When taken as prescribed by a medical professional, benzodiazepines safely provide relief from many common mental health disorders. However, as chemical changes occur within the brain, tolerance builds to the drug. It is this tolerance that causes life-threatening symptoms to occur during withdrawal. Long-term usage of benzodiazepines can lead to addiction. Detoxing from benzos must be medically supervised and managed. So, are benzos dangerous? Education is key in determining the worth of benzodiazepines in your treatment plan.
What are Benzos?
Benzodiazepines are a class of drugs that treat anxiety, seizures, and insomnia. They calm the brain by slowing the brain activity that affects neurotransmitters. The GABA neurotransmitter, or messenger, is similar to a tranquilizer for the brain. Chemicals release to cause a calming effect and quell anxiety. Prescribed for common disorders, benzodiazepines are one of the most commonly prescribed drugs in the U.S. When taken for long periods of time, benzos can turn extremely dangerous.
Benzodiazepines are used to treat many common conditions. For example:
- Anxiety disorders: generalized anxiety, phobias, OCD, and PTSD (Xanax, Ativan, Klonopin, and Valium)
- Convulsive disorders: seizures from epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, and cerebral palsy (Ativan, Klonopin, and Valium)
- Sleep disorders: insomnia and sleep issues such as restless legs (Restoril and Ativan)
- Detox: used in medically assisted detox from alcohol and other substances (Ativan and Valium)
Are Benzos Dangerous?
The long-term effects of misuse of benzos are indeed dangerous. Also, benzo addiction can be deadly. Initially, the side effects of taking benzodiazepines seem mild. Here are some of the common side effects of safely taking benzos.
- Dizziness and vertigo
- Drowsiness and sleepiness
- Memory loss
- Depression and confusion
- Headache and depression
The side effect of misuse or abuse of benzodiazepines is addiction and physical dependency. Addiction can occur when the chemical signals in the brain communicate that a pleasurable event has occurred. With the constant change of brain chemicals, users tend to feel the sensations associated with reward, security, and joy. The following facts and figures explore whether benzos are dangerous:
- 124,902 people experienced Xanax overdose in 2010 and were taken to the ER
- 39,408 confiscations of Xanax were made by law enforcement in 2011
- 6,507 deaths occurred from overdoses of benzos in 2010 in the United States
- 20.4 million people aged 12 and older in the U.S. have misused a benzodiazepine
- 95% of benzo hospital admission cases reported using an additional substance
Benzodiazepine overdose can be fatal. The most dangerous risk of overdose is when the drug is mixed with other substances, such as opioids or alcohol. Overdose symptoms from benzos include:
- Shaking and confusion
- Slurred speech
- Breathing difficulties
- Slowed heartbeat
- Severe drowsiness and weakness
Are Benzos Addictive?
The long-term misuse of benzodiazepines tends to build a tolerance to the drug. In fact, this is how addiction occurs. The continued misuse or abuse of benzos builds a dangerous dependency, causing severe withdrawal symptoms if usage is discontinued. This is what makes benzos both highly addictive and highly dangerous.
Furthermore, the symptoms that the drug was prescribed to help resemble the symptoms of withdrawal from benzos. These symptoms include:
- Sleep disturbances
- Heart Palpitations
- Muscle stiffness
Is it Dangerous to Detox From Benzos?
Detoxing from benzo addiction is both effective and safe with a medically monitored, “tapering off” approach. On the other hand, the chemical changes that take place once an addict stops taking benzos can be life-threatening. People who have misused benzos for six months or more ten to experience insomnia, muscle spasms, tension, and hypersensitivity. If left untreated, these symptoms have the potential to escalate into full-body seizures.
In conclusion, one should never try self-detox. Quitting “cold turkey” can lead to intense and dangerous withdrawal symptoms. Rather, evaluation by a psychiatrist or other medical professional is the first step. A quality treatment center understands the importance of gently tapering off benzos during detox.
Finding Help for Benzodiazepine Addiction
It is important to locate a treatment center that provides inpatient programs with medical monitoring during detox. Experienced professionals can foresee, identify and address symptoms and keep patients comfortable. Those who work with benzo-addicted patients understand the danger of withdrawal symptoms. Consult a physician or trusted mental health professional before determining which treatment center can meet your needs. Additionally, look for available counseling and therapy options to address a sober lifestyle in recovery.
Treatment for Benzodiazepine Addiction in Tennessee
Addiction to benzos is a ticking time bomb, especially if one is abusing other substances as well. Our treatment professionals are adept at treating those addicted to benzos. We want to help you with your addiction and design a plan to free you from addiction and the high risk of overdose. Contact us. We are ready to help you.