5 Good discussion topics about Benzo Addiction

1. Benzos are not an ideal sleep aid  

Not everyone has a good reaction to conventional sleep medications. The supplement melatonin is helpful for certain individuals but may only solve part of your sleep disorder. 

Maybe you have tried over-the-counter (OTC) medications, which contain antihistamines and are similar to Benadryl, and have found that they are ineffective. 

Or, maybe you have tried GABA analogues, nerve pain and anticonvulsant medications, that are often prescribed off-label like gabapentin (Neurontin) or pregabalin (Lyrica) and found that they are ineffective for helping alleviate your symptoms of insomnia. 

Many report problematic and concerting side effects from prescription sleeping pills classified as hypnotics such as eszopiclone (Lunesta), zaleplon (Sonata), zolpidem (Ambien). These hypnotics are meant for short-term use even when they are effective. 

Benzodiazepines (benzos) are in the hypnotic class but have features of their own partly due to their potential for addiction. Common benzos include: 

Benzos have the potential to help treat sleep-related problems and diagnosed disorders in the short-term but are not recommended for prolonged use due to the tendency towards developing a tolerance and risk for developing an addiction.

Benzos are one of the most commonly abused prescription medications in the United States. Benzos are dangerous to abuse on their own but pose additional risks when combined with other depressants such as alcohol or opiates. Depressants like benzos also have problematic reactions when combined with other stimulants including ADHD medications like Adderall and Ritalin or illicit “uppers” such as methamphetamine (meth) and cocaine. 

It’s always important to talk to your doctor about your personal habits, symptoms, and pre-existing conditions before deciding to take a new medication. Benzos interact with a wide range of substances including antidepressants and antipsychotics and should be only taken under medical supervision. 

2. Benzos are a band-aid 

In many cases, taking benzos is a short-term solution. Medications like Klonopin, Xanax, Valium, and Ativan are too often prescribed for habitual use. Those who take benzos on a daily basis are often given PRN dosages to use as needed. Over time, people tend to form a dependence on benzos and their symptoms worsen if they miss or skip a dose. 

A medication like Xanax can be extremely effective in situations when a person is having an acute anxiety attack or panic attack. Xanax is a fast-acting benzo and can rapidly calm a person down. However, since Xanax is quickly metabolized, withdrawal symptoms can be felt within hours and this increases the likelihood of abuse. Drugs with a short half-life and rapid onset of withdrawal symptoms can result in someone taking more of the substance in an attempt to avoid the unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. Repeating this process can lead to the cycle of abuse. 

3. Benzos can be a gateway drug

A person may be prescribed benzos because they have an anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, or panic disorder. A problem with prescription medications like benzos is that one of the side effects is euphoria and related pleasure-inducing symptoms that can make someone desire to take the drug more often. The use or abuse of one drug can become a gateway to other drug abuse because it normalizes the desire for taking substances for the pleasure of euphoria or pleasure. 

There is a common misconception that someone has to be engaging in stereotypical negative behaviors in order to have a drug addiction. A person may remain publicly functional, fulfill all of their social and personal responsibilities, continue to maintain employment and fulfill job responsibilities, and give the appearance of being well put together, upbeat, and extroverted.

That same person who appears to be just fine on the outside may be struggling on the inside. This may come out when they are at home behind closed doors. Often, those with substance abuse disorders are able to hide their abuse and addiction from loved ones, family members and friends, until their addiction has reached a point of severity where it is out of control. 

For these reasons and more, it is important to be aware of the signs and symptoms of benzo misuse, abuse, and addiction. 

Common withdrawal symptoms associated with benzo abuse and addiction include:

  • Cravings
  • Anxiety
  • Restlessness
  • Irritability 
  • Tremors
  • Sweating
  • GI issues 

4. Xanax is one of the most dangerous benzos

Xanax (alprazolam) is a fast-acting medication and has a short half-life. This is what gets a lot of people into trouble. The calming and euphoric effects of Xanax fade quickly and this can lead to a crash that may increase anxiety and other negative mental health symptoms. Because Xanax metabolizes so fast, withdrawal symptoms and cravings are not uncommon side effects and this can accidentally lead to dependency and addiction. 

Research has shown that more people overdose on Xanax than any other benzo. For this reason and more, it is highly recommended that those who have developed a dependency or addiction to Xanax consider detox in a medically-supervised setting. 

A person who regularly takes Xanax should never go “cold turkey” off the drug. The consequences can be dangerous and even fatal.

Dangers associated with going cold turkey off Xanax can include:

  • Mood swings
  • Paranoia 
  • Mania
  • Psychosis 
  • Convulsions 
  • Seizures
  • Stroke

There is only one recommended method for ceasing use of Xanax and that is a slow taper. This means that a person who is ideally under medical supervision slowly reduces the amount of Xanax they take each day over a number of days that is decided by a doctor. Rapid reduction in Xanax dosage can result in extremely negative consequences and can be life-threatening. 

Long-term use of Xanax is associated with memory loss and decline in cognitive ability. It takes time for a person’s brain and mind to heal from prolonged Xanax abuse. Some symptoms may be irreversible. Xanax abuse and addiction is associated with Post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS). PAWS can result in physical and mental health issues known to persist for months or even years are ceasing Xanax use. Common PAWs symptoms include:

  • Personality changes 
  • Mood instability 
  • Intense anxiety
  • Major depression
  • Social problems 

5. Women are targets 

Statistically, women are twice as likely to be prescribed benzos as men. Among elderly populations, benzo prescriptions are particularly high. Nearly one out of every ten elderly individuals in the United States is prescribed a benzo. 

Women are often prescribed benzos when they tell their doctor they are struggling with anxiety or having panic attacks. In other instances, women are prescribed benzos when, in speaking with their doctor, they express emotional pain or symptoms of grief. Other common reasons women are prescribed benzos relate to experiences with work stress, personal trauma, chronic illness, pain or sleep issues.

In some cases, women are prescribed benzos for situations that seem particular to the female experience. These include bodily changes with age, situational anxiety related to postpartum depression, or menopause.  

In our society, we put a lot of weight on women. Women who are working mothers are good examples of those who are juggling complicated schedules that involve high stress, anxiety, and not enough sleep.

Far too often, women are expected to take care of themselves both physically and emotionally. Women are statistically more likely to have experienced trauma including assault, sexual assault, and domestic violence. Women are more likely to live in poverty while taking care of children as a single parent and when they are seniors. Social pressures, stress put on women are to perform at a higher level in order to receive equal treatment as men, and economic inequality and  instability put women at increased risk for drug abuse and addiction. 

Contact Oasis Recovery for Benzo Treatment Today 

In the short-term, benzos can alleviate symptoms of anxiety, agitation, restlessness, irritability, mild depression, and sleep issues. Unfortunately, benzos have a high rate of abuse and it’s easy to form a dependence. 

Benzos are involved in an alarming number of overdoses and overdose fatalities. Those who overdose on opiates have, in some instances, also taken a benzo. Mixing substances is always risky and benzos, which are downers, and not safe to take with other downers like alcohol or opiates. Benzos are not safe to take with stimulants (aka. “uppers”) like Adderall, cocaine, or methamphetamine (meth).

If you or someone you care about is struggling with benzo abuse or addiction, we encourage you to reach out to the professionals at Oasis Recovery in North Carolina to learn more about treatment options tailored to fit your individual needs and circumstances. 

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