The abuse of benzodiazepine medication has reached alarming levels both in the U.S. and globally. According to a report, about 50 million prescriptions were written for the drug Xanax in 2013 alone. A 2018 study by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) revealed that over 30 percent of drug overdoses involving opioid medication also involved benzodiazepines.
Despite bearing significant risks for misuse and addiction, benzodiazepines continue to be some of the most prescribed medications in the United States, with alprazolam and diazepam leading the park. Both of these medications are easily absorbed and have a lasting impact on the brain’s chemistry.
What Are Benzodiazepines? Why Are They So Addictive?
Benzodiazepines or benzos belong to a family of drugs referred to as tranquilizers. They are commonly recommended for the treatment of such conditions as:
- Panic disorder
- Alcohol withdrawal
- Muscle spasms
- Anxiety disorder
Benzodiazepines are Central Nervous System (CNS) depressants, producing a sedative effect and reducing anxiety levels.
Because they are often obtained with a prescription, users may wrongly assume that benzos are entirely safe. According to a study, about 15% of users use these medications legally. However, like most common addictive substances, your body can quickly develop a tolerance for benzos and may require a greater dosage to feel their tranquilizing effects. Herein lies the real danger – addiction and possible overdose risks.
Once your brain becomes used to benzos, it can no longer function usually without the drug, which precipitates a series of uncomfortable reactions known as withdrawal symptoms. Feeling agitated, addicts can no longer cope with these physiological changes and will go to great lengths to obtain the benzo of their addiction.
Commonly Prescribed Benzodiazepines
Over the years, many different benzodiazepine-based medications have been produced. There are, however, only about 15 FDA-approved benzodiazepine medications available in the U.S. drug market. Each of these drug triggers withdrawal symptoms which may occur after a period of disuse. Benzodiazepine use must be approached with special precautions. Examples of benzos commonly used for the treatment of anxiety disorder or other nervous system disorders include:
- Diazepam (Valium)
- Chlordiazepoxide (Librium)
- Alprazolam (Xanax)
- Lorazepam (Ativan)
- Clonazepam (Klonopin)
Types of Benzodiazepines
Benzo medications are typically grouped according to the duration of the effects. Based on this classification, the three types of benzodiazepines are:
Ultra-short acting: Benzos in this category include triazolam (Halcion), Midazolam (Versed)
Short-acting: Familiar benzos in this group include Alprazolam (Xanax), Lorazepam (Ativan)
Long-acting: Members in this category include: Clonazepam (Klonopin), diazepam (Valium), Chlordiazepoxide (Librium)
Side Effects of Benzodiazepines
All medications have side effects. Benzodiazepines are no exceptions. Commonly reported adverse reactions of benzodiazepine usage include:
- Slurred speech
- Mood swings
- Nausea and vomiting
- Blurred vision
- Compromised coordination
Uses and Side Effects Of Some Common Benzodiazepines
Since the FDA first approved diazepam (Valium) and chlordiazepoxide (Librium) in the 1960s, dozens of benzos have become available in the United States drug market. Below is a list of some common benzo medications, their uses, and side effects:
Diazepam: Also known as Valium, diazepam is approved to treat many medical conditions, including generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), insomnia, and panic attacks. It is also sometimes used as a pre or post-operative sedative. Common side effects of Valium are depression, amnesia, and impaired motor coordination.
Chlordiazepoxide: Chlordiazepoxide has a calming effect is usually used for the treatment of anxiety and alcohol withdrawal. In the U.S., Chlordiazepoxide is known by the brand name Librax. Librax is considered a less potent benzo, with reduced potential for causing addiction. Side effects of Chlordiazepoxide are drowsiness and depression.
Alprazolam: Manufactured by Pfizer under the brand name Xanax, Alprazolam is one of the most commonly prescribed benzos, with more than 44 million prescriptions written yearly. Xanax is used to treat a broad spectrum of conditions, including anxiety disorder, premenstrual syndrome, and panic attacks. Xanax is one of the most commonly abused benzo drugs, with risks increasing when used concurrently with alcohol. Reported side effects of Xanax use include drowsiness and dizziness.
Lorazepam: Lorazepam is used to manage anxiety, epilepsy, acute delirium, and short-term insomnia. It also goes by the brand name Ativan. This medication bears a high risk of dependence due to its potency. Lorazepam’s adverse effects include dizziness, drowsiness, and blurred vision.
Clonazepam: Clonazepam is known by the brand name Klonopin and is marketed in the U.S. by Roche. This is a powerful medication capable of causing severe side effects such as dizziness, difficulty maintaining balance, drowsiness, and impaired cognition. It is commonly indicated for the treatment of anxiety, seizures, panic attacks, and neuralgia. Clonazepam belongs to the family of long-acting benzos. As a result, patients take longer to experience its effects; however, side effects are potent when misused.
Benzo Withdrawal Symptoms
Benzodiazepines produce powerful withdrawal symptoms within hours of taking the last dose. This can pose a potential challenge to addicts desiring to quit the medication. Regardless of how strong your desire to stop using these medications is, it is never advisable to do so without medical supervision. Withdrawal symptoms may include:
- Heightened anxiety
- Profuse sweating
- Muscle aches
- Increased heart rate
- Impaired concentration
- Trembling of the hands
How to Safely Manage Your Benzodiazepine Withdrawal
Dealing with painful withdrawal symptoms is a significant reason many addicts prolong their addiction, and it doesn’t have to be that way. It is unsafe for you to try to withdraw from benzos at home. At Allure Detox, we help you come off your benzo withdrawal without needlessly exposing you to pain and discomfort.
By gradually tapering off your dosage of benzos, your body will get used to functioning without the drug, stabilizing over time. Medically assisted detoxification can be stress-free and should be. For this reason, patients undergoing inpatient detox at our program find it safe and comfortable, knowing experienced and compassionate professionals are managing them.
If you or a loved one are still struggling with benzo dependence, you can get help to break free once and for all. Regardless of the length of your addiction, Allure Detox can help you safely transition back from a life of dependence to one of complete freedom and purpose. Do not wait another day. Contact us without hesitation to find out how to get started with our detox program. Together, we can get your life back on track and bid a lasting goodbye to benzo addiction!