Benzos are commonly prescribed by doctors for patients who suffer from anxiety, sleep, panic, and seizure disorders. These medications relieve muscle tension or spasms. The problem with benzos is that they are easily addictive and, often, available on the street. Worse yet, benzo withdrawal is one of the most difficult and lengthy types of addiction withdrawal. It’s important to get help from professionals in order to get through the withdrawal process and begin the journey to recovery.

What are Benzos and How Does Addiction Develop?

man with headache goes through benzo withdrawalBenzodiazepines (benzos) are tranquilizers or sedatives. Again, they’re often prescribed to individuals who struggle with insomnia, anxiety, seizures, and other such disorders. Othen, people who use these medications develop dependence and addiction to these drugs.

It is easy to develop an addiction to these medications because they create feelings of serenity, relaxation, and calm. In many cases, people may experience better sleep when taking benzos. But taking these drugs often leads directly to addiction.

Tolerance is the first sign that an individual is using benzos too frequently. This is a condition wherein a person’s body becomes accustomed to the standard dose and no longer responds as desired when you take the pills. In other words, when a person has a tolerance of benzos, it means that his or her body is used to the effects of the drugs. So, the substance no longer affects the individual in the same way. In order to experience the desired effects, the individual will need to use a higher dose of the medication.

Unfortunately, this is where the cycle of addiction begins. Once an individual builds tolerance for benzodiazepines, he or she may begin to use these drugs more frequently or in higher doses than recommended by the doctor. This is known as “benzo abuse”. 

Eventually, tolerance and abuse may lead to full-blown addiction. And, when a person is addicted to a substance like benzos, it can be extremely difficult to stop using the drug. In many cases, individuals who become addicted to alcohol or drugs truly want to become free from their struggle. But, it can be very difficult and even dangerous to abruptly stop using benzos. The body goes into a state of withdrawal, which can sometimes result in life-threatening results.

ABOUT BENZO ADDICTION AND WITHDRAWAL

Once an addiction to benzos begins, people often suffer withdrawal symptoms whenever they stop taking benzos. Sometimes, this causes people to want more benzo pills, even if the doctor stops prescribing them. This is also where many people turn to buying drugs on the street or doctor shopping to gain new prescriptions. These are “drug-seeking behaviors” which are often seen in cases of drug addiction.

Many doctors have stopped prescribing these medications because they are so addictive. They also fear the possibility of intense withdrawal symptoms patients must go through if they become addicted.

Signs and symptoms of benzo addiction include the following:

  • Confusion
  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Increased anxiety
  • Breathing trouble
  • Lack of coordination
  • Poor judgment
  • Vision problems
  • Fatigue or weakness

Sometimes, individuals who are addicted to benzodiazepines may feel the need to use these drugs, even when it is dangerous or inappropriate to do so. In many cases, people use benzos in combination with other substances, such as alcohol. This combination is not only unsafe, but it can also lead to overdose and, in severe cases, death.This is why it’s so important for people to get the help they need in order to end benzo abuse and addiction in their lives.  

LENGTH OF BENZO WITHDRAWAL

The duration of withdrawal from benzos, also known as detox, depends upon multiple factors. A person’s personal health history, genetics, and other conditions make the detox process unique. Adding to these factors are the type, frequency, and intensity of the benzo use.

Benzo withdrawal usually starts within the first 24 hours after taking the last dose. If a person has used benzos for only a short period of time, it’s possible that withdrawal symptoms may last a few days or just over a week. But if an individual has been using strong benzos for a long period of time, a lengthy withdrawal process is likely. Some people experience withdrawal symptoms for months and even years.

Short-acting benzos actually produce the most intense withdrawal symptoms. Short-acting name brands include Xanax, Ativan, and Halcion. Long-acting benzos include Valium, Klonopin, and Librium.

Withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Sweating
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Insomnia
  • Headaches
  • Panic attacks
  • Seizures
  • Irritability
  • Hallucinations
  • Rebound anxiety

If a person uses benzos to relieve anxiety or insomnia, he or she may actually suffer higher anxiety or sleeplessness when they quit using them. These intense conditions are rebound effects. Rebound effects usually go away within about two to three days. Even if you have never had these feelings before, they may begin as a rebound effect of benzo withdrawal.

HOW DO I KNOW IF MY BENZO USE IS A PROBLEM?

Often, the fear of withdrawal causes people to wonder if they really need to get help. Some people may begin to think that their substance use is not truly a problem, or at least not a severe one. It’s common for people to believe that addictions involving prescription drugs are not as “bad” as illicit drug use. But, the truth of the matter is that benzo abuse and addiction can cause very serious problems in the lives of those who struggle with these issues. So, it’s important to get help as soon as possible in order to overcome addiction and prevent things from getting worse.

If you or someone you know has been using benzos regularly for a while, it’s likely that benzo use has already developed into an addiction problem. Still, it’s not always easy to determine whether or not a person is addicted to drugs until the symptoms become more obvious. However, sometimes, there are behavioral and physical signs which may indicate the presence of a substance use problem.

A person may be suffering from benzo abuse if he or she:

  • Become dishonest with friends or family members.
  • Appears to be disheveled and shows a lack of self-care.
  • Seems to be secretive, avoiding conversations about their lives.
  • Engages in “doctor shopping” in order to acquire more benzos.
  • Has become socially withdrawn, spending more time alone than with loved ones.
  • Frequently borrows or even steals money from friends, family members, and others.
  • Has frequent mood swings, becoming irritable, agitated, and even angry at times.
  • Spends more and more time with people who have alcoholism or drug addictions.

Another sign that a person may be dealing with drug abuse is a lack of responsibility. A person who has an addiction problem may often fail to take care of responsibilities. For example, he or she may not attend classes at school. Or, the individual may be continuously late for work. In some cases, people who have addictions may not even go to work at all because of the debilitating effects of substance abuse. Paying bills at home and meeting the financial needs of the family may also be a challenge since individuals may use their money in order to feed their craving for drugs.

Some people suffer from memory problems as excessive drug use tends to cause cognitive issues in the lives of those who suffer from addiction. Many people “doctor shop”, which involves going from one doctor to another in order to get more prescriptions for benzos.

If you have noticed any of these signs in your own life or in the life of a loved one, it’s important to get help right away. Addiction is very serious and should be handled as such. Those who suffer from substance abuse should go through a professional detox program in order to end their physical dependence on benzos. Then, an inpatient treatment program can help them to develop the skills they need as they work to avoid relapse. 

BENZO DETOX AND REHAB ARE YOUR PATHS TO A BETTER LIFE

Simply getting through detox is not enough to permanently end your addiction problems. You need therapy to get to the root of why you fell into substance abuse in the first place. You may be surprised to learn that you have one of several co-occurring disorders like depression or anxiety that may have set you on this destructive path. By knowing why you became addicted, you can gain the treatment you need to stay away from drug abuse for the rest of your life.

If you or someone you love suffers from benzos addiction and needs a fresh start toward a better life, help is available. At 1st Step Behavioral Health in Pompano Beach, Florida, multiple programs are available to put you or your loved one back on track. At 1st Step Behavioral Health, you or your loved one will engage in a variety of therapies to grow from addiction into a healthier, happier life. Extensive support both through and after rehab at 1st Step can keep you on track, even when you struggle with thoughts of relapse.

Call 1st Step Behavioral Health at (866) 319-6123 for more information about available programs. Make this call now to leave benzos and other substances far behind you.

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About the Author: Brittany Polansky

Brittany PolanskyBrittany has been working in behavioral health since 2012 and is a Primary Clinician at our facility. She is an LCSW and holds a master’s degree in social work. She has great experience with chemical dependency and co-occurring mental health diagnoses as well as various therapeutic techniques. Brittany is passionate about treating all clients with dignity and respect, and providing a safe environment where clients can begin their healing journey in recovery.