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“Benzos” and “downers” are street names for benzodiazepines. Benzodiazepines are sedative drugs (central nervous system depressants). It’s a commonly prescribed medication for anxiety disorders that can be habit-forming, and drug addicts often abuse these drugs to get “high.” Benzos can cause addiction similar to opioids such as:
Just like opioid addiction or any other type of substance use disorder, benzodiazepine addiction can be treated. Treatment should be done with medical supervision in a hospital or drug treatment center.
Why Do People Use Benzos?
When they’re used as prescribed, benzodiazepines help relieve:
- Seizures (convulsions)
They can also be used for:
- Alcohol withdrawal
- Nausea and vomiting
- Drug-associated agitation
- General anesthesia (to sedate the patient before surgery or diagnostic procedures)
Side Effects of Benzos
The most common side effects linked to benzos are:
Are Benzos Addictive?
Yes. You can become addicted to benzos even if you take them as they’re prescribed by your doctor or health care professional. Also, if you have a history of drug or alcohol abuse, it raises the odds of developing an addiction. You may also develop a tolerance if you use them over a long time. This means that you will need higher doses to address your original condition or disease because you have become tolerant of the drug’s weaker form.
Signs of Benzodiazepine Addiction
Occasionally, people taking benzodiazepines may feel drowsy or dizzy, which can be more noticeable at higher doses. Signs and symptoms of benzo addiction include:
- Sleep problems
- Memory problems
- Nausea and vomiting
- Uncontrollable leg movements
- Delirium (mostly in older people)
- Behavior changes (like increased risky behaviors)
- Possibility of increased risk of dementia (not yet proven scientifically)
Dangers of Benzodiazepine Addiction
There are two serious matters regarding benzodiazepine treatment:
- The potential for abuse (overdose)
- The development of physical dependence (addiction)
How Common is Benzo Addiction?
While intentional abuse of prescription benzodiazepines is not common among the general population, people with a history of drug abuse should use caution. They are at the highest risk for acquiring benzodiazepines to experience the high.
Benzos are not usually the only drug of abuse, and addicts typically combine benzodiazepines with other drugs to increase the effect. One example is the combination of benzos with certain opioids (strong prescription pain relievers) to heighten the euphoric effects.
Due to their rapid onset, Valium (diazepam) and Xanax (alprazolam) are the most popular drugs among people who suffer from benzodiazepine abuse.
How Long Does it Take to Get Addicted to Benzos?
For most patients, using a benzodiazepine for several months doesn’t seem to cause issues of addiction, tolerance, or problems stopping the medication when it isn’t necessary anymore. That being said, several months of use can substantially increase the risk for addiction, tolerance, and the appearance of withdrawal symptoms when the dose reduces or benzo use ends.
Benzodiazepine addicts have a higher risk for developing dementia, an illness that affects the brain and causes gradual memory loss, problems with language, and loss of motor skills. So, it is important to seek professional help in overcoming benzodiazepine abuse.
Benzo Detox and Withdrawal
All benzodiazepines are habit-forming and can cause physical dependence. Eventually, dependence can lead to a difficult withdrawal if the person decides to stop. Therefore, treatment for benzodiazepine addiction starts with a detox. In a detox center with medical monitoring, detox generally consists of a gradual reduction of benzos to prevent seizures and ease withdrawal somewhat.
Short-acting benzos (generally used as sleeping pills) have stronger “come down” and withdrawal effects. They are also known to be more addictive. Their counterpart, long-acting benzos (generally used for anxiety), are known to be less addictive while delivering less intense withdrawal effects. However, that should not be taken lightly, as both forms of benzos are highly addictive and can present life-threatening withdrawal symptoms.
There have not been any medications approved for the treatment of benzodiazepine use disorders as yet. However, treatment could include antidepressants for depression and sleep problems along with mood stabilizers.
Naturally, withdrawal symptoms during detox will vary among people, but there are some common symptoms. They usually begin within 24 hours of the last dose and may last from a few days to a few months. Approximately 4%-6% of who take benzodiazepines for more than six months will experience moderate to severe symptoms of withdrawal, including:
- Anxiety and panic
- Gastrointestinal issues
- Problems with sleeping
- Muscle cramps and pain
- Restlessness and agitation
- Shortness of breath
- Loss of reality
3 Phases to Benzodiazepine Withdrawal
- Early Withdrawal: Sometimes called rebound symptoms, they occur shortly after you stop taking benzodiazepines. The symptoms of the problem that the drug was meant to treat might rebound or return.
- Acute Withdrawal: Acute withdrawal typically begins after the early symptoms. Most of the symptoms occur in this phase, and most people claim that this is the hardest part.
- Post-Acute Withdrawal Symptoms (PAWS): There may be some lingering side effects even though most symptoms subside after the acute phase.
How Do You Recover From a Benzo Addiction?
Benzo addiction treatment begins with detox. Detox is essential as it prepares both your body and mind for recovery. Following a successful detox, highly specialized treatment is necessary. To successfully recover from benzo addiction, it is imperative to begin professional treatment. Prescription drug addiction is not only dangerous, but it is incredibly difficult to beat on your own. At Kingsway, we offer several options that can help you or your loved one beat benzodiazepine addiction once and for all.
Benzo Addiction Treatment Programs
After detox prepares you for a treatment program, you will enter one of these common programs.
Residential treatment programs take place in a secure treatment facility where you live for a certain period of time, depending on the severity of your addiction and any co-occurring mental health conditions. Residential programs work well for individuals who need complete monitoring and supervision.
Residential treatments, also known as inpatient treatments, provide 24/7 support for individuals that are unable to maintain their sobriety without constant care and supervision.
Although Kingsway does not offer inpatient care, we can help you determine which form of care will be most beneficial for your circumstances and point you in the right direction. Many of our clients may choose to enroll in our outpatient programs after the completion of an inpatient program. Give us a call to speak with one of our specialists for more information.
Partial Care Services (PC)
PCs are less intensive than a residential program but can offer the same services except for round-the-clock care. You are free to go home in the evenings. Partial care services, such as a partial hospitalization program, are the most intensive forms of outpatient care. Clients in our partial hospitalization program typically attend treatments for five to eight hours a day, five to seven days a week. Treatment duration and intensities depend mainly on the needs of each individual.
Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP)
Intensive outpatient programs offer many of the same services as the partial care program but with a smaller time commitment. This leaves more time for work, school, or family obligations. IOPs work well for people who are dealing with substance abuse issues not severe enough for them to need inpatient treatment. That being said, the level of care in IOPs is still strong. However, intensive outpatient programs allow people the freedom to continue responsibilities outside of treatment.
At Kingsway, our IOP program specifically focuses heavily on relapse prevention. Each treatment provides our clients with skills and support that help them maintain sobriety and a healthy mindset while navigating through recovery.
Outpatient Program (OP)
Outpatient programs are for individuals who have completed a higher level of care but want continuing support to get back to normal life. Outpatient treatment can also be helpful for those who have a mild addiction problem. One form of treatment is most commonly not enough for people dealing with substance use issues. In the spectrum of care, outpatient treatment plays a vital role for individuals transitioning between severe and less severe treatment.
Therapy During Benzo Addiction Treatment
While in the treatment programs, you undergo the psychological phase of treatment. There are several common behavioral therapies that have been scientifically proven to help in the treatment of substance use disorders (SUDs). Although outpatient care is less intensive than inpatient, our treatment programs still offer the highest level of therapy programs, such as:
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): CBT generally involves training to change patterns of thinking. It is the most widely used therapy for benzodiazepine addiction treatment.
- Individual Therapy: Individual therapy is a process where patients work one-on-one with an experienced mental health professional. This helps them understand themselves better as they work through challenging or powerful memories.
- Group Therapy: This type of psychotherapy involves one or more therapists who lead groups of typically 5-15 people. Other forms of group therapy, like support groups, can be highly beneficial during recovery.
- Family Therapy: Family therapy can help rebuild support systems for those in recovery. During the time of addiction, it is not uncommon for people to damage relationships with family members. Family therapy can help mend the bonds and even create a more developed relationship.
Getting Benzo Addiction Treatment at Lifetime Recovery
Are you struggling with benzodiazepine addiction? Is it someone you care about? People who abuse drugs often deny they even have a problem, or they believe they can handle it themselves. However, the best thing you can do at home is to recognize that there is a problem and help is necessary.
Benzos change the chemistry of your brain, and quitting cold turkey can be dangerous. Treatment centers, such as Lifetime Recovery, are here to help you make your way to a successful, long-term recovery. We’re here to inform, encourage, and help you carry on with the rest of your life. Give us a call today.
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