Benzodiazepines, or “benzos,” are a class of pharmaceutical drugs prescribed for a spectrum of mental disorders and ailments. They are used to treat moderate to severe anxiety, panic attacks, epileptic seizures and even withdrawal symptoms from other central nervous system depressants like alcohol. Because of their high potential to cause addiction, benzodiazepines are generally prescribed for short-term use.
Benzodiazepines are labeled Schedule IV drugs under the Controlled Substances Act, meaning they are highly regulated by the U.S. government.
Most benzodiazepines come in pill or tablet form for oral consumption. Some brands, like Valium, can also be administered intravenously as a clear, odorless liquid. Benzodiazepines are legal when they are prescribed. However, a black market for the drugs exists as well. On the street, benzodiazepine drugs might go by other names like tranks, downers, bars, sticks, French fries, ladders, or simply benzos.
Some common benzodiazepines include:
Benzodiazepines can be dangerous and addictive, despite their medical validity and federal regulation. If you or a loved one is struggling with benzodiazepine use, get help today.
Benzodiazepines Effects and Abuse
Benzodiazepines bind with special neurons called GABA receptors in a process that slows overactive brain function and relieves severe mental stress. Those abusing benzodiazepines can experience a euphoric “high” or alcohol-like “buzz,” depending on the brand abused. This is followed by a prolonged sedation.
Any use of benzodiazepines outside of a doctor’s recommendation constitutes abuse. Some benzodiazepine users crush and snort their tablets or pills to amplify the potency. This increases the likelihood of overdose. Seizures and coma are common symptoms of a benzo overdose.
Benzodiazepine overdose can slow breathing and heart rates until they stop completely, resulting in death.
Addiction to Benzodiazepines
Due to their high potency, benzodiazepines can change the brain’s neurochemistry. Over time, the drugs build up in the user’s body. Users can develop mental and physical dependencies on the drugs as a result. The prevalence of benzodiazepines as popular, oft-prescribed anti-anxiety medications means that people from every demographic and lifestyle can be exposed to them. Addiction can form even under a physician’s care and prescribed doses.
Because benzodiazepines are available by prescription, users and their loved ones are often unaware of the high abusive and addictive potential they hold. Signs of addiction that might be overlooked include developing a tolerance to the drugs’ sedative effects or dismissing important people and activities to focus solely on getting and abusing the drugs. Learn the criteria for recognizing an addiction today.
Benzodiazepines and Other Drugs
In order to boost their buzz, some users will mix the drugs with other central nervous system (CNS) depressants. Alcohol is typically the chosen CNS sedative to combine with benzodiazepines, but users might also take benzos in conjunction with opiate drugs to escalate both highs. Mixing benzodiazepines with other prescription and illicit drugs greatly increases the odds of fatal overdose.
One study reported that nearly 95 percent of hospital admissions for benzodiazepine overdose claimed abuse of at least one other substance.
Signs and Symptoms of Benzodiazepine Addiction
- Blurred vision
- Blacking out
- Passing out
- Poor judgment
- “Doctor shopping” to obtain multiple prescriptions
- Asking others for their pills
- Inability to stop using despite making attempts
- Mood changes
- Engaging in risky behaviors
- Mixing benzos with other drugs
- Impaired coordination
- Withdrawal symptoms
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When the use of benzodiazepines ceases or the familiar dose is significantly cut down, withdrawal symptoms typically emerge and can turn deadly. Benzodiazepine withdrawal is especially dangerous because of the high-risk of seizures, coma, and even death. Respiratory failure is also possible, especially when benzodiazepines are combined with alcohol, opioids, or other Central Nervous System (CNS) Depressants.
Benzodiazepine Abuse Statistics
Each and every year, doctors write out more than 50 million prescriptions for benzodiazepines, according to AAFP.
11 to 15 percent of Americans have benzos in their medicine cabinet, according to the American Psychiatric Association.
Nearly 38,329 deaths were drug overdoses in the U.S., according to the CDC. Nearly 60 percent were caused by prescription drugs.
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Treating a Benzodiazepine Addiction
Now is your chance to seek help for yourself or a loved one, as treatment options are available across the country for benzodiazepine abuse and addiction. Contact a dedicated treatment provider today to learn more.
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