If you are suffering from a short-term mental health disorder such as anxiety, panic attacks or sleeping problems, then your GP may prescribe a benzodiazepine drug, often abbreviated as ‘Benzos’.
There are many popular types of benzodiazepine, from Lorazepam and Alprazolam, to Xanax, Klonopin, Ativan, Ambien and Diazepam, also known as Valium or sleeping pills. A psychoactive medication which may be administered for a limited period, to help resolve the problem.
Unfortunately, although a person may initially take the drug for legitimate medical purposes, they may begin inadvertently abusing the substance. You could have taken the medication over the prescribed dosage and time until it became habit-forming.
It is often not difficult to do. There have been instances of people developing a dependency while following the prescription, which is why some doctors are reticent to administer the drug, due to its addictive properties. In the end, it can see you building up an addiction, which could wreck your life.
A dependency on Benzodiazepines can have a detrimental effect on your overall condition. They alter the reward system in the brain when used over an extended period. If a person partakes Benzos on an ongoing basis, it can lead to a change in the amount of dopamine and norepinephrine; alongside other reward producing chemicals.
If you have been regularly using Benzodiazepines, the brain will eventually be unable to produce reward chemicals on its own and will rely on drugs to achieve the feeling you have grown accustomed to. What sets Benzodiazepines apart from other substances like cocaine or heroin is that you do not feel the effects right away, but progressively. It can create a calm, sedate feeling, continuing for hours on end. But Benzos are known to be the foundation of a functioning addiction, where addicts may top-up the drug as if taking prescription medication.
The drug was created to work on nearly the whole brain, which is partly why it is used to treat anxiety and depression. Benzos are designed to decrease brain functions, by increasing the activity of the brain chemical gamma-amino-butyric acid (GABA). It can assist the brains’ sedating process by sending messages between brain cells, instructing them to slow down or cease firing altogether. They are released during moments of stress, preventing you being overwhelmed by anxiety.
However, when GAGA amounts are augmented by Benzos, it can lead to the release of dopamine, the chemical in the brain associated with happiness and calm. But, long term exposure to Benzos can result in the brain decreasing the rate of neurotransmitters produced, also causing people to take drugs to restore normal services and feel better again. This is partly how some individuals end up addicted to Benzodiazepines.
It is estimated about one and a half million people in the UK have a Benzodiazepine dependency, while over half of those who abuse the drug acquired them through prescription, where around 12 million are written annually.
In time, it is possible to build up a tolerance to Benzos, where, the longer you use the drug, you must take more to feel the desired effect.
However, you may end up having to take more than you had to begin with, ironically, increasing your rate of consumption, to avoid going through withdrawal. You may find yourself stuck in a vicious cycle, where you are not even taking drugs recreationally anymore, but merely as a preventative measure, to avoid the effects.
Many believe the best course for treating benzodiazepine addiction is to go ahead and stop taking the drug. But some long-term users find it hard to abstain altogether. Therefore, medical professionals often use what are known as benzodiazepine substitution treatments, incorporating medications with blocking or antagonist features. It is common to use long-acting drugs like clonazepam as substitutes for benzodiazepines, like addicts using methadone to wean themselves off heroin.
But, if you have decided to give up Benzos, it is not recommended to attempt it on your own, due to the inherent health risk and the possibility of seizures. It is advised, when managing and treating benzodiazepine addiction, to be under the care of medical professionals at a residential rehab clinic, who can watch over you day and night.
The staff will oversee the detox, as you stop taking Benzodiazepines under clinical conditions, as the substance is progressively cleansed from your body. The substitute drug, as well as other prescription medications, may be administered, to help you make it through detoxication and deal with the symptoms of withdrawal. The detox is only the starting point of your continuing rehabilitation treatment programme, utilising both pharmacotherapies and counselling.
In the course of your treatment, you will regularly meet with a trained psychiatric specialist, where you can discuss your addiction. You can be assured, during regular therapy sessions, any deep-seated psychological problems can be addressed. By focussing on overriding issues, and possibly resolving them, could negate the need to use benzodiazepines in the future.