If you’ve ever taken a benzo, then you know firsthand that the serious sedative effects this type of medication causes can make you feel amazing.
For many, this feeling of total relaxation eventually develops into a benzo addiction. Since benzos are one of the most commonly prescribed medications (about 5% of the entire American population has filled a prescription to benzos in the past year) it makes sense that addiction rates are high.
If you suspect that someone you care about has developed a benzodiazepine dependence, we understand that you can feel helpless — not to mention seriously concerned for their mental and physical health.
However, in order to get help for yourself or someone you love, you first need to understand the nature of benzo addiction.
This post is here to help. In it, we’ll talk about why countless people (even those who you’d least suspect) fall prey to benzo addiction.
What a Benzo Is Meant to Do
First, let’s take a look at what benzos are medically prescribed to do. It’s important to remember that not everyone who has a prescription for benzos will develop an addiction.
In fact, for many people, benzos provide the kind of relief they’ve spent years searching for. They’re also FDA-approved, which means that, when taken correctly and over a certain period of time, they’re generally considered to be safe.
Benzos, or benzodiazepines, are a form of tranquilizers that work by interacting with the brain’s neurotransmitters — in particular the GABA receptors. If your GABA receptors are more active than most people’s, you may be at a higher risk for developing certain psychological conditions.
Benzos are used to treat many different mental illnesses, as well as certain physical conditions.
Patients who suffer from anxiety, have frequent panic attacks, and those who experience insomnia may be prescribed benzos. They’ve also been used to help with seizures, to assist in the process of alcohol withdrawal, and are even used to help patients before they undergo surgery.
There are three different types of benzos: long-acting, short-acting, and ultra-short acting. However, there are lots of different dosage options available, and many people take more than one benzo a day.
Now, let’s take a look at what makes benzos so addictive.
Why Does Benzo Abuse Happen?
We know what you’re thinking: if this medication was prescribed by my doctor, then how did I suddenly develop a benzodiazepine dependence?
For many, the addiction begins due to the sudden influx of dopamine in the body that benzos cause. Dopamine is a “feel good” chemical that’s somewhat similar to a runner’s high, and it activates rewards centers in the brain.
First of all, this rush often feels so incredible that you just want to keep it going for as long as possible. So, you take more benzos or ask your doctor to switch you to a higher dosage.
However, one of the most dangerous thing about taking benzos incorrectly is that it’s incredibly easy for your body to develop a dependance on them. This means that you’ll need to take high-dosage, long-lasting benzos several times a day, just to feel the same effects you did when you first began taking them.
Many people notice that their tolerance becomes much higher after just six months of taking benzos. Sometimes, your addiction has gotten so out of control that you’re not even aware of just how many benzos you’ve actually taken throughout the day.
You’ve started engaging in doctor shopping, and you’re lying to the people close to you about how much you’re really taking.
But what are the reasons why you should stop?
Now, let’s talk about the short and long-term side effects of benzo addiction.
The Consequences of Benzo Addiction
The financial and personal consequences of a benzo addiction are often obvious.
You may lose your job, your friendships, your marriage, and even your relationship with your children. You might find that you’ve blown through your entire savings because you needed to spend the money to feed your addiction.
What most people aren’t always as aware of — or perhaps, don’t really want to see?
The toll that an addiction to benzos can take on your health in both the long and short-term future.
This is especially the case if you’re taking benzos in addition to consuming excessive amounts of alcohol, other prescription medications, or even street drugs.
You’re putting yourself at a high risk of having a seizure, suffering from convulsions, or even slipping into a coma. In some cases, your heartbeat may even slow to dangerous levels. You will likely experience trouble breathing, deal with a loss of sleep, and find that you shake constantly.
Keep in mind that those who have a history of benzo abuse are also much more likely to develop Alzheimer’s — at a younger age than most do. This is because benzo abuse has a serious impact on your memory and recall ability.
You may also deal with permanent problems with your motor skills, and even experience difficulty properly expressing yourself or processing your emotions.
In the short-term, expect to experience constipation and diarrhea. You’ll deal with ringing in the ears, severe mood swings that drive the people you care about away, and difficulty with depth perception.
You’ll experience drops in your blood pressure, find that you’re quick to anger, and deal with intense bouts of dizziness and nausea.
In some cases, you may even find that you’re at an increased risk of committing suicide.
Of course, you’ll also be at a serious risk of overdosing, which often proves to be fatal.
Common Signs of Benzodiazepine Dependence
Sometimes, it can be tough to figure out if a benzo prescription has developed into a full-blown addiction.
Now, let’s take a look at some of the things that you should watch out for when it comes to a potential benzo addiction.
You may notice that the person you’re concerned about has lost a lot of weight recently. They may also have lost a lot of muscle mass, and that they’re just not able to be as active as they once were.
They frequently talk about how tired they are, and you’ve even noticed that their overall reaction time has slowed down. They also seem to be much more clumsy than usual, and at times, their coordination is totally off.
They trip and stumble, and in some cases, the addict may even slur their speech or complain that they’re “seeing double.”
Overall, the addict just seems confused. Sometimes, you have to remind them of conversations that you had just a day ago, and it seems like it’s impossible for the to focus these days.
In some cases, they’ve even lashed out at you.
They accuse you never having supported them in the first place, or they don’t bother to show up when you’ve made plans with them. You suspect that they’ve stopped going into the office too, as they frequently ask you for money.
It just seems like so many things are different about them since they’ve started taking benzos. They don’t spend time with their family members, they’re incredibly sensitive, and they seem more depressed than they did before they were eve given a benzo prescription.
Maybe these symptoms sound familiar because you’ve noticed them in yourself.
Now, let’s talk about what you can expect out of benzo withdrawal.
Ending Benzo Abuse: What to Expect From Withdrawal
You’ve recognized more than a few of the signs of benzo addiction in the abuse section, and you’ve decided to get help for yourself of someone you care about.
Many people say that one of the reasons why they’re so afraid to stop taking benzos is because of the withdrawal process.
Will it be easy? No. Will it be worth it in the end? Absolutely.
Depending on how long you’ve been taking benzos, and the frequency and dosage that you’ve become used to taking, your withdrawal symptoms will vary.
You will likely deal with headaches, tension in the muscles, tremors, and even nausea. You may feel dizzy, struggle with insomnia, or even feel like your anxiety is at an all-time high. You should expect to experience panic attacks during the withdrawal phase.
Some patients find that they also have hallucinations, or that they feel incredibly paranoid while in the detox phase.
In some cases, you may even face intense sweating and rapid changes in your body temperature. In addition to insomnia, you’ll experience restlessness — the feeling that you just can’t sit still.
You’ll notice that your heart rate rapidly increases and that you want to take benzos more than ever before.
Especially for those who have been taking benzos for an extended period of time, cravings can become so intense that they become physically dangerous. This overwhelming desire to use again is just one of the many reasons why we strongly caution against attempting to detox on your own.
It’s not just ineffective — you’re putting your entire health at risk by going “cold turkey.” In some cases, you could even die.
The good news is that the most intense symptoms of withdrawal will last only about 1-4 days. After that, they’ll gradually decrease. In some cases, you may experience random bouts of incredibly intense cravings.
Most people find that, after about two weeks at most, they’re fully ready to enter a long-term treatment program.
So, what should you expect out of rehab once detox is complete? Let’s take a look at that now.
What to Expect out of Benzo Addiction Treatment
Once you make it through the detox phase of your benzo treatment program, you’ll likely enter into a long-term rehabilitation program.
These programs take on many different forms, and provide countless different opportunities and methods when it comes to to re-learn how to live without benzos.
We suggest that you take the time to figure out which type of program you feel might be the most effective for you. There are wilderness programs, options that are primarily group-focused, and even holistic treatment centers.
You owe it to yourself to explore all of your options.
You should expect the process of rehab to involve lots of individual and group therapy.
Often, cognitive behavioral therapy is a popular technique. You’ll learn how to identify what triggers you, and how you can keep that desire to use under control. You’ll learn how to cook, how to take care of your health, and even how to apologize to those that your addiction has hurt.
The process won’t always be comfortable or easy, but you will be in a safe and supportive atmosphere.
In some cases, especially if your addiction has impacted the lives of others, family treatment may also be available to you.
Are You Ready to End Benzo Addiction?
We hope that this post has helped you to better understand what makes benzodiazepines addiction possible.
Now, you know the signs you should look out for, the consequences of abusing your benzo prescription, and even what to expect out of withdrawal.
You may find that this post has motivated you to seek help for yourself or someone you love.
Don’t wait one more minute to get your life back on track.
Instead, rely on us to help you to find the benzo addiction treatment that you need. Remember that addiction can happen to anyone and that a better life is possible.
When you’re ready to learn more about how to take that first step, we invite you to reach out to us to learn how to make it happen.