Benzodiazepine Abuse is Common
Benzodiazepine is a type of tranquilizer and it is one of the most commonly prescribed drugs in the US. It is used to treat a variety of different conditions including insomnia and anxiety. The drug has sedative properties and so is classified as a depressant. Benzodiazepine medications are only legally available by prescription, but there is a large risk of people using the drug for non-medicinal purposes. Addiction to this medication is common and there are an increasing number of people who require rehab to escape this drug abuse. The withdrawal symptoms associated with benzodiazepine can be unpleasant and potentially life-threatening.
Benzodiazepine Addiction Defined
Millions of people use this type of drug safely and will never have to worry about addiction. Some individuals do become dependent and this starts to negatively impact their lives. When somebody is addicted to Benzodiazepine it means that there are physical as well as psychological factors involved in the compulsion to use the drug. These two factors make it difficult for the individual to regain control and this is why they may require treatment in order to stop.
Benzodiazepine Physical Addiction
If an individual uses a drug for a long time it will lead to changes in the way their body works. The body reacts to chronic Benzodiazepine abuse by adapting to it. The problem is that this adaptation can be so successful that the body goes into withdrawals when the substance is removed. Physical addiction to Benzodiazepine drugs means that the there will be withdrawal symptoms should the individual stop using or significantly cut their dosage. The unpleasantness of these physical symptoms combined with the psychological dependence on the drug makes escape difficult.
Types of Benzodiazepine
In popular culture it is usual to hear this type of drug referred to as benzo or BZD. It is a substance created by combining an organic compound called benzene with another called diazepine. There are a number of different versions of this drug including:
* Chlordiazepoxide (Librium)
* Diazepam (valium)
* Flunitrazepam (Rohypnol)
* Lorazepam (Ativan)
* Midazolam (Hypnovel, Versed)
* Alprazolam (Xanax)
* Temazepam (Restoril)
* Clonazepam (Klonopin)
These different versions of benzodiazepine can create changes in the body that can be short-acting or longer-acting.
How Benzodiazepine Works
Benzodiazepine is a psychoactive substance. This means that it can alter how the brain functions thus creating changes in mood, behavior, consciousness, and cognition. It works by enhancing the effect of GABA neurotransmitters. This chemical works in the body to counteract the effect of other chemicals in the body that cause stress and tension.
The Uses of Benzodiazepine
This type of drug is prescribed for a number of different conditions including:
* Convulsions and seizures
* Alcohol withdrawals
* Muscle spasms
* As a pre-med given prior to surgery. It can also be used to create amnesia so that certain medical treatments are less stressful.
The Reasons Why People Abuse Benzodiazepine
The calming effect of this type of drug can be highly seductive for some people. Like other drugs it allows for a temporary escape from problems. Many individuals like to mix these tranquilizers with alcohol or other drugs to enhance the experience. Those who find stress hard to deal with may turn to this medication for comfort.
The Dangers of Benzodiazepine Addiction
Abuse of tranquilizers is likely to greatly impact the quality of life of the individual. As well as the personal problems that such a compulsion can create, there are also physical risks as well. Some of the dangers associated with this type of addiction include:
* Lack of coordination leading to a greater risk of personal injury due to accidents.
* Slurred speech
* Blurred vision
* Respiratory problems
* Weakness and dizziness
* Increased risk of suicide
* Paradoxical effects such as increased aggression and anxiety.
* Enlarged cerebral fluid spaces and brain shrinkage
Like all other addictions it will mean that the individual becomes obsessed with the drug. They may fall into legal problems because of their attempts to secure a supply of benzodiazepine. It is also likely to mean that the addict will be unable to fulfill their expected role in the family, at work, and in society.
Benzodiazepine Addiction Statistics
In 2004 SAMSHA concluded that this type of drug was the most widely abused prescription medication. There are about 100 million prescriptions written for benzodiazepine each year in the US. The exact figure for people addicted to this drug is hard to determine, but the high numbers seeking treatment suggest that it is a real problem in society. One of the difficulties with determining benzodiazepine addiction statistics is that many of those involved in this behavior also abuse alcohol or other drugs.
The Risk of Benzodiazepine Addiction
Given that so many individuals benefit from this type of drug the incidence of addiction could be considered reasonable. Those who only take this medication for medicinal purposes and under doctor’s orders are unlikely to become addicted. The risks associated with overuse of this drug are well documented and most doctors will only prescribe within safe limits. It is recommended that it is only ever given short-term as some patients can develop an addiction within a few weeks. In most instances medical professionals will be able to offer other treatments to prevent overdependence on benzodiazepine drugs.
Symptoms of Benzodiazepine Addiction
The individual who is addicted to this tranquilizer will tend to exhibit certain behaviors and symptoms including:
* Increased tolerance to the drug
* Inability to cut down
* Withdrawal symptoms when the drug is stopped or the dosage is reduced
* Willingness to commit desperate acts to ensure a supply of the drug. This could include buying the drug illegal or changing doctors in order to get a new prescription.
* Failing to take care of responsibilities
* Inability to cope without the drug
* A loss of interest in other activities and personal grooming
Treatment of Benzodiazepine Addiction
In a lot of cases the individual is able to come off the drug with the help of their doctor. One approach is to taper people off the medication at rate that is least likely to cause unpleasant symptoms. The withdrawal symptoms associated with this drug can be life threatening so care needs to be taken.
In a lot of cases the individual will have begun using the drug to deal with other symptoms such as insomnia or anxiety. It is important that alternative treatments for these conditions are in place before people are taken off benzodiazepine medication.
Giving up tranquilizers can be a challenge for people and so a residential rehab is often required. Here the individual will not only be able to safely come off the drugs, but also develop the skills they need for successful life in recovery from addiction. Many of those who are addicted to this drug will also have other addictions that need to be dealt with as well before recovery is possible.
Benzodiazepine Withdrawal Symptoms
Benzodiazepine withdrawal is similar to alcohol withdrawal and it is just as dangerous. It is potentially life threatening and symptoms can include:
* Neck and shoulder pain
* Body spasms
* Abdominal pain
* Agitation and aggression
* Anxiety and panic attacks
* Heart palpitations
* Hallucinations and flashbacks
* Fluctuations in blood pressure
* Strange body sensations
* Flu-like symptoms
* Loss of coordination
* Inability to concentrate
The withdrawal symptoms from benzodiazepine will usually start within 48 hours of stopping the medication. Symptoms can last for a couple of months depending on the type of tranquilizer involved.