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Benzodiazepines Addiction Treatment

Benzodiazepines Addiction

What is a Benzodiazepines?

Benzodiazepines, commonly referred to as benzos, are a type of psychotropic medication that reduces neurotransmitter activity in the brain by enhancing the impact of GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid), which is one of the neurotransmitters responsible for suppressing nerve activity.

Benzodiazepines are commonly prescribed to address the following conditions:

GAD ( Generalized Anxiety Disorder)

Sleep Disorders (like Insomnia)

Panic Attacks

Convulsions

Muscle relaxation

Depression

Sedation before surgery

Alcohol withdrawal

Catatonia

  1. Duration And Usage:

Benzodiazepines are typically used for short-term treatment and are usually prescribed for a duration of 2-4 weeks. However, long-term use can significantly increase the risk of dependence.

Despite this, there are many studies that show individuals continue to use benzodiazepines for extended periods of time, ranging from months to even decades.

It has also been found that as individuals age, their use of benzodiazepines tends to increase, with long-term use being more common in those over the age of 65. This demographic is at a higher risk for psychomotor disorders, motor vehicle accidents, and sometimes cognitive impairment.

  1. Types of Benzodiazepines:

Benzodiazepines come in the form of pills or tablets with different colors and shapes. They have various names and strengths, but they can be used interchangeably to treat certain conditions.

Here are some treatments for anxiety, panic attacks, seizures, and alcohol withdrawal:

Diazepam(Valium) 

Oxazepam(Serax)

Clorazepate (Tranxene)

Midazolam(Versed)

Triazolam(Halcion) 

Alprazolam (Xanax)

lorazepam (Ativan)

Estazolam(ProSom)

Temazepam(Restoril) 

Chlordiazepoxide(Librium) 

Benzodiazepine Addiction:

Benzodiazepines can lead to a significant increase in dopamine levels, which is the chemical in the brain responsible for generating pleasurable sensations. Normally, the brain controls dopamine release, but benzodiazepines disrupt this process and release a flood of feel-good chemicals in the brain. This can result in addiction if left untreated.

Benzodiazepines, along with opioids, have become increasingly popular. Shockingly, they are responsible for over 30% of opioid overdoses. Benzodiazepines have been implicated in nearly 13,000 overdose deaths in 2018 alone. Despite this, benzodiazepines are still being prescribed at an alarming rate of 66 million prescriptions per year.

  1. Effects of Benzos Addiction:

The effects of benzodiazepines can differ from one individual to another. These effects may include:

Lower stress level

Euphoria 

Anxiety relief 

Depression 

Confusion 

Thought disorder 

Amnesia 

Headache 

Drowsiness

Dry mouth 

Confused speech  

Double or blurred vision 

Incoordination

Tremors 

Anorexia

Additionally, benzodiazepine injections may result in:

Vein damage and scarring.

There are several infectious diseases that include hepatitis B, hepatitis C, HIV, and AIDS.

It is possible to develop deep vein thrombosis and blood clots which can cause serious health complications such as limb loss, organ damage, stroke, and even death.

Why are Benzodiazepines life-threatening? 

Benzodiazepines are a type of depressant drug that affects the central nervous system (CNS). They have similar effects to alcohol and opioids due to their shared connection and influence on the body.

Combining benzodiazepines with other tranquilizers can be dangerous and even fatal, as the side effects of each drug can compound. Additionally, benzodiazepine withdrawal symptoms can be life-threatening, making them one of the few types of withdrawal symptoms that pose such a risk.

Below are the heightened side effects of using benzos in combination with alcohol and opioids.

Respiratory depression (slow or stopped breathing) 

 Increased risk of overdose 

 loss of cognitive function 

Decreased physical function and slow reaction time 

 Increased likelihood of long-term physical and mental health problems 

 Likelihood of dependence and addiction

  1. Benzodiazepines Withdrawal & its Risks:

If someone stops taking benzodiazepines suddenly, they may experience withdrawal symptoms. The risk and severity of these symptoms are higher if the person has been taking high doses for a long time. Benzodiazepines that are eliminated quickly from the body tend to cause withdrawal symptoms earlier.

It is crucial for individuals who may be dependent or addicted to benzodiazepines to seek medical advice before attempting withdrawal, as it can be life-threatening.

Consulting a healthcare professional or visiting a medical detox facility is recommended as they can prescribe medication to manage and monitor withdrawal, and intervene in case of any issues.

During the detoxification process, the body and mind adapt to not receiving the neurochemical surges associated with benzodiazepine misuse.

Some of the typical indications of benzodiazepine withdrawal include:

GAD

Sleeping disorder

Restlessness 

Muscle spasm 

Hypersensitivity 

Nausea 

Stagnation 

Blurry vision

Depression

Hallucinations 

Delusion seizure

Tinnitus

One effective method for discontinuing benzodiazepines is to request that your doctor gradually reduce your dosage through tapering. This involves slowly decreasing the amount of medication taken over several weeks or months.

Your doctor may suggest switching to a different benzodiazepine before starting the taper, depending on the one you are currently taking.

Short-acting benzos can cause ups and downs, making withdrawal challenging. Diazepam, a long-acting benzo, is often the preferred choice for dose tapering.

Your doctor will assist you in developing a personalized tapering plan, as there is no universal taper plan to follow. This plan will be based on your present dose and specific situation. Some individuals complete the tapering process within 2-3 weeks by tapering off quickly.

Even during the tapering process, it is possible to experience withdrawal symptoms.

If the symptoms become too difficult to handle, the doctor may decide to slow down or interrupt the tapering process. Typically, doctors will opt to increase the dosage in response to withdrawal symptoms rather than reversing the taper altogether.

Having a backup plan to manage anxiety symptoms is beneficial.

The following therapies have been deemed helpful:

Cognitive behavioral therapy 

Meditation 

Mindfulness training 

Exercise

Psychotherapy is an effective way to gain insight into the underlying causes of substance abuse issues. It can also aid in recognizing psychological cues that may result in a relapse, allowing you to steer clear of them in the future.

If you have stopped taking benzos due to misuse or lack of control, it is possible that you may require additional treatment for substance abuse. This is particularly important if you also avoid other substances like alcohol and opioids.

Individuals who have experienced complicated withdrawal, seizures, or serious mental health issues may benefit from inpatient treatment.

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