How to Recognize Benzodiazepine Abuse
Table of Contents
- What Is Benzodiazepine, and How Does One Become Addicted?
- The Warning Signs of a Benzodiazepine Addiction
- Long-Term and Short-Term Side Effects From Abuse of Benzodiazepines
- How to Identify a Benzodiazepine Overdose
- Detoxification and Withdrawal Symptoms From Benzodiazepine Abuse
- Identifying the Best Treatment and Rehabilitation Facility
- How to Self-Identify a Benzodiazepine Addiction
- Facing Your Benzodiazepine AddictionFacing Your Benzodiazepine Addiction
- When a Friend or Loved One Needs Help Facing Their Benzodiazepine Addiction
- Paying for Rehabilitation
Has your prescription for Valium or Xanax turned into an addiction? Have you watched someone you love lose a job because of their addiction to pills? If you answered yes to either of these questions, know that you are not alone. Addiction to Benzodiazepines (the family of drugs to which Valium, Xanax, and other sedatives belong) is becoming increasingly common, as is the abuse of these drugs for recreational purposes.
When used properly, Benzodiazepines are very effective at treating panic attacks, anxiety disorders, and sleep deprivation issues; they are also highly addictive though, and can be deadly when used improperly. If you notice that someone you know who takes a benzodiazepine also seems to be having concentration or memory issues, slurred speech, or often seems confused, then they may be overusing their medication. Likewise, if you’re the one with the prescription and you frequently feel drowsy or dizzy, have double vision, or often have to be shaken out of a stupor, then the time to seek help is now.
What Is Benzodiazepine, and How Does One Become Addicted?
Benzodiazepines are a group of legal narcotics that are often prescribed to patients dealing with anxiety and panic attacks. They are less commonly used as muscle relaxers, and can also be administered to recovering alcoholics to help ease their transition to sobriety. They are known on the street as “benzos,” “roofies,” “goofballs,” and “tranx,” though you may be more familiar with some of their prescription names: Ativan, Valium, Xanax, and Rohypnol.
If you’re here seeking to identify the best way to beat your benzodiazepine addiction, you are on the right track.
Getting addicted to any of these medications is really quite easy, and understandable. They produce an almost palpable feeling of calm and well-being. It’s only natural that those who struggle with anxiety issues would crave that feeling, and might be willing to take more than what they’re prescribed in order to feel even more relaxed and happy. Before long, you’ve built up a tolerance to your prescription medication, and are looking to supplement what your doctor has prescribed for you so that you can continue to feel tranquil and at peace.
This increased dosage will come with many negative, potentially catastrophic, side effects. You might start to feel sluggish all the time, or uncoordinated. Not too long after that, you could begin waking up in strange places with no recollection of getting there. In the most extreme cases, it’s possible you won’t wake up at all.
The Warning Signs of a Benzodiazepine Addiction
As you can see, it’s very easy for a benzodiazepine user to justify taking more of his or her prescription than is recommended by their doctor, but it’s a dangerous rationalization that can come with increasingly harmful side effects. At first, the signals might be easy to ignore, but to do so for too long is to invite disaster. If you suspect that you or someone you care about is a benzodiazepine addict, ask these questions:
- Do you frequently exceed the prescribed dosage of your medication?
- Do you know someone who uses benzodiazepine socially or recreationally?
- Do you take pills in shorter than four-hour intervals, as recommended?
If the answer to any of these questions was yes, then it’s possible that you or your loved one is at least on the path to addiction, if not already there. Now check for these signs that the benzodiazepine abuse is beginning to take a toll:
- Dry (“Cotton”) Mouth
- Slurred Speech
- Blurred or Double Vision
- Slower-Than-Normal Reflexes
- Easily Irritated
If you have noticed these symptoms in either yourself or someone else who is taking benzodiazepines on a regular basis, you need to take action. Xanax, Valium, Ativan, and the like are the most frequently abused prescription drugs besides opiates, and an addiction to them is no laughing matter. Used in ways that are not recommended, these drugs can lead to severe health issues and eventually death. Don’t wait another day to seek help; call today.
Long-Term and Short-Term Side Effects From Abuse of Benzodiazepines
The benefits of benzodiazepine use – freedom from panic and anxiety, feeling relaxed, being able to get a full night’s sleep – may encourage you to ignore any side effects that you might be noticing. This is a dangerous position to take, and can have catastrophic consequences for both yourself and those around you.
For instance, in 2012 a man was parked along the side of the road in Kentucky and was killed by another man who was driving while under the influence of Xanax. Less extreme but no less horrible stories include overdoses ending in death, families being torn apart by addictive behavior, and abusers turning to a life of crime. Tales like these are becoming more and more common, and what’s worse, they can be prevented.
The most easily recognized short-term side effects of a benzodiazepine addiction are these:
- Trouble Concentrating
- Chronic Fatigue
- Loss of Memory
Over time, these conditions will only be exacerbated, with long-term abusers experiencing dementia or Alzheimer’s-like symptoms. In fact, a study reported on by Harvard Health Publications found that seniors who had taken prescription benzodiazepines for six months had an 84 percent higher chance of developing full-blown Alzheimer’s than elderly folks who had never taken or were no longer taking a benzodiazepine prescription. If you even suspect that you or someone you care about has developed an addiction, the time to seek help is now.
How to Identify a Benzodiazepine Overdose
Benzodiazepines build up in the system over time, so if you’re taking the drug more often than your doctor recommends then the chance that you’ll overdose gets higher every day. If you notice any of these alarming symptoms in yourself or someone you know that is abusing a benzodiazepine, seek help immediately:
- Shallow Breathing
- Cold, Clammy Skin
- Pupils That Remain Dilated in Bright Light
- Weak Pulse
- Falling Unconscious
Overdose situations are literally life or death circumstances – while OD’ing on a benzo alone is rarely fatal, those who frequently abuse their benzodiazepine prescription might also be using another substance, such as alcohol or an opioid. This greatly increases the risk of death due to respiratory depression. Please, don’t let yourself or someone you love suffer an overdose: call Rehab-Finder.Org today at 877-251-4813 to get the help you need.
Detoxification and Withdrawal Symptoms From Benzodiazepine Abuse
If you are struggling with a benzo addiction, you might be tempted to try and kick the habit on your own. Rather than leave home for an extended period of time to enter rehab, you could keep up the pretense of normalcy while simply not taking your pills. How hard could it be?
The answer is very hard, even dangerous. On rare occasions the withdrawal symptoms associated with benzodiazepine prove to be fatal. For your safety, it is recommended that you seek professional help and supervision while weaning yourself off these drugs.
While fatalities are rare, these withdrawal symptoms can be expected:
- Decreased Ability to Concentrate
- Increased or Rebound Anxiety
- Uncontrollable Sweating
- Panic Attacks
- Shaking and/or Tremors
- Nausea and/or Dry Heaves
- Irregular Heartbeat
- Pain and Stiffness in Your Muscles
- Perception Issues and/or Hallucinations
While the length of time that a user will experience these symptoms varies, there is a general detoxification timeline that holds true for the majority of those quitting benzodiazepines. In the first six to eight hours, if you’ve been taking short-acting benzos like Xanax or Ativan, you can expect the first wave of withdrawal symptoms. The most common are increased anxiety and insomnia.
Then, days one through four will likely be very uncomfortable due to the insomnia, and added to that will be the increased heart rate, shallow breathing, sweating, tremors, nausea, etc. If you’ve been taking a longer-acting benzodiazepine like Valium, it will take this long for your first detox symptoms to appear.
For those who used shorter-acting benzos, the detoxification will usually last around 10-14 days, with symptoms continuing right up until the second week. Longer-acting benzo users will continue experiencing symptoms well into the third and fourth weeks of the process.
Those who had become heavily dependent on either short-acting or long-acting benzodiazepines are also at risk of experiencing protracted withdrawal syndrome, or PAWS. These are unpredictable periods of time where the recovering addict will experience sharp withdrawal symptoms, and could take place months after the detoxification process occurred.
Our goal is not to frighten you so much as to convey the importance of qualified assistance when you break free from your addiction to benzodiazepines. Please allow a medical professional to help you through the detoxification process.
Identifying the Best Treatment and Rehabilitation Facility
If you’re here seeking to identify the best way to beat your benzodiazepine addiction, you are on the right track. There are several treatment options and types of rehabilitation facilities designed to meet a variety of needs. Some factors you should consider include:
- Insurance Coverage
- Type of Facility (Co-ed vs. single sex, luxury, uses prescription drugs to help ease detox symptoms, etc.)
- Demographics (does the place cater mostly to teens or seniors?)
- Treatment Plans (12-step, non-12 step, faith based)
- Planned Length of Stay
Where you will recover from addiction is one of the most important decisions you’ll make on your journey to sobriety. While specific treatment centers all have their own way of doing things, Rehab-Finder.Org counselors have noted that they all follow a similar general procedure. We’ll outline that for you here so that you have one less thing to worry about:
- Intake: Your unique situation will be assessed by on-site medical professionals, who will then determine your detox, treatment, and recovery strategy.
- Detox: During this difficult period, a team of doctors keeps track of your body’s progress as the benzodiazepines are flushed from your system.
- Rehabilitation: Here, you will learn about the details of your addictive behaviors. You will identify why you developed an addiction in the first place, and how to avoid falling back into the trap of substance abuse. This is also the point where treatment plans begin to take shape.
- Aftercare: Even though you’ve gone through rehabilitation, the specter of a relapse is still present. Aftercare will help you stay on the wagon with outpatient therapy and support groups as you are re-introduced to the world. Learn more about aftercare.
How to Self-Identify a Benzodiazepine Addiction
It’s easy to deny that you might be addicted to your benzodiazepine prescription; after all, it was given to you by a doctor, and that same doctor told you to take it. If you’re only doing what your doctor told you to do (even if you’re doing it a little bit more than they said), how could you be doing something wrong?
We’re not here to accuse you of anything, but ask yourself these questions:
- When my prescription is running low, do I get nervous?
- Are there people who don’t speak to me anymore because I wouldn’t cut back on my pills?
- Have any friends or relatives told me I’m different because of my medicine
- Has anything bad happened at work or school because of my prescription
- Have I ever bought pills illegally because my prescription ran out?
Facing Your Benzodiazepine Addiction
If your answer to any of the above questions was yes, or there was another piece of information that made you realize you needed help, then we at Rehab-Finder.Org want to applaud your courage. The first and most vital step to beating addiction is admitting that you have a problem in the first place. Only now can you start the process of finding the help you need on your journey to sober living.
When a Friend or Loved One Needs Help Facing Their Benzodiazepine Addiction
When someone has a drug addiction, they are not the only ones to suffer. Substance abuse affects everyone around the addict as well. Friends and family are not only forced to watch someone they care about destroy themselves, they must also be on guard against that person if they begin stealing or become violent. The ultimate act of love at this point is to have an intervention. Here are some dos and don’ts for a loving yet assertive intercession.
- Express your love and understanding
- Let them know they deserve a better life
- Offer to help, and reassure them that they are not alone
- Get them into a rehab program before they attempt to quit
- Attempt an intervention when they’re under the influence
- Let them deflect you with emotional outbursts or by being defensive
- Come off as aggressive or judgmental
- Allow them to convince you they have things under control
Paying for Rehabilitation
If you’ve read to this point, then you are convinced that you or someone you care for needs to deal with a benzodiazepine addiction. The good news is that many facilities exist that know exactly how to help with just such an addiction, and will get you on the road to recovery.
It can be stressful to think about money at a time like this, and dealing with insurance companies can be nerve-wracking in the best of times. One of the services that Rehab-Finder.Org counselors offer is to work with your insurance company to find out exactly what your benefits will cover – and we do this free of charge.
You may be pleasantly surprised to find out that your insurance covers 100 percent of your treatment, or at least to know how little you’ll have to spend out of pocket. The best thing to do is call us right away so we can take the mystery out of your healing process and assist you in getting your life back on track.
One phone call is all we need to get you started on the road to wellness!