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Benzodiazepine addiction treatment is only necessary for those with both a physical and a psychological dependence.
Physical dependence can be treated on an outpatient basisover a period of months as the overseeing doctor changes the prescription from a short-acting to a long-acting benzodiazepine and/or slowly tapers down the dose.
However, when benzodiazepine addiction is in evidence, it is not possible to treat the issue out of a general practitioner’s office. A comprehensive medical detox and addiction treatment program is recommended. The following steps are involved in the recovery process:
Benzodiazepines make up a classification of medication that include drugs commonly prescribed to treat anxiety disorders, including panic disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, and social anxiety. Short-acting benzodiazepines, like lorazepam (e.g., Ativan), may be prescribed for panic and acute episodes of anxiety because their effects are felt more rapidly as compared to antidepressants, and they are then processed out of the system within a few hours. Longer-acting benzodiazepines may be used when short-acting benzodiazepines are not appropriate or effective.
On occasion, benzodiazepines may be prescribed to treat insomnia, especially if the inability to fall asleep is related to anxiety issues. Additionally, benzodiazepines have sometimes been incorporated into the detox treatment of those who are struggling with severe alcohol withdrawal symptoms or as anticonvulsants for the long-term treatment of seizures caused by epilepsy.
In all cases, the goal is often to make use of benzodiazepines, short-acting or long-acting, for as brief a time as possible. Because they are dangerous drugs and highly addictive, any use of benzos should be monitored by a doctor and any issues should be discussed with the prescribing physician as soon as possible.
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The Center for Substance Abuse Research at the University of Maryland (CESAR) reports that benzodiazepines enhance the activity of a neurotransmitter in the brain called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). This has the effect of slowing down the nerve impulses throughout the body, allowing the individual to relax and feel more calm.
Depending on the type of benzodiazepine used and the dosage, this effect may occur more or less rapidly. Short-acting benzos are processed out of the body more rapidly than long-acting benzos, making them somewhat safer for use. Because long-acting benzos remain in the body longer, they can accumulate with regular use and ultimately become overwhelming to the user, especially if the person also drinks alcohol or uses other drugs.
There are a number of signs that therapeutic use of benzodiazepines has turned into a substance abuse problem. These will vary depending on the person, the type of benzodiazepine they are using, the dose, and the use (or not) of other illicit substances, including alcohol.
In general, however, CESAR reports that the short-term effects of low to moderate doses of benzodiazepines may include:
At higher doses, benzodiazepines may cause any of the above issues as well as:
Additionally, when a benzodiazepine abuse problem, including addiction, is in evidence, the person may exhibit a number of behaviors that can be red flags, including:
There are a number of different adverse effects and potential consequences that may negatively impact someone’s health when taking benzodiazepines.
According to NIDA, benzodiazepines are one of the most commonly abused drugs. The most commonly abused benzodiazepines include:
SAMHSA reports that about 45.7 percent of people seeking treatment for both benzodiazepine addiction and painkiller addiction also reported a diagnosis for a co-occurring mental health disorder, significantly higher than the 27.8 percent of people who also had a mental health diagnosis but cited other drugs of choice as their reason for admission. This means that, very often, it is necessary for people seeking treatment for benzodiazepine addiction to choose a treatment program that can treat both the addiction disorder and the mental health disorder at the same time, as it is likely that symptoms of the mental health issue will be a trigger for relapse if untreated.
Because benzodiazepines are so frequently prescribed for the treatment of anxiety, it is very common for people to be diagnosed with both a benzodiazepine addiction and an anxiety disorder. However, benzodiazepines are also often prescribed for the treatment of insomnia, an issue that can be related to depression as well; thus, both anxiety and depression are common disorders faced by people living with a benzodiazepine addiction. It is critical for people to learn how to manage symptoms of anxiety or depression healthfully and without the use of medication in order to keep cravings in check and minimize the recurrence of episodes related to the mental health condition.
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