Benzos, short for “benzodiazepines,” are increasingly being prescribed by doctors to treat various disorders, commonly deriving from symptoms such as anxiety. However, because these drugs are extremely habit-forming, many individuals are getting stuck in painful cycles of addiction, no matter how well-intentioned they were when they began taking the prescribed drug. This, in turn, is raising red flags in the medical community as professionals are seeing an increase in individuals taking more benzos than the prescribed dosage.
While many doctors are now more cautious when it comes to prescribing this drug, the unfortunate reality is that once the individual is hooked on the drugs, often, they will sometimes seek out other ways to get the drug, even if their doctor will not prescribe them more than their monthly dose. This could result in the user seeking other medical professionals from whom they can get the medication or resort to finding it on the streets. This can become an extremely dangerous cycle, sometimes leading to addiction to other drugs or, even worse, fatal consequences to the user. To prevent or stop a benzo addiction in its tracks, it’s, therefore, important that one understands the implications involved when starting this prescription regimen and how to get help if one feels they are either heading towards or already on the path of addiction.
What are Benzos? What are the Types of Benzos?
Benzos are prescription drugs commonly prescribed to treat anxiety, nervousness, panic disorders, and sleeplessness. They are also prescribed for sedation during surgery, making it too easy for someone recovering from surgery to take more than prescribed to ease the pain. Unfortunately, they are also getting sucked into the vortex of addiction.
Some examples of oral benzodiazepines are:
- Alprazolam (Xanax, Xanax XR)
- Clobazam (Onfi)
- Clonazepam (Klonopin)
- Clorazepate (Tranxene)
- Chlordiazepoxide (Librium)
- Diazepam (Valium, Diastat Acudial, Diastat)
- Lorazepam (Ativan)
- Temazepam (Restoril)
- Triazolam (Halcion)
All types of oral benzodiazepines are available in tablet forms. Alprazolam and clorazepate are offered as extended-release tablets, while prescription medications like alprazolam, clobazam, diazepam, and lorazepam are available in oral liquid form. Other medications are available only in orally dissolving tablets, such as clonazepam, while some types of benzos are available for injection. Whatever type of benzodiazepine or how it’s consumed can cause serious health consequences for the user, especially if taken outside the recommended dosage prescribed by a medical professional.
What are the Side Effects of Benzos?
Because they were originally intended to be used for short-term help to treat anxiety, nervousness, panic attacks, and insomnia, benzodiazepines can cause serious health complications when taken longer than necessary. Since benzos are extremely habit-forming and highly addictive, it is essential that if you feel yourself developing an addiction or have already formed an addiction to these drugs, you seek professional medical help immediately. This is especially important if you have a history of drug or alcohol abuse or have started to develop a tolerance to the medication, requiring you to take more than necessary to ward off any uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms.
Some common side effects of using benzos include:
- Memory impairment
- Improper body balance
- Increase or decrease in appetite
- Weight gain
- Decreased libido
Abusing these drugs may cause side effects such as:
- Disturbing or vivid dreams
More serious side effects include:
- Dependence and abuse
- Respiratory distress
- Slow heart rate
- Severely low blood pressure
- Akathisia (a movement disorder)
- Increased heart rate
Lastly, the FDA classifies benzos as category D for pregnancy medication standards. This means that benzos can cause severe fetal harm if used while pregnant, so anyone pregnant should avoid taking this medication at all costs.
What are the Symptoms of an Addiction to Benzos?
Some physical symptoms of an addiction to benzos are:
- Difficulty sleeping
- Uncontrollable leg movements
- Bone and muscle pain
Symptoms of an overdose on benzos include:
- Clammy skin
- Dilated pupils
- Rapid and weak pulse
- Shallow breathing
The most serious side effect of benzo overdose is death. To minimize the symptoms you experience from withdrawal, avoid abruptly stopping the use of these medications.
Common benzo withdrawal symptoms include:
- Difficulty concentrating
- Problems sleeping
- Increased anxiety and tension
- Panic attacks
- Hand tremors
- Muscle pain and stiffness
- Perceptual changes
- Dry heaving and vomiting
The level of severity experienced by withdrawal depends on the amount of time the drug was used and how severe the addiction was. Withdrawal symptoms can even be deadly if not appropriately monitored, so seeking the guidance of a medical professional when considering a detox off benzos is essential to ensure your safety.
What Types of Treatment are Available for an Addiction to Benzos?
If you are addicted to benzos, seeking professional medical help is essential to ensure that your health and safety are well-monitored and your withdrawal symptoms are minimized. Because benzos are extremely habit-forming and can be hard to detox from, the key to a smart recovery is surrounding yourself with professionals who can successfully guide you through the recovery process. This may mean that going to an inpatient drug rehab may be the best way to kick the addiction while giving you peace of mind that you are being well taken care of medically 24/7.
Furthermore, inpatient rehab allows you to detox and set healthy foundations of recovery without the additional temptations and distractions from the outside world. Even if addiction to the drug was a mere accident, receiving counseling while attending inpatient rehab can help you get to the root of the addiction in the first place or help you process any trauma you may have experienced while you were in your addiction. Talking through the core reasons addiction became an issue is a key to ensuring a successful long-term recovery by helping you replace old, unhealthy coping mechanisms with new, healthier ones.
If you have questions about entering a detox center to withdraw from benzos, including how to tell your employer you are going to rehab, reach out today.
The time to get help is now. Even if you are unsure if you are experiencing an addiction to benzos, it is best to seek professional medical help before it gets too late. Other forms of treatment or medication can help you live a life of sobriety while managing any anxiety or insomnia you are experiencing. There is a better way to live than in the grips of a painful addiction.
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- Ogbru O. List of Benzodiazepines: Types, Side Effects, Addiction & Withdrawal. MedicineNet. Accessed June 24, 2022. https://www.medicinenet.com/benzodiazepines_sleep-inducing-oral/article.htm
- Liao S. What Is Akathisia? WebMD. Published December 13, 2020. Accessed June 24, 2022. https://www.webmd.com/schizophrenia/what-is-akathisia
- Mayo Clinic. Amnesia – Symptoms and causes. Mayo Clinic. Published September 15, 2020. Accessed June 24, 2022. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/amnesia/symptoms-causes/syc-20353360