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What are Benzodiazepines?

More commonly known by their individual drug names, benzodiazepines or benzos, are often used to treat conditions like anxiety, panic attacks, convulsions, or sleep disorders. According to RxList, “scientists believe that excessive activity of nerves may be the cause of anxiety and other psychological disorders, and benzodiazepines reduce the activity of nerves in the brain and spinal cord by enhancing effects of GABA.”

The difference in the different drugs that fall under the category of benzos has to do with how quickly they begin to do their job and how long after you take them do they continue to do their job. The most commonly prescribed benzos include:

  • Valium/Tranxene
  • Serax/Ativan/Xanax/Klonopin
  • Versed/Halcion
  • Ativan/Restori/Prosom
  • Librium/Dalmane

There are some symptoms that are especially relevant to take benzos. These can include sedation, weakness, unsteadiness, loopiness, or dizziness. Some more serious side effects are depression, extreme drowsiness, confusion, aggression, and complete loss of orientation. Some people describe the side effects as taking over their bodies and therefore would rather live with their psychological condition than take medication that gives them these serious side effects. For other people, the medications work to tackle their condition and the side effects do not affect them as severely.

When taken for many months at a time, your body becomes physically dependent on the drug. Suddenly stopping them can cause withdrawal symptoms that include tremors, vomiting, sweating, and even seizures. For this reason, it can be extremely hard to stop taking benzos once you start a daily treatment. Instead of stopping quickly, a doctor should provide you with lower and lower doses of the medication so that you can wean your body off of the drug. If this isn’t the case, addiction can start.

It’s not likely that a drug addict without a prescription for a benzo will seek out benzos to abuse. More likely, someone who was prescribed a benzo for an actual condition will experience dependence and be unable to stop. Sometimes, benzos are combined with certain opioids to experience a high. The most serious concerns for someone who is abusing benzos include seizures, falling into a coma, slowed heart beats, and difficulty breathing. Those who abuse are more at risk for developing conditions down the road like dementia, a disease that slowly erases the use of the brain. If used in a large enough dose or mixed with a large enough dose of another dangerous drug, the use of benzos can be deadly. There has been a significant increase in hospital trips and overdose deaths related to the use of benzos in the passed decade.

Recovery facilities like Nexus, a drug rehab in Los Angeles, can treat for benzodiazepine addiction. Even though they are one of the most common legally prescribed drugs in the country, they are a cause for concern for people who abuse them. Just because a doctor gives something to someone doesn’t make it safe for everyone to take. This is also true for dosages. When a doctor prescribes benzos to someone who needs them, they need to be taken exactly as directed or else the patient can risk growing a physical dependence to the drug.

Facilities like Nexus treat benzodiazepine addiction on an individual basis. Mental health care professionals are assigned to oversee the patient’s recovery process and keep track of more than just their physical health. If the patient had been prescribed the drug before turning to abusing it, it’s important to monitor for that underlying psychological condition.

Getting help for a benzo addiction in its early stages is critical in avoiding negative long-term effects of the abuse. With chronic use can come severe brain damage, suicidal thoughts, memory loss, and liver damage. It might be hard to identify the signs of addiction, but if you do notice anything odd, it might be time to talk to your loved one and seek out a treatment facility. In this case, you’re better safe than sorry.