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Xanax Addiction Treatment in Dallas, TX

Fast Facts: Benzodiazepine Abuse

  • Misuse of benzos accounts for 17% of all abuse across the country
  • Benzodiazepine prescription refills increased 67% between 1996 and 2013
  • Overdose death rates are ten times higher in people receiving prescriptions for both opioids and benzos as opposed to those using opioids alone
  • A study of overdose deaths in Canada revealed that 60% of those using opioids for non-Cancer pain also used benzos
  • Benzodiazepine treatment admissions are most commonly Caucasians, accounting for 85%
  • Males account for 56% of all benzo treatment admissions
  • 95% of people seeking treatment for benzo abuse are poly-substance abusers
  • In 82% of treatment admissions for benzodiazepine abuse, benzos are the secondary substance of abuse, typically used together with opioids, alcohol, or marijuana
  • In 2017, benzodiazepine was a culprit in the death of 11,000 deaths in the United States

What Happens When You Use Benzodiazepines?

Used for their effects on anxiety, among other problems, benzodiazepines are a group of prescription tranquilizers that are also referred to as anxiolytics (or anti-anxiety medications) or sedatives. Some of the most commonly prescribed benzodiazepines include Valium, Xanax, and Ativan. Ultra-short-acting benzos will manifest their effects for several minutes, while long-acting varieties may stick around for hours. In effect, the withdrawal symptoms from ultra-short-acting benzos can also be concise, while long-acting options will only manifest withdrawal symptoms after about one to two days. Used to sedate and tranquilize the system, benzodiazepines work directly on the central nervous system to relax muscles and reduce anxiety and stress. Some of the short-term effects of benzos include:

  • Slowed breathing
  • Relaxed mood
  • Sense of well-being
  • Calmness
  • Reduced heart rate
  • Feelings of euphoria
  • Impaired thinking or decision making
  • Drowsiness and sleepiness
  • Dry mouth
  • Slurred speech
  • Blurred vision
  • Fatigue
  • Heightened risk of accidents
  • Ataxia
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Dementia
  • Permanent cognitive defects

Because of the immediate effects of benzos, they have often been utilized as date rape drugs. As the chemistry of the sedative takes over, victims are less likely to have the strength or the clarity to fight back against a rapist. For those with a prescription, benzos provide relief against a variety of stressors and discomforts.

While it’s not likely to develop a dependence simply by using the drug – especially when taken in doses prescribed by a doctor – certain people are more prone to abuse as they seek the benefits of the medication to combat their daily struggles. Individuals who meet specific criteria are more likely to abuse benzos intentionally. These include people in lower socioeconomic classes, the unemployed, and those with low-income family dynamics and unhealthy intimate relationships are just some of the individuals who might be more likely to misuse the drug to escape their unpleasant reality. With time, the constant use of benzodiazepine will likely result in various effects that might make everyday life difficult. These include:

  • Dizziness and headaches
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Loss of memory
  • Confusion and inability to think clearly
  • Fatigue
  • Sleep disturbances and insomnia
  • Personality changes
  • Irritability
  • Paranoia
  • Aggression and violence
  • Skin rashes
  • Weight gain
  • Lethargy and lack of energy

During the first few uses, individuals might continue to take doses intentionally – which means that they choose to use the drug instead of being fueled by dependence and addiction. However, over time, users develop support which means their bodies get so used to the presence of the drug that they can no longer function without it.

In the absence of benzodiazepine, users feel weak, isolated, moody, and unwell, which are the characteristics of withdrawal syndrome. This then leads them to take frequent doses to avoid withdrawal symptoms. According to studies, benzodiazepine can become addictive even at low doses, with 23% of users developing a dependence within three months. Other than that, users are also likely to develop a tolerance to benzodiazepine. This means that with the constant use, their bodies become accustomed to the dosage and thus no longer react noticeably to the drug’s effects. The result is that they need to take higher doses to experience their desired potency.

How Do Benzodiazepines Work on the Brain?

Benzodiazepines work directly with the central nervous system, interfering with GABA functions in the brain. GABA or gamma-aminobutyric acid is one of the primary inhibitory neurotransmitters in the brain and spinal cord. It contributes to various positions, including motor control and vision, and it also helps regulate anxiety.

What benzos do is bind to GABA receptors in the nervous system. Once linked, they encourage these receptors to stay open longer when GABA is released. As the influx of GABA overwhelms the receptors, it’s satiated with Cl-ions which hyper-polarizes the neurons. This makes it far less excitable to stimulation which results in the effects of benzodiazepines.

Treating Benzodiazepine Abuse

The first step in treating benzodiazepine abuse is determining whether a dependence or addiction exists. If the user has just taken a dose, then they might show some of the following signs:

  • Slurred speech
  • Dizziness and confusion
  • Sleepiness and drowsiness
  • Impaired physical coordination
  • Vomiting, nausea, and stomach pain
  • Shallow breathing

If the patient is coming down from the high, they may manifest any of the following signs:

  • Anxiety
  • Blurred or double vision
  • Forgetfulness
  • Personality and mood changes
  • Irritability and aggression
  • Fatigue

Removing the drug from the system becomes the primary objective if a patient is rushed to the emergency room for acute benzodiazepine toxicity. Doctors have three options, depending on the strength of the dose and the kind of drug used:

  • Stomach pumping: A tube is placed directly into the stomach through the mouth or the nose, and water is pumped in and suctioned out to cleanse away fragments of the drug. This is rarely performed due to the tedious process, the risks, and the higher efficacy rate of other methods.
  • Charcoal: A single dose of charcoal is provided to prevent the drug from being absorbed into the system. The charcoal powder is mixed with water and then administered as a drink. The patient may feel some gastrointestinal discomfort as the charcoal takes effect. This is the most common choice for acute toxicity.
  • Flumazenil: This drug reverses the effects of benzodiazepine, but it is rarely used. The medicine has been known to cause withdrawal symptoms and lethal seizures in patients with a history of chronic benzo abuse.

Like other drugs, benzodiazepine is removed from the system by reducing the dosage over time. This ‘warm turkey’ detox method helps manage withdrawal symptoms and prevents discomfort and pain during the detox process. Behavioral therapies also come into play to help individuals identify the reasons why they abused the drug in the first place. Some support and therapy centers can help with housing and employment acquisition for eligible individuals. It is also essential to focus on individuals’ support systems regarding their families, friends, and intimate relationships. These practical tools and techniques can help individuals identify the reasons for their abuse and the possible solutions they can use to prevent future misuse, dependence, and addiction.

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