Benzodiazepines are highly addictive prescription drugs. They are prone to abuse, and dependency can form quickly with continued use. As a result, benzodiazepines are generally only prescribed for short-term use.
While benzodiazepines can be effective when used for a legitimate medical reason on a short-term basis, they are very dangerous when abused.
For those who deal with a diagnosis of anxiety, benzodiazepines (BZDs) can be very helpful if used as recommended. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) says that these medications should only be used in the short term as a stabilizing mechanism for anxiety and related disorders.
Anxiety is one of the most discussed mental health issues in the United States today. In May 2018, TIME magazine reported that up to 18 percent of Americans have an anxiety disorder. This adds up to about 40 million people.
Concerns about addiction have been brought up over the years because most people develop a tolerance to benzodiazepines. This tolerance can build quickly, making it easy to become dependent on them. Dependence can then progress to addiction with continued abuse.
Benzodiazepines are scheduled drugs, which means you cannot take them unless you have received a prescription.
Below is a list of the most commonly prescribed benzodiazepines and what they are used for.
Harvard Medical School reports that about a dozen benzodiazepines exist today that can be prescribed for a variety of panic and anxiety-related disorders. They are sometimes used for other purposes, such as to address muscle spasms, seizures, or anxiety, such as that caused by traveling on airplanes. They are also used to calm patients before surgery.
Though each benzo has a different chemical composition, they all work by influencing a chemical in the brain called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). This neurotransmitter produces feelings of calmness in your brain by limiting certain nervous system activity. Some benzodiazepines stay in the body longer than others.
Benzos enhance the effects of GABA, limiting brain activity that is often the culprit of panic or anxiety due to excess neurotransmitter firing in the brain. This is how benzodiazepines calm you down and help you sleep better.
In a 2013 paper, the Consultant Pharmacist explained that benzodiazepines were first discovered in 1955 while Chemist Leo Sternbach was working for Hoffmann-LaRoche. The company eventually sold and marketed chlordiazepoxide (Librium), the first benzodiazepine in history.
Diazepam (Valium) was discovered next in 1963. At the time, pharmacists and health care professionals felt that benzodiazepines were safer than barbiturates. Barbiturates were known to slow breathing in patients and be highly addictive. As a result, health care providers began prescribing benzos much more.
Benzodiazepines were the most popularly prescribed medications for mental health issues in the 1970s. By the 1980s, physicians and health care professionals began noticing that patients were becoming dependent on benzos. Some patients were abusing their prescriptions.
This is how benzodiazepines came to become scheduled drugs. Physicians continue to raise concerns about them as they record their observations.
While benzodiazepines were designed to be a safer alternative to barbiturates, they are also highly prone to abuse.
There are a variety of benzodiazepines available. They all can lead to the following side effects:
In the long term or at higher doses, benzodiazepines are known to cause some of the problems they were prescribed to address.
You should not drink alcohol when using benzos, as it can worsen some of these side effects. SAMHSA says that benzodiazepines can cause dependency with six weeks of continued use.
Benzo abuse is defined as any use of benzos in a way a doctor did not direct. This includes taking the medication in higher doses than instructed or for longer than prescribed, as well as taking benzos when a doctor hasn’t prescribed them to you.
Benzos are some of the most commonly prescribed medications in the U.S., and as a result, they are also some of the most abused. Their sedative effects make them attractive to people who are dealing with everyday stress and work responsibilities. Other people may have been prescribed benzos for depression or anxiety disorders and have gotten pleasure from the effects, so they’ve taken higher and higher doses to achieve the same effects. When people abuse benzos, they frequently deny that they have a problem, thinking they are self-medicating and that they can control their usage.
Taking benzos by themselves isn’t usually dangerous; however, when combined with alcohol and other drugs, they can be deadly.
The following are common reasons for misuse of these medications:
People who reported misuse stated that their source of the drug was a friend or family member with a legitimate prescription.
The environment plays a large role in the development of benzodiazepine abuse. Genetics and biology may also factor in.
Some risk factors for benzodiazepine include:
Signs of benzodiazepine addiction include:
Detecting these signs early is key to stopping an addiction before it gets worse.
With benzo addiction can come many painful withdrawal symptoms, which can include:
When people addicted to benzos want to quit, they may try doing it on their own. However, they are putting themselves at great risk since their withdrawal symptoms might be too difficult for them to handle. This is why we offer benzodiazepine detox at Footprints where you can detox in a safe environment.
In 2018, young adults between the ages of 18 and 25 were most likely to misuse benzodiazepines. In addition, 12.6 percent of adults, or 1 in 8 people, took benzos in 2018. Misuse of these medications adds up to 17 percent of total use.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reports these findings:
FootPrints has treatment available for benzodiazepine addiction. If you have been misusing benzodiazepines, your treatment will most likely include the following:
Addiction is a major concern with the abuse of benzodiazepines. These drugs should only be used according to prescription instructions by the person who has prescribed them. Anyone not prescribed them cannot take them legally. Any abuse can rapidly lead to dependence. Contact Footprints today to see what we can do for you. We can help you take control of your life once again.