Benzodiazepines are prescribed for many medical reasons. Some of the most common uses are generalized anxiety, insomnia, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Benzos can also prevent or reduce seizures for persons who have epilepsy. They are sometimes used for detoxing from other drugs, especially alcohol.
Benzos – One Drug, Many Uses
Doctors may even prescribe them for persons undergoing uncomfortable medical procedures. Sometimes patients will use them before medical treatments, and sometimes they are given just before an anesthetic. They are also helpful in the short term for panic attacks and for certain phobias. For example, people who are afraid of flying may use benzodiazepines when they have to travel by plane.
Benzodiazepines Are Highly Addictive With Long-Term Use
Part of their danger lies in how safe people feel with the idea of using them. With so many common uses, people tend to view benzos as ordinary, everyday drugs. Unlike many other drugs, such as other anti-seizure medications, they are not used for just one or two reasons or by a small number of people. This can make it easy to develop a casual attitude toward their use. Unfortunately though, benzodiazepine use is risky.
The drug is highly addictive with long-term use, and sometimes addictive even with short-term use. They produce both psychological and physical dependence in the user. This often leads to abuse of the medication and addiction to the drug. In addition to being very addictive, their common usage also makes benzos very available. Persons who are using them short term may not be careful in disposing of the unused medications. They may even share the medicines, thinking they are being helpful.
Dangers of Abuse and Addiction Are Serious
The dangers of abuse and addiction are serious. Even when used correctly, benzodiazepines do not always produce the desired affect. Some patients may experience contradictory results. Benzos can also cause symptoms of depression. When abused, benzodiazepines are more likely to cause some of the very symptoms they are supposed to relieve.
Users may become increasingly anxious or have other mood and behavioral changes, including irritability and rage. They may also become confused and groggy. Dizziness, weakness and lack of coordination are other symptoms of overuse or overdose. These symptoms can be especially dangerous if the person using the medication is elderly and already at risk for falls. These symptoms also interfere with everyday tasks, such as driving or taking care of children.
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Mixing Benzos with Alcohol Can Be Deadly
Benzodiazepines become even more dangerous when other medications or drugs are also being used. Benzos are central nervous system depressants that have a calming, tranquilizing effect on the brain and body. Mixing them with other depressants such as alcohol can be deadly. That could be a dangerous – even deadly – drug cocktail. Depressing the central nervous system slows down functions automatically controlled by the brain. This includes functions such as heart rate and breathing. Either coma or death can result if there is an overdose.
Even though this risk has been known for many years, sometimes users will still take that risk. Anti-depressants and opioids (pain-killers) can also increase the effects of benzodiazepines. Again, this increases the risk of overdose. Persons who are addicted may not be aware of all the interactions that can occur with drug abuse, or they may be too driven to use to worry about the risk.
Stopping Can Be Dangerous
As serious and dangerous as addiction to benzodiazepines can be, giving up the drug suddenly can also be dangerous. Withdrawal may be moderate and cause the symptoms of anxiety and insomnia to come back with greater force than before treatment. Withdrawal may cause muscle aches, sweating, nausea, and other symptoms. The most serious form of withdrawal results in seizures and potentially even psychosis. The person in withdrawal may even hallucinate. The type of benzo used affects how fast the withdrawal starts, and how long it lasts. The effects generally start within 1-4 days and may last from a few days to a couple of weeks or longer. Some past users may even develop a long-term struggle with anxiety.
Medical Supervision is Best for Safety
Getting professional help when you are quitting is the best approach if you are trying to quit using benzos. Medical supervision can help ensure your safety. The medical team can provide antidote medications in a hospital setting if necessary, such as charcoal or flumazenil.
A medical detox facility provides you with comfort measures to help you through this physical transition. Trained counselors can also help provide psychological support during this difficult time.
If you have a problem with drugs or alcohol, don’t wait and don’t go it alone. Call now.
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