Struggling with misuse of or dependence on Xanax or Klonopin? What about Ativan? These drugs are benzodiazepines (benzos), and they are prescription medications that can cause addiction. If your doctor has prescribed these medications for you, don’t stop taking them without first talking to your doctor. However, recognize that the use of these drugs, especially outside of the prescription written for them, can be dangerous.
Contact Twin Lakes Recovery Center near Atlanta, Georgia, to learn more about benzo dependence and addiction. We can help you break the habit and learn more sustainable ways to address anxiety, sleep, or other issues that led you to use benzos in the first place.
What Are Benzos Used For?
Most often, doctors use these drugs for short-term needs rather than daily use. Those taking benzos, such as Xanax, Librium, or Ativan, exactly as prescribed by their doctor will not likely develop addiction. The risk of addiction occurs for those who consistently misuse these drugs. For example, some people use them to improve concentration levels. Others seek out the calming effect they tend to have. Some want to experience the powerful euphoria these drugs can cause.
Doctors often write prescriptions for benzos to treat a wide range of conditions, including seizures and muscle spasms. Sometimes, benzos can also be used to manage tremors or to help a person in withdrawal from alcohol addiction. These drugs may help improve sleep and ease anxiety.
Benzos help to relax the body by stimulating the neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid. As levels of this neurotransmitter increase, the brain and the nervous system slow down. This relaxes both the mind and the body. Because of how effectively they stimulate the pleasure center of the brain and create relaxation, benzos can be habit-forming.
In addition to those listed above, some types of benzos include:
These drugs go by a variety of street names as well: K, K-pin, or Pin for Klonopin; Xannies for Xanax. Ativan is sometimes called tranqs or downers.
Because benzos are so powerful, doctors tend to prescribe the lowest possible effective dose, for the shortest time period needed. Only a licensed physician can write a prescription for these drugs, and the instructions should be followed closely.
What Are the Risks of Using Benzos?
Though they can be very effective in treating advanced seizures or muscle tremors, benzos can also be addictive. The National Institute on Drug Abuse states that over 30 percent of the overdoses occurring in the U.S. involve the use of benzodiazepines along with opioids. The two are often used in combination with each other to create the desired “high,” creating a significant amount of risk to the central nervous system.
What are the Side Effects of Benzos?
Numerous side effects can occur when taking these drugs. The short-term effects include:
- Lack of balance or coordination
- Weight gain
- Appetite changes
In addition to short-term effects, benzos have some serious long-term effects, including the risk of addiction. Other potential long-term side effects of benzo use include:
- Dangerously low blood pressure
- Suicidal thoughts or attempts
- Movement disorders
- Cognitive function decline
It is also possible to overdose on benzos, which leads to a shutdown of the body’s respiratory system and a dangerous slowing of the heart rate.
How Do Benzos Lead to Addiction?
Addiction to benzos begins the same as with any other substance. First, tolerance develops, meaning that the body requires more of the drug to experience the same level of relief. Taking more of the drug can quickly lead to dependence, meaning that to stop taking the drug suddenly would result in uncomfortable or dangerous withdrawal symptoms. Typical withdrawal symptoms for benzos include:
- Sleep disturbance or insomnia
- Increased anxiety, including panic attacks
- Tremors, sweating, nausea, weight loss
- Heart palpitations, headaches, muscle pain
- More rarely, seizures and psychotic episodes
Finally, once tolerance and dependence develop, addiction can follow. Addiction is a physical and psychological dependence on the drug, such that it becomes very difficult to stop taking the drug without professional help, even if you want to stop.
Could You Have an Addiction to Benzos?
Consider a few common symptoms of benzo addiction. If you are using these drugs outside of a prescription, whether using too much of your own prescription or using one written for someone else, it’s likely you are headed toward addiction. Some common signs of addiction include:
- Running out of a medication prescription too soon
- Isolating from family and friends, often not meeting obligations to them
- Engaging in risky behaviors without thinking twice about it
- Doctor-shopping in an effort to get access to more of the drugs
- Feeling intense anxiety and agitation when not getting the prescription soon enough
- Purchasing benzos illicitly
- Hiding how much you are using
How Is Benzo Addiction Treated?
A person with an addiction to benzos may need to go through the drug detox process. This allows the chemicals to naturally work their way out of the body while your medical needs are managed. Benzo detox may be necessary for those who have intense withdrawal symptoms as well as those using benzos with other drugs such as opioids. There is the potential for serious side effects when withdrawing from benzos.
Once a person goes through addiction detox, they are likely to benefit from residential treatment programs like those offered at Twin Lakes. Here, you’ll be able to focus on your individual health needs while working on your addiction through a number of therapies. You’ll learn how to manage your medical and emotional needs without drug use.
If you or a loved one is struggling with benzo addiction, reach out to our team to learn more about treatment. Twin Lakes proudly serves the greater Atlanta area in three locations: intensive outpatient services are offered in Gainesville and Athens, GA; detox and residential treatment services are provided in Monroe, GA. All locations are only an hour outside of downtown Atlanta. We treat addictions of all kinds at Twin Lakes, including meth addiction, alcoholism, and most other substance use problems.