Knowledge is power, the adage says. And it certainly rings true when it comes to what you know about benzodiazepine abuse. The more you know, the more empowered you’ll be —to help yourself or a loved one in an emergency situation, to respond in the safest, quickest way.

After all, especially with substance abuse issues, timing is everything. Taking immediate, informed action improves your loved one’s chances at long-term recovery success. In other words, when you learn more about benzodiazepine abuse, you’re learning how to save a life.

What Are Benzodiazepines?

The word benzodiazepine might be unfamiliar. The drugs included in this class are anything but. Common, recognizable benzodiazepines include the following:

These drugs may be an important part of your or a loved one’s mental health treatment. They may also be the cause of serious substance use or addiction concerns.

How Do Benzodiazepines Work?

Brain x-rayBenzodiazepines are prescribed to manage anxiety and insomnia symptoms. They work by slowing electrical activity in the brain. They make GABA, a neurotransmitter responsible for calming the brain, more effective. Prescription use or recreational abuse can lead to tolerance, dependence and addiction. The brain gets used to benzodiazepines, and it adjusts in an attempt to create balance. As it adjusts, you or a loved one will need more of the drug.

Taking the drug more often or in greater doses than prescribed is abuse. Taking the drug without a prescription is abuse. Once you are tolerant to the effects of a drug, you will find you have to take the drug to even feel normal. You may no longer feel good when you take the drug, but you know you feel bad when you do not.

American Family Physician explains: “Long-term use of benzodiazepines may lead to overreliance on the need for the agent, loss of self-confidence and varying degrees of drug-seeking behavior. Patients may be reluctant to discontinue the drug because of misplaced fears or anticipatory anxiety. Some patients combine alcohol with benzodiazepines when they are not able to acquire the desired or ‘needed’ effects.”1 The longer you use benzodiazepines, the more likely you are to rely on them to feel good. You may come up with reasons and excuses for continuing use despite experiencing other, unwanted side effects. You may start to combine these drugs with other drugs or alcohol. All of these are signs of addiction. They are signs to take action and get help for yourself or a loved one.

Who Abuses Benzodiazepines?

Anyone can abuse, and become addicted to, benzodiazepines. There is no one type of person or personality that becomes addicted. If you have a personal or family history of addiction, you are at greater risk for developing a benzodiazepine, or any, addiction. “Some of the more common environmental influences,” according to WebMD, “are low socioeconomic status, unemployment, and peer pressure.”Addiction is a chronic disease. Like other chronic diseases, factors such as genetics, lifestyle and environment can contribute to its development. Like other chronic diseases, addiction can be treated.

Treating Benzodiazepine Abuse

Benzodiazepine abuse treatment begins with detox. When medically supervised, detox is safe and straightforward. If someone attempts the process at home, it can be dangerous and often leads to relapse and setbacks. Some people experience seizures during withdrawal. Most people experience uncomfortable physical side effects and unpleasant psychological ones. Treatment helps you manage withdrawal symptoms and stay motivated to continue on to the real heart of recovery.

Therapy helps you or your loved one better understand benzodiazepine abuse and how to move past it. You may explore your past, delve into present thoughts and develop skills and strategies for staying clean in the future. An integrated treatment program will diagnose any co-occurring mental health concerns and provide appropriate care. Programs can work with families so that everyone can begin to find wellness. Your treatment team works with you to determine the best forms the therapy and the best treatment plan for you as an individual. Benzodiazepine abuse recovery is real, and it is within reach.

At Black Bear Lodge, we create customized treatment plans. We specialize in treating co-occurring substance abuse and mental health issues. If you or someone you love needs help, we are here for you. We can help you understand your options and take the first steps towards recovery. Call now, and begin the healing process today.

1 Longo, Lance, et al. “Addiction: Part I. Benzodiazepines–Side Effects, Abuse Risk and Alternatives.” American Family Physician. 1 Apr. 2000. Accessed 10 Nov. 2017.

1 Goldberg, Joseph. “Benzodiazepine Abuse Basics.” WebMD. 23 Apr. 2016. Accessed 10 Nov. 2017.