How To Recognize When a Loved One Is Addicted to Benzodiazepines
We want to help our loved ones when they are struggling with anxiety. Often, Benzodiazepines, such as Diazepam or Alprazolam (Xanax) are administered by physicians to help those with anxiety, as well as stress, sleep problems and alcohol withdrawal. Though legally prescribed, benzodiazepines are considered a psychoactive drug with a potential for addiction. Moreover, “benzodiazepine addiction is more likely to occur in individuals with certain anxiety disorders, sleep disorders, and mood disorders. Oftentimes, individuals diagnosed with anxiety disorders or sleep disorders will find the effects of benzodiazepines helpful, and will pursue higher and higher doses in order to increase or simply maintain the effects. Eventually, this can lead to physical dependence, and individuals may continue seeking high doses to ward off withdrawal symptoms (The UCLA Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior).”
Knowing When To Worry
In order to know when to worry if a loved one is suffering from benzodiazepine addiction, you need to understand the risks associated with the drug as well as be able to recognize the physical symptoms and signs of abuse when taking the medication. In terms of risk factors, some of the more common ones include:
- Long-term use of benzodiazepines (beyond four weeks)
- Simultaneous abuse of drugs or alcohol
- Use of high, or increasingly high doses, of the drugs
- Suffering from long-term anxiety disorders or other conditions for which benzodiazepines are used (UCLA Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior).
Here are a few of the more common signs of benzodiazepine addiction:
- Unable to function without benzodiazepines
- Increased tolerance of the effects of benzodiazepines, requiring higher doses to achieve the same outcome
- Failure or inability to reduce doses or stop using benzodiazepines (UCLA Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior)
Often, warning signs of benzodiazepine addiction may seem less obvious, especially in teens. Young adults can exhibit some of these signs and parents may brush them off as hormones, lack of sleep, growing pains, or “teen angst” – but they are not typical and often include:
- Unsteadiness, poor coordination
- Hostility or irritability
- Disturbing dreams
- Sleep problems
- Reduced inhibition and impaired judgment
The saddest and hardest part of when an individual becomes dependent on drugs like Xanax to feel calm, the onset of withdrawal symptoms such panic attacks become increasingly worse as the drug wears off, leading the person to use the substance over and over again to escape the feelings of dread.
In a Forbes article, Korn’s frontman Jonathan Davis discussed what his Xanax withdrawal experience was like when he decided to stop taking the medication after suffering from debilitating and crippling anxiety, he states, “It wears off quick and then you need to take another piece to stay normal. It gets to the point where when you start going into detox, you have to take the Xanax to stop shaking. You can have seizures. You get the shakes so bad that you can’t even talk. It gets dangerous. I started off taking 0.25 milligrams of it, and eventually, I got up to 2 milligrams, that’s one bar a day. And eventually, I got up to two bars a day later down the road. But the first time I kicked it, I was doing a bar a day, and I slowly weaned down. Which, you cannot function. And if you don’t do it correctly, if you just stop cold turkey off of it, you can go into seizures and die.”
The severity of the withdrawal symptoms depends on the amount and length of benzodiazepine use, as well as how long it stays in the system (fast or short-acting), and often include:
- Panic attacks, palpitations, increased anxiety, and tension
- Tremors and seizures
- Vomiting and headaches
- Muscle pain and stiffness
- Problems concentrating (dementia in older patients)
Getting Help Through Treatment
No matter how long someone has been addicted to these drugs, it is important to seek professional help when attempting to stop benzodiazepines. Treatments for benzodiazepine addiction generally begin with a detox process, eventually weaning an individual off the drugs while managing the symptoms of withdrawal. However, detox does not guarantee sobriety.
If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction to benzodiazepines, get help now.
At Silver Lining, we have formed a highly skilled treatment team with more than 30 years of experience in the field of substance abuse and mental health to deliver exceptional client care. We understand that every person’s situation is unique and offer a comprehensive program that provides:
- Teaching life skills during treatment that our clients can utilize for the rest of their life.
- Coping skills that encourage positive behavior such as exercising and eating healthy.
- A strong support system and close-knit alumni network. Our clients remain part of the Silver Lining family even after completing treatment.
In addition, we offer specialized treatment programs including affordable, intensive outpatient treatment, alternative therapeutic modalities, 12-Step programs, various behavioral therapies, and individual/group counseling that support you throughout your journey to healing. If you or someone you love is ready to break free of the bondage of addiction, contact Silver Lining Recovery today at 1-833-8GROWTH.