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Risks Of Benzodiazepines

Risks Of Benzodiazepines, Effects, Types, Dependence, Overdose & Withdrawal Treatment

What Are Benzodiazepines?

A benzodiazepine, or benzo, is a class of drugs used to treat various conditions.  Conditions commonly treated with benzos include insomnia, anxiety, sleep disorders, and even alcohol withdrawal.  In addition, these substances act on the GABA receptors in the brain as they produce a very calming effect.  Unfortunately, benzo addiction can develop in as little as a month.  High-risk patients or those with unstable medical conditions or a significant seizure history may benefit from admission to an inpatient service for benzodiazepine detox or withdrawal.  [1]

Gamma-aminobutyric acid or GABA is a naturally occurring amino acid that works as a neurotransmitter in your brain.***

Risks Of Benzodiazepines
Two serious risks of benzodiazepines are the potential for abuse (overdose) and the development of physical dependence (addiction).

How Do Benzos Work?

Benzodiazepines are only legally available through prescription. Many users maintain their drug supply by getting prescriptions from several doctors, forging prescriptions, or buying them illicitly. Alprazolam and clonazepam are the two most frequently encountered benzodiazepines on the illicit market.

Benzodiazepines are controlled in Schedule IV of the Controlled Substances Act. [2]

Short-Term Risks Of Benzodiazepines

  • Drowsiness
  • Confusion
  • Dizziness
  • Trembling
  • Impaired Coordination
  • Vision Problems
  • Grogginess
  • Feelings of Depression
  • Headache

Risks Of Long-Term Benzodiazepine Use

  • Possible Dementia
  • Physical Dependence
  • Overdose

Benzodiazepine Dependence

Benzodiazepine dependence is different from benzo addiction because addiction occurs only in some people.  When you take benzodiazepines for multiple days or weeks, the brain adapts to the presence of the drugs.  As a result, you may start to depend on the drugs to function.  Benzo dependency is the state of relying on benzo to feel natural.

As drug dependency amplifies, the brain begins to need larger doses to feel similar effects.  Requiring more significant amounts of a substance is an adaptation called tolerance.  For example, when someone dependent on a benzodiazepine stops taking the drug, they experience benzo withdrawal symptoms as the risks of benzodiazepines.  [3]

Different Types Of Benzodiazepine

Doctors often prescribe benzodiazepines to treat anxiety, seizures, and insomnia. Here are some of the known benzo medications:

Alprazolam (Xanax, Kalma)

  • Alprazolam is used to treat anxiety disorders and panic disorder (sudden, unexpected attacks of extreme fear and worry about these attacks). Alprazolam is in a class of medications called benzodiazepines. It works by decreasing abnormal excitement in the brain.
  • Alprazolam, sold under the brand name Xanax, may cause physical dependence (a condition in which unpleasant physical symptoms occur if a medication is suddenly stopped or taken in smaller doses), especially if you take it for several days to several weeks. [4]
  • Alprazolam (Xanax®, Kalma®) is a triazolobenzodiazepine used in panic disorder and other anxiety states. Alprazolam was significantly more toxic than other benzodiazepines. The increased prescription of alprazolam to groups with an increased risk of deliberate self-poisoning is concerning and needs review. [5] Learn more regarding Xanax addiction treatment here.

Oxazepam (Serax, Alepam, Murelax)

  • Oxazepam is used to relieve anxiety, including anxiety caused by alcohol withdrawal (symptoms that may develop in people who stop drinking alcohol after drinking large amounts for a long time). Oxazepam is in a class of medications called benzodiazepines. It works by slowing activity in the brain to allow for relaxation.
  • Oxazepam may cause physical dependence (a condition in which unpleasant physical symptoms occur if a medication is suddenly stopped or taken in smaller doses), especially if you take it for several days to several weeks. [6]

Temazepam (Restoril, Normison, Temaze, Temtabs, Euhypnos)

  • Temazepam is used on a short-term basis to treat insomnia (difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep). Temazepam is in a class of medications called benzodiazepines. It works by slowing activity in the brain to allow sleep. The Temazepam side effects may also be habit-forming. [7]

Flunitrazepam “Rohypnol” (Hypnodorm)

  • It is not approved for medical use in the United States. Used by cocaine abusers to relieve side effects, and also used as a “date rape” drug. [8]
  • Street Names are: Circles, Forget Me Pill, La Rocha, Lunch Money Drug, Mexican Valium, Pingus, R2, Roach 2, Ruffies, Rophies, Wolfies

Nitrazepam (Mogadon, Alodorm)

  • Nitrazepam is a DEA Schedule IV controlled substance. Substances in the DEA Schedule IV have a low potential for abuse relative to substances in Schedule III.
  • It is used as a hypnotic for the short-term management of insomnia and for the treatment of epileptic spasms in infants (West’s syndrome). It has a role as an anticonvulsant, an antispasmodic drug, a GABA modulator, a sedative and a drug metabolite. It is a 1,4-benzodiazepine and a C-nitro compound. [9]

Clonazepam (Rivotril, Paxam)

  • Antiepileptic drugs have been used in pain management since the 1960s; some have shown efficacy in treating different neuropathic pain conditions. Clonazepam, a benzodiazepine, is an established antiepileptic drug, but its place in the treatment of neuropathic pain is unclear.
  • Dependence and tolerance may occur with prolonged use. [10]

Lorazepam (Ativan)

  • Lorazepam is a benzodiazepine medication commonly used as the sedative and anxiolytic of choice in the inpatient setting owing to its fast (1 to 3 minute) onset of action when administered intravenously. [11]
  • Serious adverse effects of lorazepam include dependence and Ativan abuse.

Diazepam (Valium, Antenex, Ducene, Ranzepan, Valpam)

  • Diazepam is a DEA Schedule IV controlled substance. Substances in the DEA Schedule IV have a low potential for abuse relative to substances in Schedule III.
  • Diazepam is a benzodiazepine derivative with anti-anxiety, sedative, hypnotic and anticonvulsant properties. Diazepam potentiates the inhibitory activities of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) by binding to the GABA receptor, located in the limbic system and the hypothalamus. [12]

Benzo Use & Abuse

Like other drug addiction effects, benzodiazepines cause a dopamine discharge.  Dopamine is a chemical contributing to how we feel pleasure.  Over time, these drugs alter the way the brain releases dopamine.  This affects the way people feel euphoria or happiness from all activities.  As a result, people addicted to benzodiazepines can sometimes feel happy unless they take large doses of the drugs.

Addiction also alters the motivation system in the brain.  The brain correlates the substances with happiness and causes cravings that drive the person to take the drugs, and withdrawal is another part of benzo addiction.  People who attempt to discontinue the drugs on their own are seldom able to make it through withdrawal.  Instead, the symptoms are usually so painful that people return to the benzos for relief.

Benzos can also be addictive because they momentarily alleviate specific mental health issues.  For example, some people self-medicate with benzos to mitigate anxiety or sleep difficulties.  The drugs can temporarily manage these illnesses, but long-term use can make people think they have to have the drugs to feel less troubled.

Risks Of Benzodiazepines
The very serious risks of benzodiazepines are withdrawal symptoms that may require medically-assisted detox.

How Long Does It Take To Get Addicted To Benzodiazepines

You should only be prescribed benzodiazepines for the shortest amount of time possible. Taking benzodiazepines regularly for a few weeks or more can lead to addiction. Doctors recommend that you only take them for 2-4 weeks. Intermittent use may help to avoid addiction.

One of the most significant risks of benzodiazepines and the reason to get into a benzo addiction treatment program is likely overdosing.  With a capacity to develop a tolerance, the longer someone takes benzodiazepines, the greater dosage they will need to take to reach the desired effect.  Hence, the greater the risk of overdosing.  In addition, sedative benzos cause breathing to slow.  In turn, less oxygen is directed through the lungs to the brain and the rest of the body.  Finally, once you take a larger dose, breathing delays to the point of being fatal.

A benzodiazepine overdose can lead to:

  • Extreme sedation or drowsiness
  • A very low breathing rate
  • Confusion and difficulty thinking
  • Slurred speech
  • Loss of muscle control
  • Coma

It can be fatal if a person:

  • Uses the drugs with alcohol or opioids
  • Is older and takes too much of the drug
  • Is taking other drugs, and the effects build up in their body

Anyone who shows signs of a drug overdose or an adverse reaction after taking benzodiazepines will need emergency medical help.

How To Treat Benzo Addiction

For those with opioid use disorder or who know an individual suffering from benzo abuse, please consider treatment. Because this is an evolving situation, the benzodiazepine you use may contain other dangerous synthetic opioids.

Clearing benzos from the body and overcoming the risks of benzodiazepines and withdrawal are the goal of benzo detox, which is the first step of treatment for addiction.

We Level Up has a comprehensive team prescribing medications that can alleviate your withdrawal pains while monitoring your health 24 hours during the detox. We prioritize your safety and comfort because this is a fragile and challenging time for you.

Risks Of Benzodiazepines
A person who struggles with some risks of benzodiazepines can begin feeling withdrawal symptoms a few hours after they take the drug.

Once detox is complete, a new doorway in treatment opens up, which is referred to as a residential level of care. The residential care program slowly and effectively introduces the individual into an atmosphere of therapeutic growth, marked by master’s level therapists, clinicians, group counselors, psychiatrists, and a community of like-minded individuals with the same aim: to attain sobriety and live a great life.

Some of the many modalities applied and practiced within our residential treatment facility are:

How We Can Help? Searched for “benzo abuse treatment” or are you seeking a national inpatient rehab destination?

We Level Up treatment tailors the program to the individual and the individual to the program of recovery. We begin by assessing our client’s history of mental health, drugs, and alcohol-related past.

The needs of each patient are specific and personalized because we aim to provide comprehensive support for mental health, addiction, and dual diagnosis treatment. The supportive environment is designed accordingly to give patients 24-hour care for sobriety. Most importantly, we hope to have our clients live comfortably within the facility during this crucial and fragile time.

We Level Up prioritizes removing temptations for relapse and applying an air of recovery into every component of the treatment timeline. We Level Up finds that when clients are living in a supportive community, especially during their early recovery process, they can truly focus on what matters most: their recovery.

If you or a loved one is struggling with the risks of benzodiazepines, reach out to We Level Up because we may be able to help you explore treatment options.