Benzodiazepines, sold under brand names such as Valium, Klonopin, Vicodin, and Xanax were previously one of the most prescribed drugs in the world. Today, over 13.5 million people hold prescriptions for the drug, and many of them have had those prescriptions for years. At the same time, most DSM recommendations now stipulate that benzodiazepines not be prescribed for more than 5 weeks at a time. This recommendation stems from the high potential for addiction and abuse, causing even faithful prescription users to develop dependency and sometimes addiction.
Over the short-term, benzodiazepines can be extremely helpful in that they reduce anxiety and stress and can be instrumental in treating panic attacks and PTSD.
Over the long-term, the can contribute to insomnia, impaired concentration, panic attacks, depression, and full addiction. If you suspect your loved one is addicted to benzodiazepines, it’s important to act and get them help.
Symptoms of Benzodiazepine Addiction
If someone is using more than their prescription, in ways not approved of by their prescription (such as before driving a car) or refuses to go anywhere without their drugs, they may have a problem.
Benzodiazepine withdrawal is dangerous, difficult, and drawn out, making the drugs one of the most difficult to withdraw from. Like alcohol, benzodiazepines interact with the GABA receptors in the brain. During withdrawal, reduced Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid uptake in the brain results in seizures and psychological side-effects which can be dangerous. For example, about 20% of all cases experience grand mal seizures.
Individuals experiencing benzo withdrawal typically go through a timeline of detox over about two weeks. In some cases, symptoms can last for months.
Benzodiazepine withdrawal is risk and often dangerous. It is important to seek out medical detox and support to prevent complications.
Benzodiazepine Addiction Treatment
Detox and withdrawal are just the first steps of addiction treatment. Many benzodiazepine users suffer from long and complex withdrawal periods, dual diagnosis in that they often have co-current mental disorders such as PTSD or anxiety, and complexities with drug-related anxiety and panic.
Most treatment centers use a combination of drug tapering, cognitive behavioral therapy, and counseling to treat benzodiazepine addiction. Here, individuals are slowly taken off the drug to reduce withdrawal symptoms.