Drug Use

What are benzos?

Benzodiazepines or benzos, also known as footballs, xannies (or zannies), totem poles, handlebars, z bars, are a class of psychoactive prescription drugs that slow brain function and decrease central nervous system functions by enhancing the neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain. Benzos fall under central nervous system depressants and are typically used to treat anxiety disorders, insomnia, and seizures. Types of benzodiazepines are Valium, Xanex, Klonopin (Oxazepam), Librium, Clobazam, Dalmane, Flurazepan, Clorazepate, Lorazepam, Clonazepam, Temazepam, Estazolam, Midazolam, Halcion, Triazolam, and Ativan.

Benzos are often sold illegally but are also prescribed by health care providers. This type of central nervous system depressant is highly addictive. It’s important to understand that addiction to benzos can occur even when they are prescribed and being taken according to your doctor’s instructions. Addiction to benzos can occur quite quickly. In fact, research shows that after just four weeks of daily use (even as prescribed) a dependence can develop. For this reason, it’s essential for health care providers to carefully monitor anyone taking benzodiazepines, and benzos are no longer recommended for sleep disorders due to the addictive potential, but they still are sometimes prescribed.

Benzos Prescribed for Anxiety Disorders

  • Xanax (Alprazolam)
  • Valium (Diazepam)
  • Klonopin
  • Dalmane (Flurazepam)
  • Prosom (Estazolam)
  • Librium (Chlordiazepoxide)
  • Tranxene (Clorazepate)

Benzos Prescribed for Sleep Disorders

  • Valium (Diazepam)
  • Ativan (Lorazepam)
  • Klonopin (Clonazepam)
  • Doral (quazepam)
  • Dalmane (Flurazepam)
  • Hacion (Triazolam)
  • ProSom (Estazolam)
  • Restoril (Temazepam)

Benzos Prescribed to Control Seizures

  • Diazepam
  • Clonazepam
  • Lorazepam

Benzos Prescribed for Alcohol Withdrawal

  • Valium (Diazepam)
  • Librium (Chlordiazepoxide)
  • Ativan (Lorazepam)
  • Serax (Oxazepam)

How Do Benzos Affect the Body?

Benzos come in a tablet form and as mentioned are generally prescribed to help with certain mental health and physical conditions. Benzos are used to:

  • Treat anxiety disorders and panic disorders
  • Relieve muscle spasms
  • Induce sleep
  • Produce sedation
  • Alleviate some alcohol withdrawal symptoms
  • Prevent seizures

Benzos are usually taken orally but can also be crushed and snorted. Snorting produces a faster effect than orally taking the tablet. The effects can be felt usually within an hour of consumption and can last for anywhere from between two hours to days. This is dependent on if the type of benzo is short, immediate, or long-acting as well as the dosage.

In general, different dosages are used to treat differing conditions. Low doses are used to manage insomnia and anxiety by producing sedation, moderate doses are used to help prevent seizures, and higher doses are used to treat insomnia.

Benzos affect the body by making the user feel sleepy, happy, relaxed and decreasing anxiety symptoms. Some side effects of benzodiazepines effects can include:

  • Amnesia
  • Blurred vision
  • Confusion
  • Difficulty with movements
  • Difficulty with memory
  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Hostility
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Irritability
  • Lowered blood pressure
  • Nightmares and disturbing dreams
  • Slowed breathing
  • Slurred or very slow speech

When taken in high doses (or more than prescribed or more frequently than prescribed), benzos can impair the person’s ability to function as they normally would. In addition, it’s vital to note that when benzos are taken in combination with alcohol these side effects are exaggerated and can become life-threatening. Both alcohol and benzos slow the central nervous system and often the results can be deadly.

When taken for long periods of time there can be serious side effects from benzos. Some of the long-term effects can include cognitive decline, memory issues, impaired judgment, increased risk of accidents, and more. The misuse of this type of prescription drug can result in serious complications such as:

  • Coma
  • Death
  • Reduced heart rate
  • Reduced respiration

The risk for developing an addiction to benzos is high. This is even true when benzos are being taken as prescribed. As mentioned, after just four weeks of use, dependence can develop. It’s important to look for signs of addiction to benzos even early on in use.

Signs and Symptoms of Benzo Addiction

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), emergency room visits and resulting deaths from benzo use and addiction have skyrocketed in recent years. In fact, in 2016, 16 percent of overdose deaths from opioids also involved some type of benzo. If you think you or a loved one may be addicted to benzos, it’s essential to know the signs and get help. Here are some symptoms of a benzo addiction:

Physical Symptoms

  • Overall body weakness
  • Slurred speech
  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Coordination issues
  • Memory problems
  • Slowed breathing
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms
  • Reduced blood pressure

Behavioral Symptoms

  • Making poor judgments and decisions
  • Asking friends or family for benzos
  • Running out of medication before refill time
  • Obtaining prescriptions from multiple doctors
  • Being unable to cut down or stop despite wanting to do so
  • Mixing benzos with alcohol or another substance
  • Behaving impulsively when taking benzos or under the effects of benzos
  • Being fixated on getting and taking benzos
  • Experiencing problems with
    • Relationships
    • Work or school
    • Legal issues
    • Finances
  • Isolating from others
  • Hiding the extent of benzo use or being secretive about it

Addiction to benzos can happen quickly—even if they are being taken as prescribed by a healthcare professional. It’s vital that anyone who thinks they may be addicted to or have developed a dependence on benzos not quit cold turkey. Benzo withdrawal can not only be very difficult to navigate on your own, but it can also be deadly.

Signs and Symptoms of Benzo Withdrawal

Withdrawal symptoms from benzos can be severe. In fact, detoxing from benzos is as difficult as detoxing from heroin—and also just as dangerous. Withdrawal symptoms from benzos last longer than other drugs. These are some of the most common benzo withdrawal symptoms:

Physical Symptoms

  • Anxiety
  • Sensory distortion
  • Headaches
  • Muscle aches and stiffness
  • Epileptic seizures
  • Delirium tremens
  • Hand tremors
  • Hypersensitivity to touch and pain
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Loss of appetite
  • Sleep issues
  • Sweating
  • Dry retching
  • Nausea
  • Heart palpitations

Behavioral Symptoms

  • Irritability
  • Tension
  • Panic attacks
  • Concentration issues
  • Depression
  • Psychosis
  • Suicidal behavior, particularly in young people
  • Hallucinations

When it comes to benzo withdrawal the most common issue is what is called ‘rebound’ anxiety. This usually occurs within one to four days after you stop using the drug and is characterized by uncomfortable anxiety and insomnia. Generally, the entire benzo withdrawal period lasts about 10 to 14 days.

It’s important to understand that stopping taking benzos ‘cold turkey’ is very dangerous and can even be life-threatening. For this reason, it’s essential to seek professional help if you or a loved one want to stop using benzos.

Is Librium a benzo?

Librium is a benzodiazepine that also goes by the name chlordiazepoxide. As a medication, it is used to increase the inhibitory neurotransmitter GABA in the brain, which effectively decreases anxiety and promotes feelings of calm, relaxation, and sleepiness.

Treatment for Benzo Addiction

There are effective treatments for benzo addiction that can help the person who is using benzos safely stop taking them. The first step of any benzo treatment program should be to safely detox from the drugs. It is highly recommended that detoxing from benzos happens under medical supervision.

During this process, the patient should be closely monitored for seizures and other adverse complications. Medications should be administered when possible to ease withdrawal symptoms. The length of a patient’s detox, as well as symptom intensity, is dependent on the severity and duration of the patient’s addiction and the type of benzo that he or she uses.

After safely detoxing, patients enter the prolonged recovery phase. This should involve some form of behavioral therapy, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, psychotherapy, or individual and group counseling. Behavioral therapy interventions address the underlying causes of addiction and teach the addict how to identify, avoid and cope with situations that trigger drug use.

Self-help groups, such as 12-Step groups, may also benefit recovery. They provide peer support and open forums to discuss addiction-related experiences. The encouragement and hope these groups offer are often instrumental to long-term sobriety.

Caron provides evidence-based, specialized treatment through signature and core programming with respect and compassion. We treat people with benzo addictions as well as those with cross-addictions to other substances or process addictions. At Caron, we believe in Real Results. Real Care. We are Real About Recovery. If you’re ready to get help, we’re one call away. Call 1-800-854-6023.

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