Benzodiazepines, sometimes called benzos, are a type of drug known that are classed as a depressant. Like all other depressant drugs, benzos reduce brain activity. They also increase the brain’s gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) levels and act as a natural tranquilizer.
Benzos treat the symptoms of anxiety disorders, insomnia, and seizures. They additionally enhance dopamine levels in the brain. Although effective, due to their addictiveness, it is recommended that benzos are only taken for a short period.
When individuals stop taking benzos, they may encounter initial symptoms that cause them to require the drug. However, upon withdrawing from benzos, symptoms may intensify. This is worth knowing before taking benzos.
Common names of benzos include chlordiazepoxide (Librium), alprazolam (Xanax), diazepam (Valium), and clonazepam (Klonopin). When administered following medical guidance, benzos are safe and effective. As noted above, when used for a prolonged period, they pose a risk of addiction.
After a few weeks of using benzos, the brain adjusts to reduced levels of GABA and increased levels of dopamine. It then stops working to produce these chemicals naturally and instead becomes dependent on the drug. This can lead to drug abuse and addiction.
The Dangers of Taking Benzos Long Term
Long-term benzo use is not advised as it amplifies the risk of physical dependence and addiction. Common side effects of taking benzos include drowsiness, lethargy, and fatigue. Over time, other side effects such as slurred speech, vertigo, cognitive impairment, and euphoria may emerge.
When used to treat the symptoms of anxiety, withdrawal from benzos can cause rebound anxiety. This is when you feel more anxious than you did before, as your body relies on the chemicals to keep it balanced. To reduce this risk, treatments such as therapy and medications that are safe to use can be prescribed.
Benzos are also used to treat insomnia. Insomnia is a common symptom of an underlying mental health disorder or another illness. While benzos relieve anxiety, insomnia, and seizures, they do not provide a cure.
If a person becomes dependent on benzos, they will need a medical benzo detox. However, this should always be completed under medical care and supervision. Attempting to detox alone is extremely dangerous and can be fatal.
Symptoms of Withdrawal
Symptoms of withdrawal can be life-threatening and include psychosis and seizures. Although withdrawal symptoms vary, the longer the benzo dependency, the more severe the withdrawal symptoms can be.
Other symptoms of benzo withdrawal can include:
- Sleep disturbance
- Increased anxiety
- Panic attacks
- Heart palpitations
- Muscular pain
- Weight loss
To overcome a benzo addiction, a benzo detox must be completed. Detox essentially removes harmful toxins from the body and brain and ensures that the physical effects of addiction can be overcome.
Detox is not easy, but it is essential. Across the country, detox facilities offer support and guidance to help those who find themselves reliant on benzos recover. Following detox, many centers provide therapy and aftercare.
Doctors may taper off your benzo use instead of encouraging you to abstain from them immediately when completing benzo detox. Irrespective of the detox treatment provided, withdrawal symptoms will be encountered. However, there are medications to ease symptoms of withdrawal that your doctor can discuss with you.
Some benzo users may experience a prolonged withdrawal. This is known as post-acute withdrawal symptoms (PAWS). Side effects of PAWS can include anxiety, depression, and sleeping difficulties. These can last for several months.
As with all drug addictions, it is essential to detox your body and also your mind. The psychological aspect of addiction may last much longer than the physical side of addiction. This can be treated through the employment of therapy and support groups.
If you or a loved one is suffering from Benzo addiction, contact us for help and more information on detox options.