Drug addicts suffering from severe drug addiction are likely to get admitted to inpatient treatment facilities to facilitate their recovery. This step often takes place because stopping an addiction such as alcohol addiction on your own is nearly impossible and thus requires help from medical professionals. Furthermore, you may experience life threatening situations that only medical persons can deal with.
If you are an alcohol addict or suffer from other types of addictions, you are likely to experience multiple withdrawal symptoms during the detoxification process. This stage targets to remove all drug traces or toxins from your body, before the rehabilitation process commences. Such withdrawal symptoms may include insomnia, muscle rigidity, anxiety and in severe situations, seizures.
These withdrawal symptoms threaten your survival in the rehabilitation process and center. They could tempt you to opt going back into drug addiction since they could be unbearable. To calm or stop these withdrawal symptoms, the medical professionals monitoring your progress may prescribe benzodiazepine medication since it is useful in reducing the effects from the above withdrawal symptoms.
What is Benzodiazepine Medication?
The majority of the medical professionals refer to Benzodiazepine medications as benzos. They are psychoactive drugs that Leo Sternbach accidentally discovered in 1955. After two decades of more discoveries and advancements, researchers found that the drug is made of a chemical structure comprising of diazepine and benzene rings. Medical professionals then began prescribing benzos since they proved to be minor tranquilizers.
According to physicians, benzodiazepines are safest and most effective if you consume them in a short term period. However, there is a possibility that you may experience side effects such as paradoxical effects like aggression, as well as cognitive impairment.
When consumed on a long term basis, benzos are quite dangerous since they become less effective and are known to cause an increased risk of suffering from dementia and physical dependence that leads to withdrawal later on. Regardless of the withdrawal problems, it is advisable to quit the consumption of these drugs if addiction begins, since your mental and physical health will improve.
The elderly are advised to avoid the consumption of benzodiazepines since they cause both long and short-term adverse effects. Additionally, they are not advisable for pregnant women, since they affect the unborn babies. Due to their helpful qualities, benzos are among the most prescribed drugs in the United States.
How Benzodiazepines Work
Your brain contains multiple neurotransmitters that enable communication between brain cells since they are effective in sending messages. Such communication may lead to either excitatory or tranquilizing effects due to factors like excessive or inadequate nerve activity.
When you tend to feel overly anxious, your brain gets excited and is thus over-active. According to scientists, this is the primary cause of multiple psychological disorders as well as anxiety. The tranquilizing transmitters begin acting by sending messages to your brain cells. As a result, the brain activity slows down and further causes the reduction in anxiety symptoms.
Among such neurotransmitters is GABA, gamma-aminobutyric acid, whose purpose is to suppress the nerve activities. Benzodiazepines function by enhancing GABA’s effects since its components include chemicals that have a calming effect. Therefore, the brain and spinal cord nerve activities reduce to a tranquilized state due to this enhancement.
Types of Benzodiazepines
Benzodiazepine medications are diverse because they differ according to their working time and their purpose. Therefore, your medication may differ from another person’s, despite that they are all benzos. They include the following:
- Alprazolam- this drug is also called Xanar. Its consumption has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration and thus mostly prescribed in the United States. It is effective in the treatment of anxiety and panic disorders. Additionally, it falls in the same category as Prosom, Ativan and Restoril, which are intermediate-acting agents that act for 11 t0 20 hours.
- Chlordiazepoxide- medical professionals also call this drug, Librium. It is very useful in the management of the withdrawal symptoms caused by alcohol addiction detox. It falls in the same category with other benzos like Valium, Klonopin, Quazepam and Dalmane, which are long-acting agents that act from 1 to 3 days.
- Clorazepate- physicians refer to this drug as Tranxene. It is a hypnotic, sedative medication that is useful in the treatment of severe anxiety disorders, as well as insomnia. It falls in the same category as other drugs like Versed and Halcion, which are short-acting agents that last for 3 to 8 hours.
- Diazepam- This medication is also called Valium. It is an anticonvulsant, sedative and hypnotic drug that reduces anxiety by acting rapidly, within 30 to 60 minutes. It is also useful in the treatment of seizures, panic attacks, alcohol withdrawal, restless leg syndrome and insomnia. Due to its low potency, Diazepam is also effective in the treatment of benzodiazepine dependency.
- Estazolam- this drug is quite sedative and thus effective in the reduction of anxiety. Additionally, doctors prescribe it for the treatment of short-term insomnia. It falls in the same group as other benzos such as Dalmane, Halcion, Doral and Restoril.
- Oxazepam- this drug is also called Serax. It treats both insomnia and anxiety, as it controls alcohol withdrawal symptoms. It is known to have a slow onset.
Benzodiazepines are mostly used for medical purposes since they possess muscle relaxant, anxiolytic, sedative, amnesic, hypnotic and anticonvulsant actions. These actions are useful in multiple varieties of indications like panic, alcohol dependence, anxiety disorders, insomnia, agitation and seizures.
The consumption of the majority of the benzos is through oral means. However, this does not mean that they cannot be administered rectally, intravenously or intramuscularly. Since the benzodiazepines are highly tolerable by the human body, they are not to be consumed for longer than 4 weeks. The most appropriate and effective period for their consumption is between two to four weeks, since they can cause dependency.
Despite that benzos are very helpful in the treatment of the issues mentioned above, they cause side effects. Therefore, if your doctor puts you under benzodiazepine medication, you should expect the following side effects:
- impaired coordination
- depression feelings
- vision problems
- orientation loss
- sleep disturbance
- memory impairment
- weight gain
Before physicians prescribe benzodiazepines, they must take your medical history. This information is very relevant because it indicates whether the drugs will be helpful or lethal to you after consumption. Therefore, there are many conditions that could become worse, if benzos are included in the medications provided for patients.
If you suffer from or experience the following issues, it is highly advisable that you avoid benzodiazepines.
- Severe kidney or liver disease
- Sleep apnea
- Severe breathing problems or lung disease
- During pregnancy
- During breast feeding
Regardless of this restriction, if you suffer from the issues above in low intensity and still have problems that benzos can solve, doctors can opt to give you a lesser dosage than normal healthy people.
As mentioned above, you should not consume benzos when expectant or when breast feeding. This is because the consumed drug eventually goes to your unborn baby through the placenta and causes multiple problems to your baby. The following issues could be visible in your child after birth, if you consume benzos when pregnant:
- Stomach abnormalities,
- Cleft palate
- Heart abnormalities
- Urinary track abnormalities
- Dyslexia, which is the difficulty in reading and writing
- Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder
- Dyspraxia, which is problems with movement and coordination
- Low body temperature
- Breathing problems
- Floppy muscles
- Withdrawal symptoms like high-pitched crying, abnormal sleeping patterns, tremor, diarrhea and vomiting.
Benzodiazepines Abuse and Addiction
After medical professionals acknowledged benzodiazepine as a drug that patients could benefit from, its usage began increasing over the next decades of the twentieth century. Prescriptions of the drug in the United States alone increased alarmingly especially between 1996 and 2013.
Unfortunately, users were not cautious and so the deaths from overdose were rampant, whereby most of the victims had already become addicts of benzos. The majority seemed to be persons under opioid maintenance therapy.
By 2016, the death toll was alarming and so the Food and Drug Administration took action. They warned healthcare professionals about the dangers of combining benzos with opioid or cough medicines. Currently, the addiction tends to increase since most patients prefer to self-medicate themselves after the doctors stop providing prescriptions.
The DSM-IV describes benzodiazepine addiction as the development of a tolerance toward the drug, which is accompanied by withdrawal symptoms upon discontinuation of its consumption. It also involves seeking the drug despite its harmful effects, leading to a maladaptive substance abuse pattern.
Therefore, persons addicted to benzodiazepines develop the problem because they would rather consume it and avoid withdrawal symptoms. They equally prefer the drugs’ pleasurable effects.
As mentioned earlier, benzodiazepines are very useful in therapy for persons that have suffered addiction for substances like alcohol. After the onset of benzodiazepine medication, you must follow the doctor’s prescription, which is likely to be short-term. If you exceed the required dose and proceed to long-term usage of the drug, there is a very high possibility that you will develop a dependency problem, which leads to an addiction if no intervention takes place.
Therefore, benzos become habit-forming and thus result to abuse. In most reported cases in hospitals, the drugs have been used as ‘date rape drugs.’ This means that they are used to sedate people by secretly putting them in their drinks, to impair their judgments and thus make them susceptible to sexual assault.
Most abusers of the drug combine it with other drugs to increase the euphoric effects. As time goes by you may build a high tolerance for the drugs, and thus unable to stop medication even after the end of the therapy since addiction will eventually kick in.
Psychological And Physical Symptoms Of Abuse And Addiction
As soon you start abusing and depending on benzos to function properly, there are multiple symptoms that you will experience and exhibit. They include the following:
- Slurred speech
- Physical weakness
- blurred vision
- poor judgment and decision making abilities
- lack of motor coordination
- inability to provide oneself with self defense
- difficulty in breathing
As you proceed abusing and depending on the benzos drugs, the symptoms will proceed to:
- memory problems
Signs Of Abuse And Addiction
Benzodiazepine abuse and addiction affects your life in multiple ways. You tend to focus less on your goals, work or responsibilities, and feel the need to spend more time and focus on the drugs. What is worse, you will hardly realize the changes yourself, since they originate from your brain alteration. Only the people closest to you will realize that you have a problem.
The following are some of the signs of abuse and addiction that you will exhibit due to the control that the drugs have over your actions:
- you will find it impossible to live without the drugs
- you will notice an increase in the tolerance for the benzos and thus might consume more each and every time
- if you feel the need to quit or cut down on consumption, you will experience multiple unsuccessful attempts
- you are likely to withdraw from family and friends, especially if they discourage your benzo’s abuse
- You will use whatever time and resources available or within your reach to ensure that your benzos supply does not run out since you fear staying without the drug.
- As a result of the above, you may drain your bank accounts, borrow money, max out credit cards or steal to acquire resources
- After using the drugs, you are likely to indulge in risky behaviors due to poor judgment, such as driving. This could lead to your death or the demise of persons around you
- You are likely to neglect yourself, and thus appear disheveled. This includes reducing efforts to groom well or maintain hygiene.
- To avoid judgment, you will tend to be secretive about your daily activities, to hide the substance abuse tendencies
- You are likely to experience shifts in your mood or personality.
- you will experience withdrawal symptoms whenever you avoid consuming the drugs
Benzodiazepine Withdrawal Symptoms
As soon as you deny your body a single dose of benzos after addiction has begun, you will experience some unpleasant feelings that could drive you back to the drugs even if you wished to stop. The onset of these withdrawal symptoms is dependent on the acting agents.
The withdrawal symptoms from the short-acting agents begin within two to three days, while those associated with the longer-acting agents begin within five to ten days. Since the majorities are connected to the brain hyperexcitability state, they are divided into psychological, physical and sensory symptoms.
Benzos used for sleep disorders cause the mildest form of withdrawal, which is symptom rebound.
- muscle tension
- “pins and needles”
Psychological Withdrawal Symptoms
- Mood swings
- Panic disorders
- Agitation and restlessness
- psychovegetative symptoms like tremors
- sleep disturbances and nightmares
- reduced concentration
Other withdrawal symptoms that you may experience include:
- blurred vision
- appetite loss
- dry mouth
- perception disorders, ranging from hyperacusis to photophobia to dysesthesia
- seizures especially after abrupt stoppage of consumption
- paranoid thoughts
- withdrawal delirium
- suicidal thoughts
- self-harming behavior
Benzodiazepine Addiction Treatment
Acknowledging that you have benzodiazepine addiction is the beginning of recovery, since you will desire to get better. The actual road to recovery requires you to gather courage because it might be rough as a result of the withdrawal symptoms. From the above information, it is evident that withdrawal symptoms can be severe and hence you are advised to get treatment from a rehabilitation facility.
In the rehabilitation facility, you will be under the constant supervision of trained medical personnel or addiction specialists, who will use their skills to handle your addiction emergencies. Furthermore, the detoxification process is gradual and thus must be done professionally.
After choosing the best rehabilitation facility for you and ensuring that you have sorted the financial matters, the next great step is going to the facility to begin your recovery journey. On arrival, you are likely to encounter psychologists, doctors and nurses, whose purpose is to help you through the rehabilitation process.
They begin by assessing your current status to determine the exact benzodiazepine drug that you abused, the length of abuse and the consequences that resulted. They also gather your medical history to know the best approach for your recovery. After these medical professionals have the adequate information that they need, they will admit you.
For the rehabilitation process to start successfully, your body must not have any traces of benzodiazepines. This process causes withdrawal symptoms mentioned above, and therefore, the medical specialists should be careful in discontinuing your drug consumption.
Experts in the drug addiction field believe that your capacity to tolerate symptoms highly determines your withdrawal rate. Therefore, they recommend that doctors should reduce your initial dose of benzos by fifty percent as every week goes by. Another option could be reducing your daily dosage by approximately ten to twenty-five percent every two weeks.
Therefore, the withdrawal stage should last for approximately four to six or even four to eight weeks. These experts advise that prolonging the reductions period for months is not advisable. To treat the symptoms, your doctors may use multiple medications.
They may utilize antidepressant agents or mood stabilizers to cater for sleep problems and depression. Other options may include bet-blockers, pregabalin, nonbenzodiazepine anxiolytic agents, gabapentin and nonbenzodiazepine hypnotic agents.
Other useful medications include drugs like:
- diphenhydramine to be taken in measures of 25 to 50 mg each day
- hydroxyzine to be taken in measures of 37.5 to 75 mg each day
- doxylamine to be taken in measures of 25 to 50 mg each day
- promethazine to be taken in measures of 25 to 200 mg each day
After the detoxification process is complete, you are ready to receive further treatment, which enables you to deal psychological issues.
The issues associated with drug addiction are not only physical but also psychological. Therefore, it is essential that you receive psychotherapy. It is usually a form of psychoeducation, whereby the medical professionals will give you information regarding the risks and effects of long-term use of benzos.
For this approach to be effective, it may be accompanied by other treatments like psychosocial interventions. Additionally, you may require family therapy to rebuild the broken bonds between you and your family members. All these psychotherapeutic interventions target the facilitation of withdrawal, abstinence and underlying disorder.
To change your addictive behavior patterns, you may require cognitive behavioral therapy since it supports direct changes, provides training in social and coping skills as well as management of risk situations. This therapy also addresses psychosocial stress factors.
After acquiring the adequate help that you require from the medical professionals, there comes a time for you to leave the treatment facility. This part is quite tricky because you do not have anyone to supervise you, except yourself.
Therefore, you should remember to utilize the training to overcome anxiety, acquire social competence and practice relaxation techniques to survive in the outside world. This period is also important because it goes for years till you die. Hence, you must take it seriously to avoid relapse.
In conclusion, benzodiazepines are helpful drugs, but can also become destructive depending on how you consume them. They may help you overcome insomnia, anxiety, seizures or alcohol withdrawal symptoms. However, if you do not stick to your doctor’s prescription, you will eventually cause harm to yourself.
Physicians will prescribe you medication that you should take for a period of two to four weeks. It is advisable to stick to this program to avoid the building of tolerance and further, abuse and addiction. Additionally, do not hold back any information when asked about your medical history. It is very important because it helps doctors understand your body better.
Above all, avoid these drugs as soon as you become pregnant. It can be quite cruel to consume the drug while pregnant because your child will suffer the consequences, yet he or she deserves a perfectly good life without health problems.