Benzodiazepine use among U.S. adults continues to rise. Of those prescribed benzos, nearly 20 percent of people abuse the drug and develop a dependence. These drugs produce calming and soothing effects causing many people to become addicted.
Substance use disorder, or addiction, is a complex chronic disease. Benzo addiction adversely impacts relationships, careers, and mental and physical health. At Bayview Recovery Center, our treatment for benzo addiction in Washington combines evidence-based and holistic therapies to help people achieve lifelong recovery. Whether it’s benzo addiction, or addiction to any other substances, we offer individualized addiction treatment programs in Tacoma, WA.
What are Benzodiazepines?
Benzodiazepines, or benzos, are a class of drugs that treat a variety of conditions, including anxiety and insomnia. Doctors also prescribe benzos to minimize seizures and reduce the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal.
When benzos are taken short-term, and as prescribed, they are relatively safe. However, when taken long-term, even as prescribed can lead to benzo addiction. The most commonly prescribed benzos include Xanax, Klonopin, Valium, and Ativan.
Why is Benzo Addiction Incredibly Strong?
Benzodiazepines belong to the CNS (Central Nervous System) depressant drug catagory. They work by binding to the brain’s GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) neurotransmitter receptors. As a result, it slows brain activity and simultaneously causes anxiety and seizures.
What makes a benzodiazepine addiction so incredibly strong? It is how quickly the body and brain develop a tolerance to the drug, which requires larger doses to achieve the same effects. Regularly using benzos teaches the body that this drug is the only way to relax. Without benzos, people become increasingly irritable and tense.
It can be easy to rationalize misusing benzodiazepines since their doctor prescribes them. Unfortunately, doctors are quick to prescribe benzos which encourages benzo addiction. Benzos are a first-line traditional treatment for anxiety disorders, with around 150 million prescriptions written over the years.
Prescription benzodiazepines come in three types which include:
- Ultra short-acting – take effect the most rapidly and are used to treat insomnia and are a part of pre-surgical anesthesia
- Short-acting – has rapid effects but a short-lived effect, helpful in treating anxiety
- Long-acting – release active ingredients slowly for longer-term relief, commonly used to treat anxiety, seizures, and insomnia
What are the Common Benzodiazepines?
Benzos differ in how quickly the body absorbs them, their potency, and their uses, but they are all addictive. Common benzodiazepines include:
- Xanax (alprazolam) – Xanax treats anxiety and panic disorders and comes in various strengths. Extended-release Xanax is designed to release the medicine over time. However, if a person crushes and snorts it, they get the whole dose at once. This makes it the most dangerous benzo on the market.
- Klonopin (clonazepam) – Panic and seizure disorders are often treated with Klonopin. It comes in 1 mg and 2 mg pills. Some pills are made to dissolve in the mouth. Klonopin is an intermediate-acting benzo.
- Valium (diazepam) – Valium is often prescribed to treat anxiety disorders, muscle spasms, and alcohol withdrawal symptoms. It is one of the oldest benzos on today’s market. Valium has multiple generic forms and different strengths, including extended release. Valium is less rewarding than other benzos because it takes a long time to hit the body.
- Ativan (lorazepam) – Ativan is typically used to treat panic disorders. While it typically comes in pill form, it is available in injectable form. It has a short-to-intermediate onset, which could give some users a big reward.
- Ambien (zolpidem) – Ambien is a hypnotic drug used to help people sleep through the night. It has a sedating impact which allows people to fall asleep, and other ingredients to help people forget what happened while they slept. Ambien has a fast onset but isn’t typically abused since people fall asleep before taking another dose.
Who Can Become Addicted to Benzos?
Benzos are habit-forming sedatives, and anyone who takes them is at risk of addiction. Benzos are prescribed so often that 66 million people left doctor’s offices and hospitals with a benzodiazepine prescription. Additionally, experts believe several factors increase the chances of developing a substance use disorder.