When most people think of prescription drug abuse and addiction in the United States, they think of opiate drugs like hydrocodone and fentanyl.
These drugs are dangerous, for sure. But, they’re not the only problematic prescription drugs being abused in the country.
Millions of people also abuse benzodiazepines every year. In fact, more than 30 percent of overdoses that involve opioids also involve benzodiazepines.
If you’re unfamiliar with benzodiazepines or the risks associated with them, keep reading.
Explained below are some important facts about benzodiazepines. You’ll also learn about benzodiazepine addiction and the risk of benzodiazepine overdoses.
There are many different types of benzodiazepines on the market these days, including the following:
- Alprazolam (also known as Xanax and Xanax XR)
- Clobazam (also known as Onfi)
- Clonazepam (also known as Klonopin)
- Clorazepate (also known as Tranxene)
- Chlordiazepoxide (also known as Librium)
- Diazepam (also known as Valium, Diastat Acudial, or Diastat)
- Lorazepam (also known as Ativan)
- Temazepam (also known as Restoril)
- Triazolam (also known as Halcion)
All of these benzodiazepines are sold in pill form. They are also sold as tablets.
Some benzodizepines, including alprazolam, clobazam, lorzepam, and diazepam, are available in liquid form.
Alprazolam and conazepam are sometimes sold as dissolving tablets. Chlordiazepoxide, temazepam, and oxazepam come in capsule form, too.
Physicians may also prescribe diazepam as a rectal gel.
Clearly, there are several different types of benzodiazepines that a doctor may prescribe. Doctors prescribe the following benzodiazepines most often:
The specific type of benzodiazepine a doctor prescribes will vary depending on the symptoms a patient presents.
As you now know, benzodiazepines depress the central nervous system and reduce brain activity. There are a number of reasons why a doctor might prescribe benzodiazepines to produce these effects.
Some of the most common conditions that benzodiazepines can treat include:
Doctors most often prescribe benzodiazepines for individuals who struggle with severe insomnia. They are meant to be used just for a short time while the individual figures out what’s actually causing their insomnia. In some cases, though, the patient takes them much longer than they’re meant to.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder
Benzodiazepines also help individuals who suffer from Generalized Anxiety Disorder (or GAD) to manage their symptoms and feel more at ease. As when they’re used to treat insomnia, benzodiazepines are supposed to be used for just a short time or in special situations to great GAD symptoms.
Because they reduce brain activity, benzodiazepines can have powerful anticonvulsant effects. Doctors often prescribe them to patients who suffer from epilepsy or other seizure disorders.
Many people are surprised to know that benzodiazepines can actually help those who are addicted to alcohol overcome their withdrawal symptoms when they stop consuming it. Benzodiazepines remove toxins from the body and make withdrawal symptoms more manageable.
In addition to treating Generalized Anxiety Disorder, benzodiazepines can help those who suffer from panic disorder. They help to slow down the heart rate and calm the central nervous system, helping the stop the symptoms of a panic attack more quickly.
What are Benzodiazepines?
You know more about different types of benzodiazepines and the reasons why doctors prescribe them. What actually are these drugs, though?
Basically, they are central nervous system depressants. They work by enhancing the effects of a neurotransmitter known as gamma-aminobutyric acid (or GABA) in the brain.
GABA reduces nerve activity in the brain.
Consumption of benzodiazepines on a regular basis boosts the effects of GABA, which reduces brain activity and calms down or even sedates the individual.
Benzodiazepines Side Effects
Benzodiazepines definitely have medicinal uses. But, they also come with a number of potentially dangerous side effects. Some of the most common side effects include:
- Extreme drowsiness
- Dizziness and poor coordination
- Vision problems
- Feelings of depression
Some research has also linked prolonged benzodiazepine use to an increased risk of dementia.
In addition to these physical side effects, benzodiazepines are also highly habit-forming. Many people develop a dependency on these drugs very quickly — sometimes after as little as one month of regular use, even at the dosage prescribed by their doctor.
If you become dependent on benzodiazepines, you will likely experience withdrawal symptoms when you stop using them. Common withdrawal symptoms include:
- Feelings of anxiety
- Panic attacks
- Mood swings
- Agitation or irritability
- Profuse sweating
- Muscle stiffness or pain
- Difficulty concentrating
- High blood pressure
- Heart palpitations
The duration and intensity of these symptoms will vary based on several factors, including the length of time the individual took benzodiazepines, their dosage, and the method with which they took the drugs.
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Benzodiazepine Overdose Symptoms
Benzodiazepine overdose is very dangerous and can even be fatal. Individuals who have taken too many benzodiazepines often exhibit the following signs:
- Difficulty breathing
- A bluish tinge to the lips and fingernails
- Extreme confusion or disorientation
- Extreme dizziness or coordination issues
- Blurred or double vision
- Severe weakness
- Severe tremors
Individuals who take benzodiazepines increase their risk of overdose if they take larger-than-prescribed doses of the drug or take it more frequently than their doctor tells them to. They also face an increased risk of overdose if they inject the drug.
Complications and Additional Risks
In some cases, individuals can experience severe complications after overdosing on benzodiazepines.
They may develop pneumonia, permanent muscle damage, or permanent brain damage. These conditions are often the result of severe respiratory distress, a lack of oxygen, or physical trauma the individual sustains if they lose consciousness and fall down.
Benzodiazepine overdose can also be fatal, especially when the drugs are combined with another substance such as alcohol or opiate drugs.
Get Help for Benzodiazepine Addiction Today
Now that you know more about benzodiazepines and benzodiazepine overdose, do you think that you or someone you love has a problem with these drugs?
If so, it’s imperative that you seek help as soon as possible.
If you or your loved one live in or around the Los Angeles area, we’re here to help at REVIVE Detox and Addiction Treatment Solutions.
Contact us today online or over the phone to learn more about our services or to start arranging your care.
We have staff members available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to answer your questions and provide you with the help you need.