We talk a lot about how addiction must be destigmatized and brought out into the light for proper treatment to occur. There are few substances of abuse that exemplify this more than the category of drugs known as benzodiazepines—or “benzos” for short. Benzo addiction treatment in TN is important to shed light on given the relationship between benzos and opioid use.
What are Benzos?
Benzodiazepines are psychoactive drugs are a commonly prescribed class of drugs such as
- Diazepam (Valium)
- Oxazepam (Serax)
- Aprazolam (Xanax)
- Chlordiazepoxide (Librium)
- Clorazepate (Tranxene)
- Clonazepam (Klonopin)
And many more. As central nervous system depressants, benzos are typically prescribed to treat issues such as insomnia, seizures, and anxiety/panic disorders. They are also used recreationally and have historically been paired with opiates/opioids due to their synergistic effects. The FDA has in the past has stated how dangerous this is and that the two are not to be combined. Unfortunately, many people struggling with a substance use disorder often combine benzos such as Xanax with heroin.
Variations between different benzos sees differing length of duration for effects as well as how long they take to effect. Despite their wide ranging prescription globally, benzos are drugs that can cause physical dependence.
Benzo Addiction Statistics TN (2021)
- Deaths from Benzodiazepines decreased slightly by 3% (409 to 395)
- Deaths including a combination of benzos and opioids increased by 3% (354 to 363), a first since 2016.
- From 1996-2013, the number of adults who filled a benzo prescription increased by 67% according to gov.
- While benzo prescriptions are down in TN, the overall trend of the past decade highlights that many people have at some point been prescribed both benzos and opioids which makes their abuse more likely
Why are Benzos Addictive?
Lowered Guard/Public Acceptance
Xanax and Valium are particularly common and are abused due to how quickly effects set in. Benzos are commonly used in conjunction with other drugs—what’s known as polydrug use. Because of the high focus on treatment of opioid use disorders and alcoholism, plenty of people ignore the slippery slope that is Xanax or Valium use.
Substance use disorders are often referred to as an epidemic in the United States. The reason is simple, you study a drug and the consumption habits and realize that many people fall into abuse territory with prescription drugs.
Benzos such as Xanax and Valium fall strongly into that category. Have you ever heard someone say, “Oh you can’t sleep? Just pop a Valium” Never mind that the person in question has neither a prescription nor a need for the drug.
The lines are blurred; Valium is certainly indicated for treatment of insomnia, but therein lies the issue. Anxiety, insomnia, panic disorders, these are some of the common medical issues of our day. You could say they are commonplace, and so when there are prescription medications that are available which can allay these issues temporarily, they become a bit too destigmatized.
The same issue is happening with marijuana. There are many accepted medical benefits of marijuana use, and studies show that in terms of bodily damage, the risk is much lower than other controlled substances. Alongside the eager acceptance of legalization by many people in society, public consensus has almost reached the belief that no one can be addicted to marijuana—but that isn’t true.
Benzos are addictive for much the same reason. They have a given medical usage where under supervision, they can be medically useful. However, because these drugs carry a risk of physical dependence, the public’s perception of acceptability to a drug can make people disregard the very real risks of addiction.
We have stressed this many times as an outpatient addiction treatment center in Nashville TN, addiction can affect anyone. It is not a disease that targets people of a specific race, gender, or socioeconomic class. Anyone—whether through sheer biological or hereditary susceptibility or experiences in life, descend into a spiral of addiction.
We have seen firsthand how vastly different the backgrounds of our patients are when they seek out help at Southeast Addiction.
Physical dependence on benzos is far more common than many would be led to believe. There are no shortage of stories online of people being prescribed drugs like Xanax, Valium, or Klonopin for treating seizures, insomnia, or anxiety and having a tough time getting off of them or experiencing withdrawal symptoms.
Alternatively, benzos are some of the most commonly passed around drugs with more than half of non-medical users obtaining the pills from a friend or family member who has a prescription. This further solidifies the concept that people believe it’s okay to just “pop a Xanax” once in a while for sleep or anxiety or simply for recreational purposes.
A common through line of these stories is that they were initially prescribed the medication for a medical purpose, only to find themselves using the drug in ways that were not prescribed. Many people struggling with addiction are often dual diagnosed with a comorbid condition such as an anxiety or panic disorder.
They are initially prescribed Xanax or Klonopin for the treatment or management of those symptoms. However, anxiety disorder and other mental illnesses like depression are complex with multiple factors driving them.
Symptoms of Benzo Addiction
Benzo addiction, like any addiction has signs and symptoms that are exhibited by the person.
- Social withdrawal
- Loss of interest in activities that were formerly enjoyable
- Lying to doctors or pharmacies to obtain or double up on prescriptions
- Mood swings
- Uncharacteristic hostile behavior
Physical symptoms can range from
- Muscle weakness
- Blurry vision
Cognitive symptoms can include
- Cognitive impairment
- Slowed thinking
- Reduced ability to concentrate
- Impaired judgement
- Memory and perceptual alterations
These are some of the typical signs and symptoms may be struggling with benzo addiction.
Withdrawal from benzo addiction is notably dangerous and can even be fatal in some cases depending on the level of physical dependence. Because benzo use doesn’t require any paraphernalia—they’re just pills you swallow, it can be difficult to catch someone with a benzo addiction based on that factor.
Others commonly abused substances typically leave a trail that can be helpful for loved ones or friends to discover in order to begin getting their loved one the help they require. For example, drugs such as heroin require syringes and needles for injection, alcohol leaves behind tons of cans or bottles of liquor, etc.
The dangerousness of benzo withdrawal underscores the purpose of this article. Benzos are easily obtained, medically prescribed, and used to treat conditions that can range from mild to severe anxiety and sleep issues. Because of this, they seem fairly harmless and are passed around to those who don’t have a prescription but would like to sleep better, feel a little less anxious, or simply want to recreationally use something.
Like other drugs, a person abusing benzos will steadily gain tolerance towards the drug. They will be continually chasing the first high they got and this leads a person into dangerous waters where the dosages they are using are bordering overdose levels. For many individuals, this eventually does reach the point of overdosing.
This paper with 300+ citations looks at the enormous spike in benzo prescriptions from 1996-2013 and draws the conclusion that overdose mortality involving benzodiazepines has considerably gone up.
Benzo overdose has tell-tale signs as well.
- Loss of coordination
- Slurring of speech
- Respiratory weakness or failure
- Muscle weakness
Because benzodiazepines are nervous system depressants, an overdose can shut down a person’s respiratory functions, motor function, and put them into a coma and eventually death.
Opioids are also depressants, so you can imagine that the tendency to mix these drugs is incredibly dangerous and is often the culprit behind many overdoses.
Benzo Addiction Treatment TN
Southeast Addiction has seen the frequency with which benzos are involved in addiction, especially those who are addicted to opioids. Treating benzo addiction can be tricky, unlike most street drugs, benzos are very commonplace in normal households and this sense of them being everywhere can make recovery difficult.
Part of our benzo addiction treatment in TN is fostering productive mindsets, coping strategies, and understanding about addiction through our therapy and treatment. We can’t take away the temptation to use drugs and/or alcohol, but we can help create a solid bedrock for recovery to take place.
Contact Southeast Addiction today.