Benzodiazepines Guide: Symptoms, Detoxification and Treatment

benzodiazepines abuse and treatment

Benzodiazepines are a class of psychoactive drugs that target the GABAA receptor. This receptor is the function in the brain that fires messages or blocks messages from being sent. In this case, GABAA decreases the firing of messages in one’s nervous system. If taken in recommended doses, this medication can have an incredible calming effect. Benzodiazepines, commonly referred to as Benzos, are prescribed for: difficulty sleeping, restless leg syndrome, alcohol withdrawal, as a sedative, and for tremors. The main difference between various medications or types of Benzos is their duration of effects, how quickly they begin to work, their potency, and the build-up in the body. 

  • Commonly prescribed medication:
    • Valium = Diazepam
    • Lorazepam = Ativan
    • Clonazepam = Klonopin 
    • Xanax

Abuse Signs and Symptoms

Benzos are very easy to become addicted to, even under a physician’s care. Benzos lower one’s anxiety, but also lower one’s ability to make judgments. They cause a tolerance effect, meaning the body gets used to the amount if taken consistently and begins to need more to create the original calming effect. Because these pills are commonly a prescription, friends and family are often unaware of their loved one’s chemical dependency. 

 

  • What are common signs of benzodiazepine addiction?
    • Weakness
    • Blurred vision
    • Drowsiness
    • Blacking out /Passing out
    • Poor judgment
    • “Doctor shopping” to obtain multiple prescriptions
    • Asking others for their pills
    • Inability to stop using despite making attempts
    • Mood changes
    • Engaging in risky behaviors
    • Mixing benzos with other drugs
    • Impaired coordination
    • Withdrawal symptoms

 

Benzos are commonly abused with other substances such as alcohol to enhance the effects. Since both the alcohol and the benzo are depressants this means they have the same action effect in the body, which significantly increases the effects. Mixing two depressants can easily lead to an overdose. Benzodiazepine overdose or detox can be deadly if not properly medicated and treated. Symptoms of overdose include:

    • Confusion
    • Impaired coordination
    • Slow reflexes
    • Coma 
    • Brain damage 
    • Death

 

Withdrawal and Detox

Benzodiazepine detox should be taken extremely seriously. As seen above, overdose and withdrawal can be life-threatening for individuals who have exceeded their original dose and are attempting to go “cold turkey.” Withdrawal is emotionally and physically painful. Once the medication wears their anxiety may feel worse than it did prior to using benzos to medicate, a feeling commonly referred to as rebound anxiety. 

 

  • Withdrawal symptoms include:

    • Sleep disturbances
    • Anxiety
    • Panic attacks
    • Difficulty concentrating
    • Excessive sweating
    • Heart palpitations
    • Headache
    • Muscular stiffness
    • HeadacheTremors
    • Hallucinations
    • Seizures
    • Psychosis or psychotic reactions
    • Increased risk of suicidal ideation

 

Treatment and Rehab

Our staff at Defining Wellness is committed to comfortably adjusting our clients’ medication to allow them to come back to baseline. Clients are medically monitored so that we can recognize signs and symptoms of withdrawal ahead of time to treat them appropriately. There are many factors that influence how long Benzodiazepines stay in one’s system which directly affects the withdrawal and detox process:

 

    • Age 
    • Weight 
    • Body fat content 
    • Amount of the drug taken 
    • Other drugs in the system 
    • Liver and kidney health 
    • Method of ingestion (Pill, crushed and snorted, injected)
    • Metabolism rate 

 

The clinical team at Defining Wellness Centers consists of highly qualified staff trained to facilitate a wide variety of groups and individual sessions. Through this work, clients will learn to spot potential triggers and develop true healing. 

 

Aftercare

Developing a community is an integral component of addiction treatment. Once you or your loved one is discharged to a less intensive level of care, you/they will continue to need help. The journey from addiction to sobriety and wellness has begun, and Defining Wellness Centers provides support so that our clients can continue to heal. Ongoing processing is vital to long-term sobriety.