Benzo Addiction

Benzodiazepines, commonly referred to as benzos, are prescription medications that rose in popularity alongside the opioid epidemic. As a result, benzo addiction has become a widespread concern, with the National Institute on Drug Abuse reporting that 16% of opioid deaths also involve benzodiazepine overdose.

Unfortunately, since benzo addiction hasn’t earned the same notoriety as other drugs, such as opioids, they’re still dramatically overprescribed. As a result, patients with a longstanding prescription are likely to develop benzodiazepine dependence, requiring medical attention to detox and maintain sobriety.

Next Step Recovery in Asheville, NC, offers patients benzodiazepine addiction treatment options to free themselves from the toxic effects of long-term benzodiazepine use.

What Are Benzodiazepines?

Benzodiazepines are classified as a schedule IV controlled substance that slows the central nervous system (CNS) and related brain functioning. Since the CNS encompasses the brain and spinal cord, any drug affecting the CNS causes a change in the entire body.

Upon ingestion, benzodiazepines target the neurotransmitter GABA-A, producing a calming effect on the body. The effects of benzodiazepines make them commonly prescribed medications for those with anxiety disorders, insomnia, panic attacks, or experiencing the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal.

What Are the Different Types of Benzodiazepines?

As benzodiazepines treat acute anxiety symptoms, such as panic attacks, some benzos, such as Valium, provide a short-to-immediate onset. In contrast, Klonopin and others are intermediate-acting benzodiazepines continuing to work in the body for 11 to 20 hours after ingestion. Long-acting benzodiazepines can remain in the system for one to three days.

Popular benzodiapines include:

  • Xanax (alprazolam)
  • Klonopin (clonazepam)
  • Valium (diazepam)
  • Ativan (lorazepam)
  • Librax (chlordiazepoxide)
  • Versed (midazolam)

 

While all of the above are benzodiazepines, they target the GABA receptors differently, making each prescription medication appropriate for a different health concern.

What Causes Benzodiazepine Addiction?

Like many other drugs, benzodiazepines trigger a surge in dopamine levels, which creates feelings of euphoria and pleasure in the body. However, with extended benzodiazepine use, the brain’s ability to regulate dopamine becomes compromised, and functioning without the drugs is more challenging.

Once benzo addiction alters the brain’s chemical structure, patients develop severe withdrawal symptoms that may become life-threatening without proper medical care.

Developing support systems is essential for recovery. For those participating in SACOT, it is strongly recommended that clients return home to a supportive, healthy, and drug-free environment. Having people that love and support you during treatment can be the difference between a successful and difficult recovery journey.

What Are the Side Effects of Benzodiazepines?

Similar to other depressants, the side effects and symptoms of benzodiazepines often center around drowsiness, slower reactions, and cognitive impairment. The most frequently reported side effects of benzodiazepine use include the following:

  • Light-headedness
  • Mental confusion
  • Increased anxiety
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Muscle weakness
  • Dry mouth
  • Blurry vision
  • Dizziness
  • Memory impairment
  • Unsteadiness
  • Constipation
  • Nausea

 

In addition, those who regularly take benzodiazepines have an increased likelihood of experiencing an accident or injury.

Why Are Benzodiazepines Considered Dangerous?

According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 4.8 million Americans over 12 have misused benzodiazepine prescriptions in the past year. In addition, due to the significant effects benzodiazepines have on the body, pairing the drugs with other depressants can cause dangerous or deadly consequences.

When paired with other commonly abused depressants, like alcohol and opioids, patients are at an increased risk of:

  • Overdose
  • Significant cognitive impairment
  • Respiratory depression
  • Developing long-term mental health conditions
  • Decreased physical functioning and reaction times
  • Developing severe benzodiazepine dependence

 

Additionally, when pairing benzodiazepines with other drugs, the side effects of both drugs are enhanced, increasing their severity.

What Are the Different Types of Benzodiazepines?

Patients who take benzodiazepines for over six months will start to develop symptoms of benzo addiction. These include:

  • Irritability
  • Muscle spasms
  • Seizures
  • Sensory hypersensitivity
  • Insomnia
  • Depression
  • Impaired coordination

 

Often, patients experiencing these symptoms crave benzodiazepines to restore the normalcy they provide. However, continuing the use of benzodiazepines only worsens cravings and symptoms.

Benzodiazepine Withdrawal Symptoms

Benzodiazepine discontinuation requires medical assistance. Patients taking high doses or who abuse benzodiazepines for an extended period may need to detox from the drug while in a hospital, clinic, or outpatient facility.

Benzodiazepine withdrawal symptoms vary depending on the duration and dosage of benzo use and the specific drug used. Benzo withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Headaches
  • Sweating
  • Heart palpitations
  • Anxiety
  • Poor memory
  • Poor concentration
  • Insomnia
  • Changes in sensory processing

 

Before attempting benzodiazepine withdrawal, consult a medical professional to determine whether you need a detox plan to manage your symptoms. Some patients’ withdrawal symptoms are severe enough to become life-threatening.

Outpatient Benzodiazepine Addiction Treatment

At Next Step Recovery, we offer several outpatient treatment options for benzodiazepine abuse. Each addiction treatment program provides different levels of care, depending on where the client is in their substance abuse recovery.

As patients begin conquering their addiction, Next Steps Recovery’s intensive outpatient program (IOP) intensive outpatient program (IOP) gives them the tools to transition. IOP works with patients leaving residential treatment or medical detox programs as they move to a three or five-day-a-week program that offers comprehensive support to prevent relapse.

Our multi-treatment approach includes individual counseling, intensive group therapy, and 12-step immersion education to support life without substance abuse.

Through Next Step Recovery’s substance abuse comprehensive outpatient treatment (SACOT) program, clients spend most of their day, five days a week, receiving a wide range of therapies.

The effective therapy modalities offered through SACOT include cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), individual and group therapies, educational courses on preventing relapse, periodic evaluations, and more. In addition, SACOT prioritizes self-healing, addiction management, and personal growth so clients can live without the burden of substance abuse.

For clients managing benzo addiction and anxiety disorder, living without benzodiazepines can feel insurmountable. Next Step Recovery’s dual-diagnosis treatment focuses on the psychiatric conditions that lead to substance use disorders and provides clients with the tools to manage their mental health without controlled substances.

In addition to offering addiction support, we provide patients with relaxation techniques to manage anxiety disorders, sleep hygiene techniques for insomnia, and other tools to thrive without prescription medications. Each patient’s individualized treatment plan targets their specific medical concerns and creates a path for recovery.

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Get the Help You Need to Conquer Benzo Addiction

When the challenges of overcoming benzodiazepine addiction seem overwhelming, the professional team at Next Steps Recovery is here to help. Patients in and around Asheville, NC, can benefit from our skilled, comprehensive care to conquer addiction.

Begin your new life free from benzo addiction by filling out our online contact form today.

Sandy Stader

Medically Reviewed By Susan Stader MS, LCMH, LCAS, CCS

Susan Stader is the founder and director of Next Step Recovery and NSR of Asheville, an Intensive Outpatient Program and a Long-term Extended Care program in Asheville, NC. She received her Master’s in Community Counseling in 2004 at Western Carolina University and went on to get her licensure in addictions and mental health counseling. Susan believes that treatment should be gender-specific and offered in a small setting. Small recovery communities, such as hers, are more intimate and effective in overall client satisfaction and care.

Reach Out Today

Recovery is a lifelong journey, but you don’t need to take it alone. At Next Step Recovery, we give you the tools and support you need to get through early sobriety and find lasting healing. It is our goal to empower our patients to be their best selves and live the life they deserve.

If you have any questions about our programs, methods, insurance, or anything else, reach out to us today. We look forward to helping you to get started along the road to recovery!

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