Looking through the various treatment options available to those with substance addiction can be overwhelming and intimidating, especially if your brain is clouded from an active substance use disorder. Choosing to deal with your chemical dependency takes courage and integrity, and we want you to have access to the kind of support system required for successful recovery from a benzodiazepine addiction.
At NuView Treatment Center, our evidence-based treatment assists patients in dealing with both substance addictions and the mental health disorders that often lie underneath the surface. Our clinical methods have been proven effective by research studies performed over decades. Recovery is very possible – and often it is a simple matter of reaching out to a quality outpatient rehab and letting them guide you the rest of the way.
Personal Treatment for Addiction
NuView Treatment Center offers scientifically tested treatments to help individuals overcome a dependency on prescription drugs. Our treatment center is located in West Los Angeles, where it is easy to develop a strong support community. Most importantly, our therapeutic programs are tailored to allow each person working through a substance abuse issue to feel at ease when discussing the reasons for their addiction. Whether addiction developed as a result of peer pressure, family influence or abuse we put emphasis on listening and having empathy for these individuals who often feel judged just for admitting they have an issue that requires addressing.
Research-Backed Approaches for Benzo Recovery
After a full assessment, we begin by administering treatment and care in a manner that’s tailored to each individual client. We use a wide range of evidence-based treatment modalities to reinforce the idea that recovery is a lifelong process and ensure quality of life post-treatment. Our staff strives to provide clients with tools to help them achieve overall good health over time. Our rehabilitation techniques include group therapy and support groups – both for family members and for clients themselves – as well as individual counseling for those who want to improve their understanding of themselves and address underlying causes.
Flexible and Accessible Recovery for Benzo Addiction
Our outpatient programs are tailor made to your situation. We provide numerous resources so that we can help you not just with the physical symptoms of your benzo addiction, but whatever challenges life is throwing at you at this exact moment. Through our monitoring and assessments we can evaluate any progress or changes that have taken place since the time we first met or spoke on the phone. This kind of flexibility helps us come up with a realistic treatment plan that lets us be flexible – but without sacrificing quality or intensity! Our goal is to meet clients where they are at this exact moment.
This means that if you are dealing with a Xanax addiction while working a job, going to school, or supporting a family, you can get the support you need while continuing to meet these commitments.
What is Benzo Addiction?
Benzodiazepines, a class of drug that is generally prescribed to treat anxiety disorders, can be very helpful to people who need them. Unfortunately, they are also widely abused. When taken recreationally, and even sometimes when taken as prescribed, it is possible to become addicted to this class of drug.
This class of medications includes brand name drugs like Xanax, which make people feel relaxed and calm. They can lower inhibitions and help people feel more confident in the same way that alcohol can. They also lead to notable feelings of pleasure and euphoria in some users. Many people take these pills illicitly in order to obtain these effects.
Commonly abused benzodiazepines include:
- diazepam (Valium)
- estazolam (Prosom)
- flurazepam (Dalmane)
- lorazepam (Ativan)
- alprazolam (Xanax)
- chlordiazepoxide (Librium)
- clonazepam (Klonopin)
- clorazepate (Tranxene)
Unfortunately, when people take these medications, they develop a physical dependence on the drugs very quickly. This habit-forming medication can lead to physical dependence whether a person is taking it recreationally or following their doctor’s orders. However, the dangers are not just limited to physical dependence. Psychological dependence on the effects of anti-anxiety drugs can also develop very quickly. This can lead to dangerous life consequences, health problems, and even death.
This type of addiction can be extremely harmful if left untreated. Fortunately, with help from trained professionals, it is possible to completely recover from this debilitating substance use disorder.
How Does Benzo Addiction Happen?
Anxiety drug addiction occurs when a person experiences negative consequences from their abuse but is unable to stop taking the drug. It is possible for a person with a legitimate benzodiazepine prescription to develop an addiction.
This often begins with taking it in higher quantities or more frequently than prescribed. This kind of prescription drug misuse can be motivated by a desire to reduce negative symptoms of a mental health condition, or sometimes people are physically dependent on it.
In fact, even legitimate benzodiazepine use can very rapidly lead to physical dependence. For this reason, responsible physicians generally only prescribe them for short periods of time to treat acute symptoms. The longer a person remains on the drug, the higher their likelihood of developing physical dependence.
Some people develop some degree of physical dependence after only a few days, though with increased time and higher doses the severity of physical dependence will only increase. After only a short period of time, many people find that they are unable to function without them.
What are the Signs of Benzo Abuse and Addiction?
Benzodiazepine abuse leads very rapidly to a number of physical, emotional, and behavioral symptoms. Over time, when substance abuse turns into full-fledged addiction, these consequences can become even more severe. It is important to be able to recognize the signs and symptoms of a sedative use disorder before it becomes life threatening or destroys a person’s livelihood.
Most people who are abusing anxiety medications, or any other recreational drug, go to great lengths to hide their abuse from friends and family members. Nonetheless, regular prescription drug abuse will always be detectable by a keen observer. Substance abuse in general, and benzos in particular, cause people to engage in uncharacteristic behaviors. These behaviors include:
- Engaging in uncharacteristic behaviors in order to obtain or pay for anxiety drugs, such as stealing, borrowing money, maxing out credit cards, or draining bank accounts
- Working to ensure that they always have a supply of the drug on hand, due to fear of withdrawal
- Disconnecting from obligations and commitments to family and friends in order to get high
- Paying less attention to personal appearance, grooming, or hygiene
- Spending more and more time and energy to obtain drugs, use them, or recover from using them
- Engaging in risky or dangerous activities after using prescription drugs
- Experiencing extreme shifts in personality or mood
- Being increasingly secretive or lying in order to hide substance abuse patterns
Do I Have a Benzo Addiction?
If you regularly take this medication for fun, or if you find yourself unable to function without them, you have a problem. Since anxiety medications like Xanax and Ativan are prescription drugs, addicts often go to great lengths to get legitimate prescriptions. One method of doing this, known as “doctor shopping,” involves seeing multiple doctors in order to increase the chances of getting numerous active prescriptions. If you are devoting time and energy to seeing multiple doctors in order to obtain Xanax or related medications, especially if doctors have refused to prescribe them to you in the past, there is a good likelihood that you need help.
Unfortunately, many people are undereducated about the drugs they are taking. In fact, physicians who prescribe benzodiazepines often fail to mention that the medications are very habit-forming. Some patients are under the impression that they are at no risk simply because the medication they’re taking is both legal and doctor-approved. The reality is that all benzodiazepines can lead to addiction.
How Can I Help Someone with a Benzo Addiction?
If your family member, friend, or loved one is abusing anxiety medications, they are likely to be experiencing a range of debilitating symptoms on a regular basis. You can tell if someone is abusing anti-anxiety medication because they will often act without concern for risk. They wlll also prioritize obtaining these drugs over other activities in their lives – even important commitments like family, work, or school. If you suspect someone in your life has an addiction, you can play a pivotal role in getting them the help they need. However, it is always important to approach them with sensitivity and understanding.
Don’t think you’ll be able to solve their problem immediately. As a trusted person, you can contribute to their recovery simply by being honest about your concern. This does not mean making moral statements or being judgmental. It just means showing that you care – and that you’ve witnessed first hand the harmful consequences of prescription drug abuse in your loved one’s life. More likely than not, they’ve noticed these consequences themself. Be open-minded and listen to what they have to say.
Beyond expressing concern, the second way you can be of help is by encouraging them to take concrete steps toward getting sober. Supporting them on their recovery journey doesn’t mean forcing them to get sober. It means supporting their desire to get sober, which is probably already there, even if it is somewhat buried or denied at times.
Lastly, you can be a critical resource by making yourself aware of what treatment options are available. People who are addicted to anxiety medications are not always mentally at full capacity, so your ability to do the research may come in very handy. Try to get educated on benzo addiction and what recovery for this type of substance use disorder looks like. Have some quality addiction treatment programs in mind that you can recommend. Understand that your loved one’s recovery will likely be a rocky and possibly long process, but that your support can make all the difference.
How Is Benzo Addiction Treated?
Anxiety drugs like Xanax and Ativan are part of a powerful class of medication. By the time a person has begun to suffer the consequences of physical dependence, they generally need professional help from a high quality rehab. Drug treatment facilities vary in terms of what levels of care they offer.
NuView Treatment Center offers a wide range of outpatient programs for individuals who are working to quit abusing prescription drugs and rebuild their lives. Outpatient programs, unlike residential treatment programs, have the unique advantage of allowing clients to work their jobs, live at home, go to their classes, and live their normal lives – all while pursuing recovery.
The most critical component of benzo addiction treatment comes at the very beginning. Physical dependence on this type of medication can be far stronger than other drugs. Withdrawing from anxiety drugs is not only difficult, but it is also dangerous. It may come as a surprise to learn that withdrawing from them is even more dangerous than withdrawing from opioids. Unsupervised and rapid withdrawal can even be fatal. For this reason, the initial stage of addiction treatment involves developing a plan for getting off of the drugs in the first place.
Generally, it is not wise for an addict to simply quit the medication cold turkey. Not only can this lead to potentially dangerous withdrawal symptoms, but it is also likely to cause intense cravings and therefore increase the possibility of relapse. During addiction treatment at NuView Treatment Center, trained physicians supervise the process of slowly withdrawing from benzos. This process, known as tapering, is far smoother, though not entirely symptom-less. This makes it easier for clients to focus on developing the skills they need for long term sobriety.
Even though drug addiction is a physical affliction, long term sobriety is only possible for people who address the underlying reasons for their drug abuse. If people do not get to the root causes of their desire for benzos, it is highly likely they will return to their previous habits even after going through the arduous process of withdrawing. For this reason, quality outpatient rehabs focus on improving clients’ mental health, relationships, lifestyles, and even career prospects. This way, they can begin to lead sober lives that they value.
How Do Outpatient Programs Help Benzo Addicts?
When a client with a benzodiazepine addiction comes to NuView Treatment Center for help, a caseworker will develop a treatment plan that is individually tailored to their unique needs. Most outpatient sessions involve a mixture of group therapy and one-on-one counseling. The clinical staff at NuView Treatment Center is well-versed in a wide variety of different methodologies for treatment. This ensures that treatment is never one-size-fits-all. All treatment plans at NuView Treatment Center incorporate research-backed and evidence-based therapeutic methods. These include:
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy
- Dialectical behavioral therapy
- Group therapy
- Family therapy
- Medication-assisted treatment (MAT)
- Medication monitoring
- Individual therapy
- Fitness and health education
- Mindfulness, yoga, and meditation activities
- Career and education planning
- 12-step programs and 12-step alternatives
- Drug education
- Relapse prevention training
- Urine tests to ensure abstinence
Complementary and Alternative therapies
Patients suffering from benzo addiction treatment also often benefit when their treatment plans incorporate alternative and holistic treatment modalities. The desire to abuse anxiety drugs can stem from a combination of psychological and physical conditions that require a broad range of therapies to correct.
In addition to conventional substance abuse treatment, drug rehab at NuView Treatment Center often also includes:
- Nutritional programs
- Fitness programs
- Art therapy
- Sound therapy
All prescription drugs, but benzodiazepines in particular, can have long-term effects on a person’s brain chemistry and can weaken their ability to produce dopamine naturally. The therapies can help accelerate the process of rewiring the brain and can help stimulate “feel good” neurotransmitters such as dopamine and endorphins naturally.
What Types of Outpatient Programs Are Offered for Benzo Addiction?
Depending on the intensity of a person’s prescription drug addiction and on their flexibility, they may be better suited to certain levels of care. NuView Treatment Center, located in West Los Angeles, offers a range of options for people seeking relief from the vicious cycle of Xanax abuse.
Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP)
Partial hospitalization programs provide the highest level of care for benzo addiction treatment. These programs are demanding and are the ideal choice for an individual whose addiction to anti-anxiety medications has made it difficult for them to function. NuView’s PHP program is both supportive and highly structured so that people can begin to rebuild their lives. The PHP program meets most days of the week for approximately half a day,which allows clients to benefit from both psychiatric help and medical support. Caseworkers coordinate with psychiatrists and trained clinicians to get patients off benzos so that they can begin to take initial steps toward living sober and productive new lives.
Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP)
One of our most intensive levels of care, IOPs work to treat the fundamental causes that lead to addiction. Clients engage in regular group therapy and cognitive-behavioral therapy sessions for several hours a week as well as skill-training workshops. These clients learn how to identify relapse triggers and develop new coping mechanisms so they can avoid reacting in those moments when they are tempted by drugs or alcohol. At the same time, clients take daily steps toward developing strong support systems. Having strong support systems makes sobriety far more sustainable as well as more enjoyable in the long run.
Evening Intensive Outpatient Program (Evening IOP)
Recovery should complement your life, not take it over! Our Evening IOP is a practical alternative to our traditional IOP. It provides the same quality of clinical support, but without requiring clients’ lives to be put on hold. Many people with addictions have demanding jobs and busy class loads; they also have families waiting at home for them. Treatment should complement these commitments and even help people handle them better! NuView Treatment Center prides itself on offering programs for benzodiazepine addiction that are flexible in terms of scheduling options, so that you can attend your daytime classes or work a regular work shift.
Outpatient Program (OP)
NuView’s outpatient program is a great option for those who are transitioning from one of our higher levels of care. With the demands on people’s lives in recovery, it can be important to continue receiving supportive clinical services. For people recovering from addiction to anxiety medications, NuView provides outpatient therapy addressing daily changes, occasional cravings and inevitable challenges at every stage of sobriety. Clinical staff members are highly trained with years of experience treating substance abuse disorders. Our staff excel in compassion as well, always putting the well-being of clients and their families first.
How Can I Afford Benzo Addiction Treatment?
Addiction is a serious and medically recognized mental health disorder. It is listed in the DSM-5 as “substance use disorder,” and all conditions in the DSM-5 are covered by health insurance companies. In fact, it is illegal for health insurance companies to deny coverage for mental health conditions. NuView Treatment Center has relationships with the vast majority of common health care plans. Getting the best possible care during your recovery process is accessible and affordable.
Substance use disorders can make it difficult to sort out your insurance or financial situation. The good news for you is NuView Treatment Center may be able to help you out with your insurance coverage. Our staff is experienced at dealing with the ins and outs and health care plans, and we are more than prepared to help you find a way to make recovery work for you – so that you don’t have to figure it out by yourself.
How Does NuView Treatment Center Support Families?
The effects of addiction extend beyond the person taking it. Almost everyone in their life becomes affected by the behavior of their addicted loved one. Addition runs in families, through a combination of genetics and upbringing factors, so NuView Treatment Center places strong emphasis on family support during rehabilitation through regular meetings and workshops.
We host regular meetings and workshops for families so that they can have the opportunity to work on their addiction. These meetings allow family members a chance to network with others who are going through similar situations, learn new skills, develop coping mechanisms and more. Above all else though, one of the most important things is learning how your own needs can be met while being supportive of someone in recovery or experiencing addiction- something which benefits both you and your loved ones.
Life After Benzo Addiction
Quitting anti-anxiety medications can be overwhelming. At NuView’s physical rehabs, we’re here to support you each step of the way so that you can get your life back on track again after struggling with addiction for so long. Our staff at outpatient programs will be there to give you additional support as well as provide ample opportunity to develop skills and discipline in order to avoid relapse. You’ll also come across a wide variety of new opportunities such as gaining better relationships with family members, getting back in touch with old colleagues, and having the chance to discover new hobbies while increasing positive self-esteem and learning how to embrace life all over again.
This time might seem long, but it is well worth it if the result is long-term sobriety. Living a life that you value will offer you highs along with these lows. Momentary tough times will be quickly forgotten when the better ones come rolling in. You must hold on to the good times and keep them close to your heart, even as you work towards getting out from under the fog of your addiction. That way, when you are more than halfway done with your outpatient program, you’ll be able to reflect on this challenging period as part of an important fork in the road — a choice between continuing with your addiction or ending it for good and finding true happiness within yourself.
With that in mind, we find that continuing to support individuals long after they’ve moved on from our outpatient program is highly important. In fact, many of them stay in touch with other alumni members who may be going through similar experiences. There is also an added benefit when alumni offer their time and energy to help current clients. Even years into sobriety, the growth never ceases.
Frequently Asked Questions
Benzodiazepines, which are often known simply as “benzos,” are a type of prescription sedative. They are also sometimes known as prescription tranquilizers, or more properly anxiolytics. An anxiolytic is a drug that has the effect of reducing a person’s anxiety. Indeed, anxiety reduction is the main reason that benzodiazepines are prescribed. Individuals who suffer from anxiety disorders are often unable to function, be around other people, or complete everyday tasks due to the severity of their emotional distress. Benzodiazepines can help them achieve a state of calm, allowing them to think clearly, improve their lives, and develop new behavioral patterns and coping skills while facing potential anxiety-triggering situations. Given benzodiazepines’ efficacy for treating anxiety disorder, the World Health Organization classifies a number of them as essential medications.
However, benzodiazepines are also often prescribed to treat a wide range of other common conditions. These include insomnia, seizures, muscle tension, and even acute alcohol withdrawal.
While benzodiazepines are developed by legitimate pharmaceutical companies and frequently prescribed by doctors, they are also commonly taken for purely recreational reasons. As a resul, these medications are frequently sold by drug dealers on the street. Given how frequently they are prescribed, many young people obtain them from their friends as well. While they are not a street drug in the traditional sense of the word, this prescription drug is very commonly abused and easy to obtain without a doctor’s order.
Recreational benzodiazepine abuse is in fact on the rise for young people. Benzos, as they are often known, provide a “high” that people experience as euphoric, relaxing, and disinhibiting. The effect of taking benzodiazepines is, in fact, somewhat similar to the effect of drinking alcohol: both drugs increase the effectiveness of the neurotransmitter GABA. Given that fact, many people find that not only do benzodiazepines make them feel “high,” it helps them feel less inhibited in social situations. This can lead to extreme psychological dependence in addition to physical dependence.
What may have started out as a simple desire to get high or to relax can end up being an activity that completely takes over a person’s life. When a person develops a benzodiazepine addiction, they are not only unable to function without benzodiazepines, they experience excruciating, debilitating, and sometimes life threatening withdrawal symptoms when they do not have access to benzodiazepines. Benzodiazepine addiction leads to a wide range of negative consequences, but those who suffer from this kind of substance use disorder are often helpless to manage their own intake of the drug.
Benzodiazepine addiction occurs when a person experiences negative consequences from their benzodiazepine abuse but is unable to stop taking the drug. It is possible for a person with a legitimate benzodiazepine prescription to develop a benzodiazepine addiction. This often begins with taking it in higher quantities or more frequently than prescribed. This kind of benzodiazepine misuse can be motivated by a desire to reduce negative symptoms of a mental health condition, or sometimes people engage in it because they are physically dependent on benzodiazepines.
In fact, even legitimate benzodiazepine use can very rapidly lead to physical dependence. For this reason, responsible physicians generally only prescribe benzodiazepines for short periods of time to treat acute symptoms. The longer a person remains on benzodiazepines, the higher their likelihood of developing physical dependence. Some people develop some degree of physical dependence after only a few days, though with increased time and higher doses the severity of physical dependence will only increase. After only a short period of time, many people find that they are unable to function without benzodiazepines. Once physical dependence has occurred, the withdrawal effects that begin as soon as a person stops taking benzodiazepines can be far more severe than the anxiety that led them to taking benzodiazepines in the first place.
Benzodiazepines come in many different forms. Each one has a different half life, intensity, and mechanism of action. The most common brand name benzodiazepines include:
Recreational drug users do not always use the real names of medications. They often prefer using street names for benzos, which include:
- Super Valium
- Nerve Pills
- Tranks or tranqs
- Yellow V’s
- Blue V’s
- Sleep Always
- Old Joes
- School Bus
Benzodiazepines lead to extreme physical dependence. Even after using them once, an individual is likely to be drawn to them again. This is because taking benzodiazepines releases large amounts of dopamine in the brain. Dopamine, a neurotransmitter that plays an important role in the brain’s motivation and decision making centers, is sometimes known as the brain’s “reward chemical.” It is released whenever an individual engages in a healthy activity or accomplishes a goal. Dopamine makes people feel intense pleasure, and it thereby reinforces behaviors. Benzodiazepines, like other addictive recreational drugs, releases high quantities of dopamine, causing people to seek out more of the drug even when they know it’s a bad idea.
Over time, individual’s brains and bodies acclimate to the effects of the drug. This phenomenon, known as tolerance, means that benzo users need to take increased quantities of the drug in order to achieve the desired effects. As a result, their physical dependence rapidly increases. Once physical dependence truly sets in, people reach a point where the absence of benzodiazepines leads to debilitating benzodiazepine withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms actually occur because the body has learned to live with benzodiazepines. Benzodiazepines are a central nervous system (CNS) depressant, and when people’s bodies are acclimated to benzodiazepines their central nervous systems are over-stimulated to compensate for the effects of benzos. When the drug is taken away, however, the balance is upset, and the extreme central nervous system stimulation that people experience can be dangerous.
Benzodiazepine abuse leads very rapidly to a number of physical, emotional, and behavioral symptoms. Over time, when benzodiazepine abuse turns into benzodiazepine addiction, these consequences can become even more severe. It is important to be able to recognize the signs and symptoms of a sedative use disorder before it becomes life threatening or destroys a person’s livelihood. Most people who are abusing benzodiazepines, or any other recreational drug, go to great lengths to hide their abuse from friends and family members. Nonetheless, regular benzodiazepine abuse will always be detectable by a keen observer. Substance abuse in general, and benzodiazepines in particular, cause people to engage in uncharacteristic behaviors.
Behaviors that may be signs of a benzodiazepine use disorder include:
- Engaging in uncharacteristic behaviors in order to obtain or pay for benzodiazepines, such as stealing, borrowing money, maxing out credit cards, or draining bank accounts
- Working to ensure that they always have a supply of benzodiazepines on hand, due to fear of benzodiazepine withdrawal
- Disconnecting from obligations and commitments to family and friends in order to get high
- Paying less attention to personal appearance, grooming, or hygiene
- Spending more and more time and energy to obtain drugs, use them, or recover from using them
- Engaging in risky or dangerous activities after using benzodiazepines
- Experiencing extreme shifts in personality or mood
- Being increasingly secretive or lying in order to hide substance abuse patterns
The signs of benzodiazepine abuse generally do not include drug paraphernalia. Since benzodiazepines are a pill, they are generally simply swallowed, which require no equipment aside from the drug itself. However, alternative routes of administration are possible. Some people crush their medications and snort them, and others dissolve benzodiazepines before injecting them directly into their veins. In the latter case, they are likely to be using other substances as well.
Most people who abuse benzodiazepines do not consider benzodiazepines their “drug of choice.” The term “drug of choice” refers to a person’s preferred recreational drug. In fact, the majority of people who abuse benzodiazepines are dependent on one or more additional recreational drugs. This phenomenon, known as polysubstance dependence, can result in more severe consequences and also complicates addiction treatment.
Combining benzos with other recreational drugs or medications can be dangerous. Since anti-anxiety medications like Xanax and Ativan are central nervous system depressants, when they are taken with other CNS depressants, the likelihood of overdose increases significantly.
There are many reasons why people abuse benzodiazepines alongside other substances. One common reason is that benzodiazepines are commonly believed to enhance the effects of other drugs. Just as commonly, young people take benzodiazepines to “take the edge off” of other drugs. An example would be someone suffering from cocaine or marijuana-induced anxiety who takes Xanax in order to calm down, or someone who ingests Ativan during an alcohol-induced hangover. While benzodiazepines can indeed offer short term relief for the negative symptoms of substance abuse, it is very likely that anyone using this dubious “solution” is well on their way to developing yet another addiction!
Benzodiazepines are powerful drugs that can be life-threatening when abused. Signs that a person has taken a dangerous level of benzodiazepines include a wide range of physical and psychological symptoms. Benzodiazepine overdoses can be fatal, especially when they are combined with other drugs. Symptoms that may emerge include:
- Slurred speech
- Physical weakness
- Reduction in motor coordination
- Blurred vision
- Poor judgment and decision-making abilities
- Difficulty breathing
- Death (especially when combined with another drug, like alcohol)
Regular benzodiazepine abuse can lead to dependence. Over time, additional symptoms emerge. These include:
- Anxiety (often worse than the anxiety disorder that the person had before taking benzodiazepines)
- Memory problems and other cognitive issues
Benzodiazepine withdrawal is not only excruciatingly painful, it can be life threatening. While many infamous recreational drugs, such as opioids, result in painful withdrawal symptoms, few of them lead to results as dangerous as benzodiazepine withdrawal does. Benzodiazepine dependence develops so quickly that even after a relatively short period of taking the drug, people can experience withdrawal symptoms when they stop taking their medication. People with a low degree of physical dependence may experience what is known as “rebound.” Rebound symptoms occur when the symptoms of their mental health disorder, for which they were taking benzodiazepines in the first place, re-occur. Rebound symptoms are often more severe than the initial symptoms they had before taking benzodiazepines. However, individuals who have developed a stronger dependence on benzodiazepines are likely to experience a condition far more severe than rebound symptoms: benzodiazepine withdrawal.
Benzodiazepine withdrawal is characterized by a number of different risks. These include:
- Gastrointestinal problems
- Muscle spasms
- Increasing sweating
- Hypersensitivity to stimuli
- Suicidal ideation or behavior
- Delirium tremens
Benzodiazepine withdrawal generally begins within a few hours of a person’s last dosage. Unlike other forms of withdrawal, it does not simply worsen and then get better. Instead, the severe symptoms of benzodiazepine withdrawal often come in waves. During the withdrawal period, there can be days or weeks during which people feel like they are feeling better, followed by periods of more extreme symptoms. Benzodiazepine withdrawal lasts for a long time, ranging from several weeks to several months. Some people suffer from benzo withdrawal symptoms for far longer than several months. This condition, known as post-acute withdrawal syndrome, or PAWS, affects approximately 10% of people with benzodiazepine dependence.
Given how long, miserable, and dangerous benzodiazepine withdrawal is, it should come as no surprise that people with benzodiazepine addictions go to great lengths to avoid it. However, it is important to understand that benzodiazepine withdrawal can be managed. With the help of a treatment center, people can engage in a medically supervised tapering program so that they do not experience symptoms at such a high severity. With the support of an outpatient addiction treatment center, not only can physical withdrawal be managed, but a person can begin to develop the skills and coping tools necessary to address their underlying addiction.
Quitting a drug “cold turkey” means stopping completely and abruptly. While this method may work in some cases with certain drugs, it is both ineffective and dangerous when it comes to anti-anxiety medications.
Individuals suffering from benzodiazepine addiction require a high level of care, and treatment at an outpatient addiction treatment center is generally the best course of action. Benzodiazepine withdrawal is an arduous and potentially dangerous process, and it is important to undergo benzo detox with a great deal of support. Moreover, to avert the possibility of relapse, treatment centers work with individuals to help them develop new tools and coping strategies.
In fact, benzo withdrawal can be so severe that the consequences can be life-threatening. This makes it far more dangerous than heroin withdrawal. Addiction professionals generally advise people addicted to anti-anxiety medications to gradually wean off. Doctors at outpatient programs can supervise this process, which is known as tapering. Tapering the dosage not only decreases the severity of withdrawal symptoms and the possible health consequences, but it also reduces the likelihood of relapse. While it may take some more time to quit benzos entirely using this method, long-term sobriety is far more likely than the “cold turkey” method.
Long Term Consequences of Benzo Addiction
People who engage in benzodiazepine abuse for long periods of time are likely to experience a wide range of harmful consequences. In many ways, the consequences of addiction, which are not unique to benzodiazepines, lead to some of the worst consequences. Individuals with substance use disorders tend to restructure their lives around obtaining, using, and recovering from drugs. In prioritizing drug use above all else, most individuals end up letting go of other important aspects of their lives, from their relationships to their career ambitions. As a result, individuals with benzodiazepine addictions tend to suffer consequences at work, at school, and at home with their families. They are also likely to experience a number of issues with the law, with their personal finances, and with their physical and mental health. Unfortunately, many people respond to these consequences by increasing their benzodiazepine abuse, since the drugs offer a form of extremely temporary relief. The result is a painful and vicious cycle.
Aside from the risks of addiction, benzodiazepines also pose a number of risks that relate specifically to the effects of the drug:
- Cognitive impairment. Benzodiazepines cause drowsiness, slow down people’s reactions, and can make it difficult for people to think clearly.
- Motor vehicle crashes. Not only do benzodiazepines slow reaction time and decrease physical coordination, they also have a disinhibiting effect. While on benzodiazepines, individuals are likely to exercise poor judgment. Those who get behind the wheel of a car have an increased risk of getting into an accident. It is no different from driving while drinking alcohol.
- Interpersonal conflicts. Like alcohol, benzodiazepines cause people to engage in impulsive and regrettable behavior. As a result, conflicts can occur. In some cases, people commit criminal acts, including assault and murder.
- Black outs. High doses of benzodiazepines, and even low doses of benzodiazepines when combined with alcohol, are sufficient to prevent memories from being formed. People who regularly abuse benzodiazepines often have gaps of entire weeks or months that they cannot describe at all.
- Worsened mental illness. Even though benzodiazepines are prescribed to treat symptoms of anxiety and other mental health conditions, benzodiazepine abuse ultimately worsens these symptoms and can lead to the development of new mental health conditions as well.
- Long term brain damage. Some research has shown that the cognitive effects of long term benzodiazepine abuse are semi-permanent. The drugs inflict long term neuronal damage, affecting learning abilities, visual-spatial abilities, processing speed, and verbal skills.
- Overdose. Benzodiazepine abuse can result in overdoses, especially when the drugs are combined with other central nervous system depressants, like alcohol or opioids. Benzodiazepine overdose generally comes in the form of respiratory depression, which can be fatal.
Anyone can develop an addiction to prescription drugs. However, a combination of inherent biological factors as well as social factors can predispose someone to addiction. Individuals who are most at risk for benzodiazepine abuse and addiction include:
- People who use benzodiazepines over a long period of time (beyond four weeks)
- People who take high quantities of benzodiazepines
- People who simultaneously abuse other substances, especially alcohol, barbiturates, stimulants, and opioids
- People who suffer from long term anxiety disorders or other mental health conditions
- People with a history of substance use disorders in their families
- People who suffered from traumatic childhoods
- People with weak social support systems