There are several reasons that a doctor might prescribe benzodiazepines to a patient.
- Withdrawal from alcohol
- Muscle relaxation
- Sleep before surgery
Risk Factors of Abuse
- The first risk factor is that a woman is going to be a lot more exposed to the drug compared to a man. Therefore, they are a lot more likely to abuse it.
- The second risk factor is for the elderly. This is because many doctors give the elderly this drug if they suffer from depression.
There are many signs that a person could be abusing benzodiazepines:
- Dizziness and blurred vision
- Trouble making decisions
- Slurred speech
- Loss of coordination
- Difficulty breathing
- Behavioral changes
- Mood swings
- Decline of Work
It can be very difficult for a doctor to diagnose whether a person is abusing benzodiazepines:
- The first step would be for the doctor to ask for the patient’s medical history so they can see if they were ever given the drug.
- The second step is for the patient to be examined by the doctor to see if they have any signs of any type of abuse of the drug.
- The last step is for the doctor to run tests. This means that the patient will need to be monitored for a long period of time.
Excuse of Abuse
Most of the time, a person has a list of excuses for abusing the benzodiazepines. These excuses can include anything that has to do with their job and any stress that could be going on within a person’s family life. Therefore, members of a person’s family will need to look for any signs of abuse of the drug. Then the family needs to help this person to recognize that they have a problem. Once a person realizes that they have a problem, they will be more likely to want help.
Types of Benzodiazepine Addictions
Treatment of Benzodiazepine Abuse
There are a couple of different ways to treat a person who has abused benzodiazepines based on which drug has been used. If a person has only abused the drugs a short period of time, they need to have outpatient care to be evaluated and receive counseling. The second way is when a person has used a lot of the drugs they need to go to an inpatient drug rehab center. This will help a person safely get through withdrawals and receive counseling and therapy to help them recover from the drug abuse.
Benzodiazepine addiction can be difficult to recognize and diagnose because drugs in this class are frequently prescribed for a variety of conditions. Individuals with symptoms indicative of problems ranging from periodic insomnia to severe anxiety can be prescribed benzodiazepines. Despite the fact that benzodiazepines are legally available by prescription only, many people engage in prescription fraud or simply lie to doctors about their condition to get prescriptions for these drugs.
Because benzodiazepines are central nervous system (CNS) depressants, abuse of these drugs can produce devastating consequences and overdose leading to death.
Dangers of Benzodiazepine Addiction
Unlike many other drugs of addiction, benzodiazepines do not produce a rush of euphoria for users. Instead, these drugs work by stimulating an inhibitory neurotransmitter called GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid). Contrary to neurotransmitters like dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin (all of which are stimulated by most other drugs of addiction), GABA is inhibitory, meaning it is largely responsible for calming and sedation to facilitate sleep.
Individuals who abuse benzodiazepines are not looking for a rush, but rather a high of sedation. When an individual becomes addicted to benzodiazepines, he or she is in a very dangerous position as these drugs produce both physical and psychological dependence. Sudden discontinuation of benzodiazepines once dependence has developed can result in dangerous and potentially life threatening withdrawal symptoms.
In addition to the dangers of stopping benzodiazepine use suddenly, are the dangers inherent with addiction and behaviors associated with it.
Getting Benzodiazepines for Abuse
Benzodiazepine addiction often involves very risky behaviors, many of which are illegal. Most often, individuals addicted to benzodiazepines engage in illicit activities to obtain these drugs for personal consumption, or sale on the black market. Some of the risky behaviors associated with getting benzodiazepines for abuse include:
- Doctor Shopping
Doctor shopping occurs when an individual goes to see multiple doctors, complaining of either the same, or various conditions that may justify a prescription for benzodiazepines.
- Prescription Fraud
Prescription fraud can be committed by patients and by doctors. Any time an individual attempts to forge a physicians’ signature on a prescription pad, or change the strength or quantity listed is considered to be prescription fraud. Additionally, any doctor who knowingly writes a prescription for a controlled substance to an individual who is an addict, or does not have a medical justification for it, is guilty of prescription fraud.
- Pill Mills
Pill mills are where prescription fraud takes place on a massive scale, and this can be a multiple-doctor setting, or a solo practitioner. A pill mill is characterized as any physician, or group of physicians who knowingly write fraudulent prescriptions for individuals for whom there is no medical justification.
- Overseas Online Pharmacies
Perhaps one of the most callous ways in which benzodiazepines are distributed, pharmacies that operate overseas post various dangerous prescription drugs online, and deliver them to individuals in the United States and around the world with no more than a credit card number and a mailing address.
- Taking or Stealing Benzodiazepines from Friends and Relatives
One of the most common ways for individuals to obtain benzodiazepines is through friends and relatives for whom these drugs have been prescribed. Whether this is done with the individual’s knowledge or not, taking prescription drugs belonging to another person is illegal and carries heavy legal consequences. Often, individuals who are prescribed benzodiazepines sell them to others or drug dealers to make some extra money, and this also places them at a significantly increased risk of legal trouble.
- Pharmacy Robbery
Robbery is one of the most brazen acts committed to feed benzodiazepine addiction, and far less common among addicts than dealers and gangs. Nonetheless, pharmacy robbery still occurs where shelves of benzodiazepines and painkillers are wiped clean, placing entire communities at risk of infiltration of dangerous dealers and a new generation of addicts.
Additionally, individuals who work in pharmacies, or in other areas where controlled substances are kept often steal the drugs for personal use, or to facilitate dealers who sell them on the street.
All of the aforementioned methods of getting benzodiazepines are illegal, and carry increasingly harsh legal penalties, as law enforcement continues to try to crack down on prescription drug abuse and addiction.
Behaviors and Effects of Benzodiazepine Addiction
Benzodiazepine addiction, like any other addiction, consists of a series of risky and erratic behaviors that surround an individual’s need to obtain and use benzodiazepines compulsively and excessively. Because benzodiazepines are extremely mood altering drugs, excessive use of them can result in bizarre behaviors and severe mood swings. When taken as directed by those for whom they have been prescribed, benzodiazepines can be highly effective for their intended purpose. However, when these drugs are abused and taken excessively, they can result in behaviors that can be potentially fatal for the individual and those around him or her.
One of the most common effects of benzodiazepine addiction is a paradoxical effect these drugs can have on a user, especially in those who have abused benzodiazepines for an extended period of time. Some of these effects can include:
- Acute excitability
- Increased hostility, rage and/or violence
- Increased anxiety
- Sexual disinhibitory behavior
- Altered mental state
Especially when alcohol is also being used, violent occurrences involving benzodiazepines can be extreme and very dangerous considering the fact that the individual is in an altered state of mind, and likely unable to comprehend the severity of his or her actions.
Additional dangers of the behaviors associated with benzodiazepine addiction can be widespread, but most often effect those close to the addict, as they are subject to many of the extreme mood swings caused by benzodiazepine addiction. Some additional effects of benzodiazepine addiction include the following:
- Theft and/or fraud to get more benzodiazepines
- Severe hostility and rage over questions about benzodiazepine use and/or inability to get more when desired
- Frequent and intense mood swings
- Impaired cognition and memory – inability to recall past events and/or trouble understanding concepts and problem solving
- Depression and/or suicidal ideations
- Rebound effects like insomnia and anxiety when in acute withdrawal
- Common abuse of other drugs, either stimulants to counter the effects of benzodiazepines or other CNS depressants to enhance their effects
When benzodiazepines are used with other drugs, the danger of their effects can be significantly increased, especially when used in conjunction with other depressant drugs. Because drugs like alcohol, heroin, and painkillers are CNS depressants, the addition of benzodiazepines further represses an individual’s respiration, and places him or her at a significantly higher risk of overdose and death.
In fact, according to the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, the rate of benzodiazepine-related emergency room visits rose 111% from 2004-2010 in New York. The data also reports that the national rate of benzodiazepine-related emergency room visits rose 139% during the same time frame.
Overcoming Benzodiazepine Addiction
Regardless of how an individual may have become addicted to benzodiazepines, overcoming this condition must always start with detoxification from the drugs. However, getting sober from benzodiazepines is not as simple as just discontinuing use. Because one of the most dangerous symptoms of benzodiazepine withdrawal is the potential for a grand mal seizure, individuals suffering from benzodiazepine addiction must use a slow tapering down of their dosage, rather than quitting cold turkey. When performed medically, with supervision and a controlled taper, benzodiazepine detox is safe and effective. The most common method used by detox professionals and physicians is to substitute the benzodiazepine of abuse with an equivalent dose of a lower-potency benzodiazepine (usually Valium). Once this transition has been made, the medical staff will slowly taper the dose over a period of several days (or weeks, depending on how the individual responds to decreased dosages) until the addicted individual can discontinue the drug without suffering from severe withdrawal symptoms. Read more about benzodiazepine detox.
Once the detoxification process has been completed, it may be important to enter into an addiction treatment program to ensure the prevention of relapse. Although benzodiazepines may have been prescribed for a legitimate medical purpose, there are many other ways to address and treat the underlying causes of the conditions for which these drugs may have been intended to treat. Additionally, most individuals who attend an addiction treatment program for benzodiazepine addiction learn that they can make simple dietary and lifestyle changes that facilitate the management of any symptoms they may have experienced that justified benzodiazepine use.
If you, or someone you know is suffering from benzodiazepine addiction, please call us to speak with one of our trained counselors about your situation. We understand the hopelessness and fear you may be experiencing about overcoming benzodiazepine addiction, but help is available to safely detox and get the addiction treatment that is best for you, or your addicted loved one. Based on individual needs, preferences, and belief systems, we will help you to find the rehab program that will be most effective and provide the support, empowerment, and variety that can be best tailored for optimal results and sustained recovery from addiction. Please don’t continue to suffer alone. Benzodiazepine addiction can be overcome, and the help to do it just one phone call away. Please call now.