The number of deaths from benzodiazepine overdoses has risen steadily in the past 15 years. The number of those seeking treatment for addiction to benzodiazepines has likewise spiked during that same period.
While generally safe to use when taken according to a physician’s directions, these medications pose a serious risk of abuse for patients who rely on them for the treatment of anxiety, depression and insomnia.
A Family of Useful Medications
Benzodiazepines are a family of drugs with many familiar names. The most widely known names in the class are:
- Alprazolam (Xanax)
- Diazepam (Valium)
These medications are beneficial for treating a number of disorders, including anxiety, depression and seizures. With so many different medications in this category treating so many different disorders, it is no wonder that they are prescribed to many, many patients in the United States.
Prescription Numbers Rise
Between 1986 and 2013, the number of people with a prescription for one of the benzodiazepine family of medications rose from 8.1 million to 13.5 million.
It is fairly common for someone with a prescription for one of these medications to also be prescribed a second or third medication in the same class of drugs. Over time, the body develops a tolerance for a particular medication and doctors often increase the dosage or prescribe another benzodiazepine to restore the desired effects of the drug.
Since Librium was introduced in the 1950s, the stigma associated with mental health problems has dissipated somewhat. Whereas in the past, few people would seek medical help for anxiety or depression, people now regularly seek treatment options for mental health during routine doctor visits. While this has led to advancements in mental health overall, it does also create more opportunities for addiction or abuse.
Prescription Use Seems Innocuous
Mild anxiety, insomnia or depression are common to many individuals who are prescribed benzodiazepines. Everyone experiences such symptoms from time to time, and in the midst of a bout with one of these conditions, it can be difficult to handle or assess the severity of your symptoms.
Determining whether temporary or long-term medication is the correct avenue of treatment can be a very fluid decision for patients and medical professionals alike. Some individuals become accustomed to drug regimens over time, and short-term relief can turn into ongoing dependence.
As you build a tolerance to the medication and your doctor prescribes higher doses or additional medications, it may not even occur to you that you may be growing dependent on the medication and that an addiction is forming.
While the health care industry makes every effort to help avoid drug dependence, these very safeguards can lead to the conclusion that certain drugs do not carry the risks for addiction that illicit drugs carry. This is one of the main reasons drugs like Xanax are so likely to be abused.
Risks of Prolonged Benzo Use
Over time, the body’s tolerance to benzodiazepines often becomes a dependence on the drug as well.
The medication is now a part of the chemical mix the system expects, and the body, therefore, depends on having the chemical for daily operation. Without it, a series of side effects may appear.
We generally call those side effects withdrawal symptoms.
In addition, continual use of drugs such as alprazolam may ironically lead to greater anxiety or depression for patients. As anxiety deepens, higher doses or additional medications are prescribed, leading to a cycle of increased use and even alprazolam addiction.
There is also a very well-documented risk of falling associated with Xanax and other benzodiazepines. Auto accidents are also much more likely for those taking the medications. Combining the medication with alcohol or other sedatives makes the risk of overdose much more likely and leads to thousands of deaths each year.
Don’t Fight This Alone: Get Benzo and Xanax Addiction Help
While Xanax addiction often sneaks up on those who come to abuse it, Xanax detox is often a difficult process. Getting into an alprazolam rehab program can ease the transition off the medication and help ensure success. Medically assisted Xanax detox can free you from the dependence and prevent medical problems that can result from withdrawal.
While in years past there was a stigma around getting mental health treatment, the country now recognize the importance of sound mental health. Don’t let any perceived stigma prevent you from seeking help for Xanax dependence. There is Xanax addiction help, and you owe it to yourself to give yourself the best chance for success.