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Benzodiazepines: Types, Effects, and Addiction

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Benzodiazepines, or benzos, are currently a treatment for anxiety and panic disorders, insomnia, muscle spasms, and seizures. These conditions can hold people hostage from the severity of the symptoms they have. Healthcare providers provide prescriptions for these medications in enormous numbers. Despite the need for treatment, benzos are highly addictive, a short race to misuse and abuse, and are the cause of tolerance and dependence, quite often unintentional.

Benzodiazepine addiction occurs despite warnings from physicians, drug makers, and pharmacists. Fortunately, there is relief from the assault of physical and mental symptoms that accompany major seizure and mental health conditions. Weighing the pros and cons of benzo usage is challenging. Conversely, are the side effects and constant fear of misuse leading to addiction worth ingesting a possible nightmare?

A Comprehensive Overview of Benzodiazepine Abuse

Central nervous system depressants benzodiazepines induce drowsiness, a sense of calm, drowsiness, and sleep, and relieve stress. This state of being is desirable, welcome, and addictive for those experiencing long-term discomfort, sleep deprivation, and extreme emotional draining. Hence, the relief is so tremendous and feels so good. Benzodiazepine addiction typically develops in 2 different ways. The user loves the new state of being but, in some cases, loves it too much. Unintentionally, an extra dose makes life just a tiny bit better, or forgetting to take meds results in taking extra to catch up.

Misuse is dangerous and develops a tolerance quickly, and withdrawal symptoms occur when the additional dosage is not maintained. Tolerance leads to dependence on benzos and the development of a dual diagnosis, a mental health condition, and substance use disorder.

An introduction of benzodiazepines for recreational use is through the interactions between nature (innate factors) and nurture (environmental and social factors). Taking someone else’s medications for the desired effect initiates an abusive relationship with benzos, which can lead to a strong psychological dependence. Those who rely on benzos as recreational substances are in grave danger when mixing these medications with alcohol or other substances. Buying benzos on the street runs the risk of additional substances being added without warning.

Types of Benzodiazepines

The National Institute on Health reports the following benzodiazepines, the generic names of the medications, and brand names. Understanding the conditions these medications treat and how they reduce symptoms is beneficial in monitoring dosage and possible misuse.

FDA approved benzodiazepines are as follows:

  • Alprazolam – Xanax: treatment for anxiety and panic disorders, including agoraphobia
  • Chlordiazepoxide: Librium or Tropium, management of alcohol withdrawal syndrome
  • Clonazepam: Rivotril, treatment for panic disorder and agoraphobia, as well as certain seizures
  • Clorazepate: Tranxene T-Tab, for short-term management of anxiety disorders and some seizure problems
  • Diazepam: Diazemuls, Diazepam, Stesolid, and Tensium, for alcohol withdrawal management and certain seizures
  • Estazolam: Prosom, for insomnia
  • Lorazepam: Ativan, for anxiety disorders and some cases of epilepsy
  • Oxazepam: Serax for anxiety disorders and alcohol withdrawal management
  • Temazepam: Restoril, for certain types of insomnia
  • Triazolam: Halcion, for particular insomnia diagnosis

The 2 types of benzos are short-acting and long-acting medications. Depending on the half-life (how long the effects of the medication extend), doctors prescribe what medication is correct for treating symptoms of certain conditions. Short-acting benzos process and leave the body in a shorter time. Long-acting benzos have a longer relief period, extending over more hours. Half-life is also a consideration in withdrawal symptoms with benzodiazepine addiction.

Benzodiazepines Short and Long-Term Effects

The common side effects of short and long-acting benzodiazepines vary with each individual because of different metabolisms. Side effects can fluctuate, some diminishing quickly while some may linger. When side effects occur, the prescribing doctor needs to know. In terms of benzo addiction, the use of other substances in combination with benzos can lead to an escalation of side effects and overdose danger.

Typical side effects of long-acting and short-acting benzos can include:

  • Drowsiness and light-headedness
  • Confusion or memory problems
  • Unsteadiness and muscle weakness
  • Slurred speech, dry mouth, and blurry vision
  • Constipation and nausea

Less common side effects of long-acting and short-acting benzos can include:

  • Headaches and sight issues, sometimes double vision
  • Low blood pressure
  • Skin rash
  • Increased saliva production
  • Digestive disturbance and incontinence, some difficulty with urinating
  • Shakiness or tremors

Benzodiazepines can affect cognitive functions, such as thoughts and beliefs. Cravings can develop, and these strong urges make the user believe more medication will reduce their unease. Impairment of memory and attention span can develop with long-term use of these medications. Recent studies concerning people over 65 who are using benzos reflect adversity in cognitive functioning, even with short-acting medications.

Benzodiazepines Tolerance and Addiction

Tolerance occurs very quickly with benzodiazepine prescription medication. Warnings are in place stating that benzos are highly addictive, and if the dosage is not exact, misuse can cause tolerance to develop. Tolerance begins when it takes a higher dosage to receive the desired relief of symptoms.

As dosages increase, the body starts to adapt to functioning with the drug and becomes dependent. Dependence on a medication is the initial stage of an addiction.

Benzodiazepines Withdrawal

Once a person is dependent on benzos, withdrawal symptoms can manifest within a short period without the drug or a lower dosage. Many dependent users find it challenging to survive without the medication or the regular dosages.

Medical management during detox can provide relief and a lesser intensity of discomfort, leading to less chance of relapse. Professional detox programs can help prevent relapse and begin successful recovery.

The following symptoms are common to withdrawal from benzodiazepines:

  • Increased tension, anxiety, and feelings of panic
  • Sleep issues
  • Impairment of focus and concentration
  • Excessive sweating
  • Heart palpitations
  • Muscular stiffness, discomfort, and hand tremors
  • Cognitive difficulties
  • Extreme cravings

Treatment for Benzodiazepine Addiction

Professional detox programs utilizing medical supervision throughout detox are the safest method. Various adverse symptoms can occur, and medication-assisted treatment relieves discomfort. Professional treatment staff can use evidence-based therapies throughout detox to promote new positive coping mechanisms. Outpatient and inpatient programs after detox is complete are available to provide a successful healing journey from addiction.

Find Hope and Recovery from Benzodiazepine Addiction in California

Benzodiazepines are highly addictive, and unintentional addiction can occur without realizing what is happening. Sierra Health + Wellness offers new hope for those struggling with the challenges of benzo addiction. Various treatment options are in place to allow each individual to find the help they seek.

Contact their professional staff today and let them discuss the programs to meet individual needs.