Anxiety is one of the most common mental health disorders within our country today. Due to this, benzodiazepines are some of the most commonly prescribed medications for this concern. Taken correctly, and as prescribed, benzodiazepines can be part of a successful treatment plan. Unfortunately, many people across the United States choose instead to misuse and abuse these drugs, whether it be their prescription or drugs that they obtain illicitly from someone else.
Benzodiazepines, occurring in either a short- or long-acting form, are a class of drugs with sedative and calming effects that depress the central nervous system (CNS). Within the CNS, these medications work on a certain neurotransmitter called GABA, by enhancing its already inhibitory effect, meaning it decreases the excitability within your neurons.
Seen most commonly in a tablet or capsule form, and used most frequently as treatments for anxiety or sleep issues, they may also be prescribed for depression, insomnia, muscles spasms, seizures, agitation and alcohol withdrawal. Typically, these medications are preferred for short-term use, however, some individuals are prescribed these medications on a long-term basis.
As per the Controlled Substance Act, benzodiazepines are classified as a schedule IV drug. Common benzodiazepines, or “benzos,” as they are often called, include the following, which according to the DEA are the most prescribed, and thusly, the five most seen on the illicit drug market:
- Alprazolam (Xanax)
- Lorazepam (Ativan)
- Clonazepam (Klonopin)
- Diazepam (Valium)
- Temazepam (Restoril)
According to a publication from the DEA, in 2011 there were 127 million prescriptions in the U.S. for the five medications listed above. To put this in perspective, as taken from U.S. News & World Report in 2011, the United States had a population of 310.5 million people. This means that in that year, there were enough prescriptions for nearly 41 percent of the population to each have one. That statistic alone is staggering.
According to a Drug Abuse Warning Network report published in late 2014, in the span from 2005 to 2011, emergency department visits due only to benzodiazepines rose from 46,966 to 89,310. In addition to being abused on their own, benzodiazepines are often paired with other drugs, which only serves to increase the dangers, including a risk of fatality.
This abuse may start from a genuine problem or concern, that is, a person may have a valid prescription for a benzodiazepine medication and begin taking the medication in a higher frequency and dosage than was prescribed by their doctor. Additionally, benzodiazepines may be found on the street, and many individuals choose to purchase drugs that have been diverted to the illicit drug market.
Symptoms Of Benzodiazepine Withdrawal
Due to their high potential for abuse, and their addictive nature, an unfortunate number of individuals across our country find themselves addicted to a drug within this class. As a person gains a tolerance for their benzodiazepine medication, they will find that they have to take a greater dose in order to equal the same perceived effects.
We say perceived, because though it appears to the person that the effects are the same, the detriment to their body is not. This is a hallmark of dependency. In example of how this amount has a specific impact, a person’s withdrawal symptoms will vary depending on the duration and intensity (frequency and amount) of use.
If an individual abruptly ceases use of any of these drugs, their body and emotional state will react harshly and manifest any number of the following withdrawal symptoms, as found in a U.S. National Library of Medicine publication, “The benzodiazepine withdrawal syndrome.”
- Tension and nervousness
- Panic attacks
- Hand tremors
- Difficulty in concentration
- Vomiting or dry heaves
- Weight loss
- Muscle pain
- Altered perception
In the most severe of instances, seizure and psychotic reactions may be present.
Experiencing Rebound Effects During Withdrawal
In many instances, if a person stops taking medications within this class too suddenly, they may experience the very symptoms the medications are designed to alleviate in the first place, namely anxiety and insomnia. These are in fact the most common withdrawal symptoms, and may, depending on the half-life of the drug in question, set in within 1-4 days of ceasing use.
The Duration Of Withdrawal
If your drug of abuse was a short-acting benzodiazepine, especially in higher doses, you will encounter withdrawal much quicker than an individual who has been abusing long-acting types. This is because, due to the drug’s shorter half-life, they have a tendency to exit your system faster, thus accelerating the withdrawal process.
The U.S. National Library of Medicine article continues to tell us that full-blown withdrawal syndrome lasts 10-14 days, before potentially giving way to a third stage of withdrawal, whereas the anxiety returns until the individual seeks some form of help.
Treating Benzodiazepine Withdrawal
With any drug of abuse, we strongly recommend that a person never seeks withdrawal on their own. In addition to the fact that they will encounter their symptoms in a more intense and uncomfortable manner without help, they may even put themselves in a situation that has the potential to be dangerous.
One of the biggest dangers of withdrawal is relapse. Now you might ask why a person who has quit a drug would return to it. During withdrawal, symptoms may become so intolerable that it draws a person to the conclusion to use drugs again to make the sense of discomfort stop. This is yet another reason why seeking treatment and withdrawing under trained, medical supervision is a good idea.
With our medically-supervised detox, you will be constantly supervised by Turning Point’s staff, individuals who are highly trained in addiction medicine and acutely understand what it is that you are going through. During this time, their focus will be towards making you as comfortable and calm as possible. There are several things they might do at this stage to do this, including offering you their company, or administering certain medications.
Having companionship at this point may seem insignificant, however, it can play an immense role during the detoxification process. Drugs take an emotional toll on a person. As you’re detoxing, you’re likely comprehending, with some measure of fear or trepidation, the road ahead of you as you progress through your recovery.
Our compassionate therapists can listen to your worries, and begin helping you towards formulating the resolve and hope that you need to be successful within your recovery. Beyond this, they may simply be a distraction, offering you an ear, or various activities, that might help to take your mind off the troubling thoughts or physical symptoms that can consume you at this time.
In terms of medications, the treatment protocol varies depending on the specifics of a person’s addiction, that is the length of their abuse, the substance of abuse and the frequency and quantity of the drug use. After a thorough evaluation and assessment, our team will develop a plan that is best suited to your health and medical needs. We will focus on addressing any anxiety, in the event it should arise, in order to make sure you remain as steady as possible so that you can focus on your recovery. As is often the case with benzodiazepine abuse, an individual may concurrently abuse other substances. During our assessment, we will determine this and also develop a plan of action for any other substance abuse or addiction concerns.
After we’ve successfully helped you work your way through detox, we will begin treating you for other concerns by utilizing our evidence-based treatment methods, which include dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT), family support and various other treatment modalities that are designed to give you the fullest measure of success.
Find Comfort And Hope
We know how overwhelming an addiction can be, and how many questions you might have about the process, start to finish. Because of this, we employ only the most compassionate and expert individuals to handle our calls. Contact us at Turning Point so we can offer you more information on our phenomenal treatment program, any financial concerns or any other questions you might have about the rehabilitation process.