Signs of Benzodiazepine Abuse
The prescription status of benzodiazepines can deflect loved ones’ attention from the visible warning signs of abuse. Benzodiazepine use disorder can escalate into full-blown addiction in just months due to their potency.
Recognizing signs of misuse is the crucial first step in getting someone you care about the help he or she needs.
Outward signs of benzodiazepine misuse might include:
- Shallow breath
- Slurred speech
- Impaired coordination
- Nausea and vomiting
The Dangers of Benzodiazepines
American physicians prescribe millions of people benzodiazepine-based drugs every year, casting a wide net of potential harm and heartbreak from benzo abuse and addiction. Fatal overdose typically occurs when a user’s breathing or heart rate drops so low that it stops entirely. Mixing these potentially dangerous substances with other central nervous system (CNS) depressants like alcohol, a common practice when abusing benzodiazepines, greatly increases the odds of a lethal overdose.
Immediate Side Effects of Benzodiazepine Abuse
Harmful side effects from benzodiazepines might arise during use or abuse and just after their “high” has subsided.
- Mental confusion
- Blurred vision
Long-term Effects of Benzodiazepines Abuse
Benzodiazepines are some of the hardest drugs to quit because of their impact on cognitive function and the brain.
- Impaired concentration and memory
- Increased reaction time
- Loss of coordination
- Permanent cognitive defects
- Motor vehicle crases
- Muscle stiffness
- Sexual Dysfunction
- Hip fracture
Many of the severe reactions to abruptly stopping use come from the brain’s new chemical dependency on the drug. Benzodiazepines re-calibrate the brain’s neurological network for transferring and processing information so that without the drug the brain cannot function properly.
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Recognizing a Benzodiazepine Addiction
Many benzodiazepine addictions develop without users or loved ones noticing anything is amiss. Even when the drugs are taken responsibly within a doctor’s recommended “safe window” of use, benzodiazepine addiction can develop. Once a medical prescription has expired or a user starts looking for stronger effects, erratic behaviors or signs might emerge that indicate benzodiazepine addiction.
If a friend or loved one begins expressing any of these behaviors, he or she may need professional help:
- Swiping another person’s pills for his or her own use
- “Doctor shopping,” or visiting multiple doctors to obtain multiple prescriptions
- Forging prescriptions
- Stealing or borrowing a friend or loved one’s prescription
- Purchasing benzodiazepines illegally, such as through a street dealer
- Taking more benzodiazepines and/or over a longer period than first intended
- Spending significant time getting, using, and recovery from benzodiazepines
- Experiencing cravings or withdrawal symptoms
- Needing more of the benzo to achieve the same effect
- Exhibiting impaired performance at home, work, or school
Someone suffering from a benzodiazepine addiction will build a tolerance to the drug, requiring more of it to reach the previous effects. He or she might begin shirking people and activities they used to enjoy in order to get and use benzos. These are some of the clinically recognized signs of an addiction. Learn how medical and psychology professionals diagnose substance use disorders today.
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Intervention for a Benzodiazepine Problem
After acknowledging a loved one’s struggle with benzodiazepine use, the next step is talking to them about it and making a plan to help. Many sufferers cannot recognize their addiction for what it is, despite their difficulty stopping use. They might deny medical help they desperately need. For example, they may say that they don’t need to go to rehab for Xanax. It’s crucial you express your concerns in a gentle, yet firm manner. Learn how to stage an intervention now.
Benzodiazepine Withdrawal, Treatment and Next Steps
Due to the brain’s rewired chemical circuitry after prolonged use, someone suffering from a benzodiazepine addiction will likely experience physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms while quitting. The duration and amount of benzodiazepine use determines the severity of these withdrawals. At their most intense, withdrawal symptoms can prove lethal. Users who go “cold turkey” and abruptly stop benzo use are more likely to experience severe withdrawal symptoms than those who gradually “taper off.”
Seizures, coma, hallucinations. muscle pain and cramps, and suicidal thoughts are all possible symptoms of benzodiazepine withdrawal.
Doctor-assisted detoxification is always recommended in battling benzodiazepine addiction and withdrawal. Medical and recovery professionals devise a taper-down schedule to gradually reduce the dose, thereby mitigating withdrawal symptoms. Inpatient rehabilitation programs exist at specialized treatment centers across the country to help people get and remain sober. Contact a dedicated treatment specialist to find the best-suited treatment center for you and your individual needs today.
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