that end, in 2020 the FDA changed its guidance to require an update to the Boxed Warning (what appears on a prescription’s label to call attention to serious or life-threatening risks) to properly warn of the dangers, noting that “even when taken at recommended dosages, their use can lead to misuse, abuse, and addiction. Abuse and misuse can result in overdose or death, especially when benzodiazepines are combined with other medicines, such as opioid pain relievers, alcohol, or illicit drugs. Physical dependence can occur when benzodiazepines are taken steadily for several days to weeks, even as prescribed. Stopping them abruptly or reducing the dosage too quickly can result in withdrawal reactions, including seizures, which can be life-threatening.”
Powerful words of warning and not without precedent.
While the opioid epidemic rages, benzos only added fuel to the fire with 30% of opioid overdoses also involving a benzo. As for alcohol, it intensifies nearly all the side effects and given that benzodiazepines are a depressant, they can lead to respiratory failure and death.
Ironically, benzos are used to help mitigate the symptoms of withdrawal from alcohol.
At Thrive Treatment℠ we accept most private insurance plans and we are in network with Cigna, MHN Health Net, First Health, and Anthem Blue Cross. Additional payment options are available so don’t hesitate to give us a call so we can get you the help that you need.
Understanding what they treat and the effectiveness of doing so, as well as the euphoria a person might experience when taken in higher dosages, the specter of dependency and addiction is apparent even when taken exactly as prescribed.
Data shows that around 2% of those using benzos have a used disorder, which works out to around 600,000 people.
Addiction shows itself in many ways and being aware and recognizing the symptoms can help you or a loved one get the care needed before the problem begins to spiral.
On top of that there are some behavioral signs to look out for, like:
Longer-term usage leads to much more entrenched addiction because your body has quite literally grown dependent on the benzos to function normally. That, in turn, leads to more negative outcomes like permanent cognitive deficits, depression, sexual dysfunction, amnesia, ataxia and more.
Withdrawal is what happens when you take away what your body and mind have grown dependent on and as easy as it is to slip into benzo addiction, withdrawal hits back just as hard. You can start feeling symptoms within as few as 8 hours of the last dose for short-acting benzos and 24 to 48 hours for long-acting.
For those who have grown used to a higher dosage and have been using it for an extended period of time, quitting abruptly is very much not recommended as it can create a shock to the system that could lead to death.
Typically though, benzodiazepine addiction withdrawal is characterized by some of the following symptoms:
Detox under the supervision of medical professionals and addiction specialists is the safest course of action for coping with benzo withdrawal. Rather than quitting cold turkey, you’ll slowly be weaned off of the drug little by little over the course of several weeks. Aside from being safer, slowly decreasing the dosage also helps to stave off and potentially even avoid post-acute withdrawal symptoms (PAWS) that can last for months and even years.
Benzodiazepine addiction treatment starts with the decision and commitment to take your life back from the clutches of substance abuse. Detox is the next major step in the process. As you’re slowly working your way off of the physical dependency on benzos, it’s equally important to work through the mental side of addiction as well. That’s where we come in.
At Thrive Treatment our dedicated team, lead by our Medical Director who is board-certified in Addiction Medicine and our Psychiatrist who is board-certified in both General and Addiction Psychiatry, works with you to understand your addiction and from there create a custom, personalized program. There’s no such thing as a one size fits all solution here.
Through a combination of modern and traditional therapeutic methods, we help you identify the basis of your addiction. With individual and group therapy sessions you’ll learn new ways to control your thoughts and how to cope with triggers healthily.
Get in touch with us now too and let us help you beat benzos.