Recovery Direct provides a conclusive therapeutic people suffering with benzodiazepine addiction or benzodiazepine use disorder. This specilised programme offers one of a kind treatment, effective for life long recovery from addictions.
Benzodiazepine Addiction Recovery
What are benzodiazepines?
Benzodiazepines, also called benzos, are prescription medications, available in pill form, that act on the central nervous system. They have a calming effect and are used to relieve tension, anxiety and panic. They are also used to induce sleep or, sometimes, as a muscle relaxant. They are sold under product names like Ativan, Librium, Valium, and Xanax. Benzodiazepines are reasonably priced and widely available. People sometimes become dependent on them inadvertently, even when used as prescribed.
In a medical context, benzodiazepines are mostly used for short-term treatment. This is because the medicine causes tolerance and dependency if used for more than a few weeks. Tolerance means that people have to start using more and more of this drug to achieve the same effect. The increased usage accelerates their dependency on the drug. It also produces very unpleasant withdrawal symptoms if consumption is suddenly reduced or stopped.
Benzodiazepine users are divided into two groups: Those who obtain it legally, as prescribed by their doctors, and those who procure it illegally. The first group is professionally diagnosed and requires the prescribed medication to cope with a problem. The second group is people who abuse it for recreation or have become addicted during the legal prescription period and need more than the usual dosage that a medical entity would willingly prescribe.
People, who abuse benzodiazepine, obtain excessive quantities by visiting a number of doctors and deviously getting a separate prescription from each doctor, thus enabling them to buy more than the prudent quantity from random pharmacies. They also coerce other people to misleadingly obtain prescriptions from doctors and then they buy it from those people. Alternatively, they buy it from drug dealers or order it illegally from online stores that do not require prescriptions.
Benzodiazepine addiction includes both physical and psychological dependencies. Long term use leads to increasing physical and mental health problems. Abrupt dose reduction or abstinence results in withdrawal symptoms. Abuse continues for years, because of fear of the withdrawal symptoms and the users’ doubts about coping with the emotions that made them use the drug in the first place. Benzodiazepine addiction has become a public health problem, as they are so widely used, yet potentially very dangerous.
Death and serious illness does not often result from the benzodiazepines themselves, but they do affect the nervous system – this alone can lead to accidents, serious injury and even death. They also cause health and social problems in the long term. Lastly, they are often taken with alcohol, other medications or illegal drugs and these combinations can be lethal.
The Immediate Effects of Benzodiazepines
If you use benzodiazepines medically for a short time, it can be beneficial. The tranquilising effect helps you to cope with the discomfort brought on by severe stress triggers. This initial effect occurs rapidly after ingestion. It does not resolve the problem that causes the distress, but it provides almost instant relief from the mental anguish. It will calm the user enough to prevent overreactions to the situation that triggered the anxiety.
There are dozens of different benzodiazepine products available, so it is best to confer with a doctor or psychiatrist about the exact nature of a specific product. However, they are all used primarily for acute agitation or anxiety and they all have almost the same effects and consequences. They differ in the way they are absorbed by the body and how long they work. Some work for hours and some for several days.
The Side Effects of Benzodiazepines
As with all powerful nervous system agents, benzodiazepines come with a high risk tag. They all lead to addiction within a few weeks of regular treatment use. Once addicted, you will find it very difficult to stop the medication without facing serious withdrawal issues. Stopping or reducing the dosage, entraps the user in a reversal of the euphoric affects that the drug originally offered and leads to increased anguish.
Benzodiazepines cause a decrease in neurotransmitters which are needed for normal memory, moods, coordination, emotional responses, endocrine gland secretions, heart rate and blood pressure control. With chronic usage, tolerance develops rapidly. If it is suddenly withdrawn, your neurological system is in disarray. Withdrawal symptoms then emerge and persist until the system has reverted to its natural state.
Withdrawal creates a reversed mirror image of the drug’s intended effects. Sleepiness is replaced by insomnia, nightmares and hallucinations; anti-anxiety is replaced by anxiety and panic; muscle-relaxant effects are replaced by muscular spasms or cramps; and anticonvulsant effects are replaced with seizures when cold turkey or unassisted withdrawal is attempted. You should undergo a withdrawal process under guidance of a suitably qualified practitioner.
- Sedation, calmness, drowsiness, sleepiness.
- Blurred vision, slurred speech.
- Poor coordination and balance when moving.
- A sense of detachment from reality.
- Reduced inhibition, impaired judgment.
- Amnesia, memory lapses, poor concentration, confusion.
- Headache, light-headedness, dizziness, fainting.
- Sweating, tremors, muscle twitches and cramps, convulsions.
- Mood swings, severe anxiety, depression, hostility, irritability.
- Abdominal cramps, vomiting, loss of appetite.
- Lethargy, weakness, high blood pressure.
- Disturbing dreams, delusions, hallucinations.
- In rare cases, psychosis and epileptic seizures.
- Absence from work, social isolation, self-neglect.
- Doctor hopping, forging prescriptions, buying the drug illegally.
- Self-harm, suicide.
- Occasionaly, overdosing, coma and death.
Whilst under the influence of the sedative, the user is vulnerable to exploitation, as it dampens the urge that normally inspires a person to react to provocation.
Impaired abilities can cause accidents when climbing stairs or ladders or driving or operating machinery.
Mental dysfunction, due to dependence and withdrawal, has led to suicide and self-harm, especially in young people.
Memory loss and confusion can cause overdosing, leading to coma and, sometimes, death.
Mixing benzodiazepines with alcohol or some other drug or medication, increases central nervous system depression that can cause respiratory suppression, leading to death.
As explained above, benzodiazepines are, indeed, highly addictive. They should be used for short periods or a few individual doses. Psychiatric specialists will only prescribe them for long periods in very exceptionally cases. Benzodiazepines pose a risk of gradually losing their calming effect and the user then needs to take larger and larger doses to achieve the same effect or to stave off the onset of the withdrawal symptoms. With long-term use, there is also a risk of permanently impaired memory and other intellectual abilities.
Treatment for Benzodiazepine Addiction
Before you abruptly stop taking benzodiazepines, seek the help of a trained addiction professional, as sudden abstention from this drug is very risky. Experts recommend starting a medical detox, followed by a drug rehab program. However, it may be possible, if the addiction is not too firmly established, to taper off the usage of the drug whilst undergoing therapeutic treatment.
A large-scale trial, using cognitive behavioural therapy on chronic users of sedative hypnotics, found it to be very effective for long-term treatment of anxiety and sleep disorders. Cognitive behavioural therapy was also shown to be an effective tool to add to a gradual benzodiazepine dosage reduction program. It led to improved and sustained mental health benefits and was effective for the long-term management of these disorders.
Feel free to dial the number at the top of this page for advice or a confidential appointment with a professional benzodiazepine recovery and relapse prevention counsellor in Cape Town.