Drug addiction is more and more prevalent, but you don’t expect it to happen to you.
Especially when it’s because of a prescription your doctor prescribed to help.
Yet, if you or someone you love might be dependent on benzodiazepines or other drugs, chances are it started with a legal prescription. More than 30% of opioid overdoses involve benzos, too. But it doesn’t have to be life-threatening.
Read more below to learn about this type of drugs, its withdrawal symptoms, and how to deal with the symptoms of benzo withdrawal.
What Are Benzodiazepines?
Benzodiazepines are a class of drug that provides treatment for depression, anxiety and panic attacks. Fast-acting ones like Xanax and slower-acting ones like Klonopin can all make a user dependent with prolonged use.
These medicines are also used for treating alcoholism, sleeplessness, or sometimes even muscle spasms and seizures.
Here’s a brief list of medications that fall under the benzodiazepines category:
These drugs can provide the help you need to treat certain medical conditions, but they can also become addictive. If you become addicted, it can be hard to quit because of the withdrawal symptoms.
What Is Benzo Withdrawal Like?
One of the biggest questions you may have is how can you tell if you’re addicted to benzos? Even if you’ve only been taking the drug for a few months, you can still become dependent.
The longer you’re taking benzodiazepines, the greater the likelihood of experiencing withdrawal symptoms. And there is also a greater chance of your withdrawal symptoms lasting longer than usual.
Mild cases of dependence may only have withdrawal symptoms for about 2 weeks. Yet symptoms can last for several months or even years if the addiction is strong enough.
Your body uses GABA, or gamma-aminobutyric acid, which is a natural substance in your brain that helps halt communication between neurons. It’s the natural way your body fights anxiety, muscle spasms, and insomnia. These drugs boost your body’s production of GABA when you suffer from these symptoms, which is why they work so well.
Neurological reactions to ceasing use of benzodiazepines are common because the original problems recur. The initial withdrawal symptoms are anxiety, panic attacks, and insomnia. In essence, the symptoms you took the medicine for return.
These symptoms get worse after a few days. You may also have mood swings, depression, irritability, sweating, and headaches, besides the initial symptoms.
Patients who took benzos for more extended periods of time or larger doses may have worse withdrawal symptoms. For example, the symptoms above may come along with nausea, muscle spasms, diarrhea, tingling in arms and legs, twitching, and weight loss.
You may also experience even seizures and hallucinations.
If you experience these types of withdrawal symptoms, you may want to talk to your doctor about weaning off the drug, rather than stopping all at once.
How to Deal
If you or a loved one is dealing with dependence on a benzodiazepine, it’s best to get medical help to wean off. Tapering off the dose with professional assistance is a much better option than trying sudden withdrawal. Quitting that way can even be life-threatening.
Make sure you deal with it the right way. Your doctor or a rehab center can help you develop a safe method for recovery. They can help prescribe a therapeutic dose.
Hobbies can also help when dealing with drug withdrawal. These types of activities are often relaxing, and they can help fight the symptoms you’re experiencing from your medical condition and your withdrawal. They also provide your mind with a distraction so you don’t have as much brain power to focus on how you feel.
If you spend more time exercising while you’re dealing with drug withdrawal, your body will be better able to fight insomnia and the other medical conditions and withdrawal symptoms. It’s also a good way to keep your mind off the symptoms, like engaging in hobbies.
You can take more interest in your nutrition while going through withdrawal. Often changing a diet can help take away those nagging symptoms, including a focus on hydration (for fighting nausea and other symptoms). Try keeping a food diary, with a special place to track liquids as well.
These and many other activities can minimize your withdrawal experience. Ask your doctor or therapist about their suggestions to help you with recovery.
Who Is at Risk?
Anyone taking Xanax, or its generic name, alprazolam, is at risk, along with any other benzodiazepine users. They’re considered controlled substances (class IV) by the DEA. The risk goes up for users who take more than 4 mg doses.
The length of time you’ve been using benzos can influence your likelihood of becoming addicted, and users who have been taking the drugs for longer than 6 weeks are at higher risk.
Anyone abusing drugs or alcohol already may also have a higher risk of addiction to benzos. The CDC has guidelines for doctors that involve not prescribing opioids and benzos together. Most benzo users in recovery report abusing other drugs at the same time as benzodiazepines.
Taking Care of Yourself
If you’re going through benzo withdrawal, or know someone who is, the experience can have painful ripples. Watching someone you love go through the side effects isn’t fun, but you can help.
Learning about the drug, the withdrawal symptoms, and the ways to deal with it can be the first step to recovery.
Find a treatment center and start your recovery journey today.