Benzodiazepine Prescription Medications Can Lead to Addiction
Doctors prescribe benzodiazepine medications to treat medical conditions such as panic disorders, muscle spasms, seizures, anxiety disorders and the symptoms of acute alcohol withdrawal. While benzodiazepine medications are not as chemically addictive as opioids, cocaine or methamphetamine, they still carry a significant potential for abuse.
Some people abuse benzodiazepine medications for a euphoric high or intense muscle relaxation, and several take these medications longer than advisable. Unfortunately, proper cessation of benzodiazepine medication can be tricky, and attempting to try quitting “cold turkey” can have deadly consequences.
Benzodiazepine Prescription Uses and Risks
People who take benzodiazepine medications for anxiety or other mental health disorders may build a tolerance to the drugs over time. They also develop a physical dependence at the same time, often compelling a cycle of abuse that leads to addiction.
Prolonged use of benzodiazepines will lead to ineffective treatment for the person’s prior symptoms and make it difficult to function at home, school or work. Some people will take these medications in hazardous situations, such as before driving or operating dangerous equipment.
When an individual reaches the point that a benzodiazepine prescription drug is interfering with daily life or has grown into an addiction, it’s crucial to know how to address this issue safely.
Stopping Benzodiazepine Prescriptions Safely
Most doctors will recommend a patient to take a benzodiazepine medication for a certain amount of time and then gradually decrease the dose to wean off the medication. People who improperly stop taking their benzodiazepine medications risk an intense resurgence of previous symptoms the prescription aimed to treat.
Benzodiazepine withdrawal symptoms typically include nausea, disorientation, anxiety, hallucinations, hypersensitivity, tremors, and heightened autonomic activities like heart rate and breathing. The most serious possible withdrawal symptom is a potentially fatal grand mal seizure.
When a person enters detox for benzos, medical professionals will administer medications to manage these symptoms and flush the remaining benzos from the patient’s system. This is a long process that involves slowly tapering off the dosage of benzodiazepines that can last weeks or even months, depending on the level of addiction.
Most detox personnel recommend tapering the patient’s previously abused benzodiazepine medication and then switching him or her to a longer-acting benzodiazepine. Then, the patient will slowly taper off of that medication until the physical benzo dependency has passed. During this time, treatment and counseling between doses can help the patient understand the root cause of his or her addiction.
Types of Benzodiazepines
Benzodiazepine medications are available in a variety of brands, each of which has different properties. Some are fast acting but only last for a short time, while others are slower acting but last much longer.
Different benzodiazepine medications require different detox methods, so it’s vital to understand the risks of each type of benzodiazepine medication.
Alprazolam, commonly known as Xanax, is an effective treatment for a variety of panic and anxiety disorders. This fast-acting medication reduces excitability and increases inhibitory brain activity.
Xanax addiction can easily lead to:
- Difficulty functioning in work, school or social settings
- Profound symptoms of anxiety and panic
- Many other negative symptoms
Chlordiazepoxide: Librium Addiction
Chlordiazepoxide, also known as Librium, is a sedative used to treat anxiety disorders and the withdrawal symptoms of addiction to some other substances, such as alcohol. Librium produces extreme adverse effects when combined with some other substances such as alcohol and opioid-based prescription painkillers.
When abused, Librium can cause “paradoxical disinhibition,” a condition entailing symptoms that one wouldn’t typically expect to see from a person under the influence of a sedative, such as:
- Increased aggression
Clonazepam: Klonopin Addiction
Clonazepam, known as Klonopin, is the third-most prescribed benzodiazepine medication in the United States. This drug treats various anxiety disorders such as:
- Social anxiety disorder
- Panic disorder
- Generalized anxiety disorder
- Extreme phobias
Klonopin abuse can lead to difficulty focusing, memory problems, cravings for more Klonopin, lethargy and delirium. It is possible to overdose on Klonopin, which can lead to respiratory depression, coma or death.
Clorazepate: Tranxene Addiction
Clorazepate, or Tranxene, is a fast-acting benzodiazepine medication that treats several anxiety disorders. Abuse of this drug can lead to dependence, and like other benzodiazepine medications, it requires a careful discontinuation plan for safe cessation.
Diazepam: Valium Addiction
Diazepam, commonly called Valium, is a central nervous system depressant used to treat anxiety and aid relaxation. Valium can ease muscle spasms, prevent seizures and manage the symptoms of various anxiety disorders. Abuse of Valium can lead to tolerance and addiction.
Over time, Valium withdrawal can affect a person’s mental health and cause symptoms such as:
- Heightened aggression
- Feelings of intense anxiety
A Valium overdose can lead to coma or death.
Estazolam: Prosom Addiction
Estazolam, or Prosom, is a short-term prescription to aid sleep. Unfortunately, this drug can lead to dependency when abused, mixed with other substances or taken longer than prescribed.
Flurazepam: Dalmane Addiction
Flurazepam, known as Dalmane, is very similar to Valium and often prescribed as a sleep aid. Similar to Valium, abuse of this drug can easily lead to dependency and significant withdrawal symptoms.
Lorazepam: Ativan Addiction
Doctors generally only prescribe lorazepam, also known as Ativan, for short-term treatment for anxiety disorders. Even if a patient takes this drug as prescribed, it can still lead to tolerance and dependency, which can entail:
- Profound memory loss
- Impaired muscle coordination
- Sensory problems
Midazolam: Versed Addiction
Doctors prescribe midazolam most often as an anesthetic sedative, but it can also help relieve the symptoms of anxiety disorders. Like any other benzodiazepine medication, users should gradually taper off this medication to avoid withdrawal.
Oxazepam: Serax Addiction
Oxazepam, also known as Serax, is a slow-acting benzodiazepine medication that helps users fall asleep and stay asleep. However, slow-release medication can lead to a tolerance, which can then lead to dependency without a cessation plan.
Temazepam: Restoril Addiction
Restoril, or the generic version temazepam, is a sleep aid intended for short-term use. Temazepam can cause short-term memory loss and other withdrawal symptoms with extended or inappropriate use.
Triazolam: Halcion Addiction
Similar to Restoril, Halcion is a sleep aid intended for short-term use. This drug carries a high potential for abuse, and abusing Halcion can lead to significant withdrawal symptoms.
Quazepam: Doral Addiction
Another benzodiazepine sleep aid is quazepam, also known as Doral. This medication depresses the central nervous system and is easily habit forming. Doctors generally only recommend Doral for occasional use.
Undergoing Safe Detox for Benzos
The thought of entering benzodiazepine detox can be frightening, but it’s important to understand how crucial medical assistance is during recovery. Benzodiazepine withdrawal can lead to profound physical and psychological symptoms, so attempting to quit a benzodiazepine medication cold turkey can be extremely dangerous, even fatal.