Benzodiazepines, or Benzos, are some of the most commonly prescribed medications in the world despite significant addiction risk.
WHAT ARE BENZODIAZEPINES?
Benzodiazepines, also known as Benzos, all interact with the neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid-A (GABA-A). Every Benzodiazepine impacts GABA-A in a unique way, causing unique mental and physical effects on the user. Benzos are very helpful in the treatment of many mental illnesses and sleep disorders, which is why they are so commonly prescribed. However, the manner in which these drugs impact brain chemistry can quickly cause dependence and addiction. This is especially true when they are used improperly or illegally.
Benzos are some of the most commonly prescribed medications in the United States, and they are also some of the most commonly abused. Some studies have found that between 11% and 15% of American adults take benzos of some kind legally (with a prescription) in any given year. Because most benzos are legal when prescribed, many users don’t feel that they are dangerous. This leads them to gradually use greater and greater doses over time without worrying about the consequences. Because the effectiveness of most medications fade over time as users develop a tolerance, benzo users may not be concerned when they have to take more and more, thinking that is just the natural course of a prescription. Even when they begin to show signs of addiction, many benzo users will strongly deny they have a problem. It is very common to hear defenses such as, “I don’t have a problem. I have a prescription.”
Despite this, benzodiazepine addiction is a very real and very powerful. Benzodiazepines work by altering the chemistry of the brain. Over time, the brain becomes accustomed to the constant presence of the benzos, and it eventually needs them to function “normally.” When they are no longer present in sufficient amounts, the brain is no longer able to function in the way that it has become accustomed, and a series of symptoms known as withdrawal begin to appear. These symptoms include mood swings, nausea, weight loss, headaches, muscle pain, hallucinations, and more. Benzodiazepine addicts eventually crave their drug of choice and may eventually commit increasingly desperate actions to obtain it, even at great personal cost to themselves and their families.
EXAMPLES OF BENZODIAZEPINES
Ativan, or lorazepam, is a benzodiazepine. One of the most potent of all benzos, Ativan is prescribed for anxiety disorders, depression, and panic attacks. Ativan’s strength makes it very addictive, and the drug carries a very high risk of dependence.
Halcion is one of the fastest acting of all benzos, and it is also processed by the body faster than other benzos. The drug is prescribed to treat anxiety and insomnia, but it can be highly addictive. The biggest risk regarding Halcion is that abusers are inclined to increase their dosage because their high goes away quickly, which speeds up the formation of a dependence.
Klonopin is one of the longest acting of all benzos. This means that it takes longer to fully effect the patient, but it also means that it can be more powerful when abused. Klonopin has an extremely high potential for abuse and addiction, and the addiction can be very severe. Klonopin has one of the most severe withdrawals of any drug, and the symptoms can be life-threatening.
Librium produces a calming effect, which is why the drug is used to treat many anxiety disorders. Librium is considerably less potent than most other benzos, making the drug somewhat less addictive than similar drugs. However, this also means that Librium is commonly taken with other substances to increase the level of intoxication.
Valium, or diazepam, is prescribed to treat mental disorders, muscle spasms, and seizures. Meant to be taken daily under set guidelines, many users begin to take more than their prescribed dose. This leads to addiction as the body becomes more dependent on greater quantities.
Xanax is the most prescribed medication in the United States. Over 44 million Xanax prescriptions are written every year. Xanax produces a calming sensation and also induces drowsiness. Xanax is also highly addictive, and it is one of the most commonly abused drugs in the United States. Xanax abuse is a serious problem, one that is made much worse when abusers mix the drug with other substances such as alcohol.
IS BENZODIAZEPINE ADDICTION A PROBLEM IN YOUR LIFE?
Benzodiazepine addiction can be incredibly powerful. For many, it completely overtakes their life. This not only impacts the user, but can impact their entire family as well. The addiction may worsen to the point where it seems like all hope is lost, but nothing is further from the truth. Help is out there.
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