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Benzodiazepine Addiction

What are benzodiazepines?

Benzodiazepines are a drug category that consist of diazepam, chlorazepate, oxazepam, lorazepam, alprazolam, and clonazepam. Benzodiazepines are mainly used to treat anxiety and panic, seizures, insomnia, general anesthesia, muscle relaxation, depression, alcohol withdrawal and many other conditions. Benzodiazepines work by affecting the neurons which transmit information into the brain, and they also affect the chemicals which are released by the nerves in the brain as they communicate with other related nerves. Benzodiazepines then perform the function of reducing the activities of the nerves since excessive nerve functionality often results in the psychological disorder of anxiety. Benzodiazepines also enhance the effects of gama-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain and the spinal cord thus resulting in a calming effect on the nerves (Lader, 2012).

Infographic with statistics and information about benzodiazepines.

Signs of benzodiazepine use

Several observable and non-observable signs are linked to the use of Benzodiazepines. Constant use of Benzodiazepines can prove to be an addiction and thus being harmful to the continuous users. The drugs are quite expensive, and it needs to be taken regularly to maintain their high. Some of the most common signs of benzodiazepines range from physical, behavioral, cognitive and psychosocial symptoms. The physical symptoms include an increase in the respiratory functions, weakness of the muscles, headaches, variations in sleeping and eating patterns and vertigo. The cognitive signs and symptoms entail reduced thinking and working rates, memory impairment, an increase in the confusion rate, slowed reaction rate and anterograde amnesia. Some of the behavioral symptoms are forging prescriptions, a longing desire to be left alone, irresponsibility in work and school and drug-seeking behaviors (Ogbru, 2017). The psychosocial symptoms include an increase in anxiety, depression, mood swings, hostility, and irritability.

Benzodiazepines and mental health

Benzodiazepines addiction have a significant impact on mental health problems. Benzodiazepine addiction will often coincide with psychological health issues such as anxiety, bipolar disorder, insomnia, depression and an antisocial personality disorder. The benzodiazepines often act as an inhibitor on the action potentials in the brain by acting on GABA. Benzodiazepines help in preventing the firing of the neurons thus assisting the mind in modulating responses such as fear. Anxiety disorders are often caused by the inadequacy of GABA production thus making it impossible to inhibit worries and fears, leading to panic and fear among the users. Increased use of benzodiazepines will lead to an increase in the effectiveness of GABA causing tolerance. Mental disorders will often increase the likelihood of a person using drugs just as much as benzodiazepines addiction will enhance the user’s vulnerability to mental illness. Anxiety disorders are also one of the significant outcomes of the use of benzodiazepines (Ogbru, 2017). Although benzodiazepines are one of the most common treatments for anxiety disorders and other mental related illnesses, frequent use and abuse of these drugs often lead to deterioration of mental health as the body, and the brain becomes used to the drugs.

Benzodiazepines and alcohol

Combining medications with alcohol can cause detrimental effects on the body system. Most people often assume that taking alcohol concurrently with other drugs can boost the impact of the drugs, but often this is bound to be very dangerous. Combining alcohol with benzodiazepines often results in severe, permanent damage not only to a person’s health but also to their relationships with other people. The damage caused to the body is often increased when benzodiazepines are abused simultaneously with alcohol. Both alcohol and benzodiazepines act as depressants, and they relax the body muscles at a very high rate. This relaxation may often make the central nervous systems function slow to a crawl. This may consequently lead to a person being unconscious or even ending up in a coma. The calming effect of the two depressants can also significantly affect the immune system by increasing the chances of a person having severe infections and accidents, especially during activities such as driving (Saitz, 2017). Further, mixing alcohol and benzodiazepines in large quantities can be seriously dangerous as it may lead to massive organ failures that can result in death. Additionally, combining alcohol and benzodiazepines may lead to a destruction of social relationships. Taking these two depressants results into memory loss, fatigue and fatigue and this often leads to a strain between an individual’s relationships with other people (Saitz, 2017).

Long-term effects of Benzodiazepines

There are several dangers which can result from the long-term use of benzodiazepines. Some of these effects include:

  • Drowsiness
  • Mental confusion
  • Lethargy
  • Depression
  • Vertigo
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue

However, the long-term use of benzodiazepines is not recommended as it can often result in dependence and tolerance, therefore, leading to the absence of efficacy (Saitz, 2017).

Getting off Benzodiazepines

Just as any other drug, withdrawal from benzodiazepines seems to be a very challenging task to most addicts and most of them always opt to seek help in rehabilitation facilities. Detoxing the body from benzodiazepines can sometimes be a challenging task as different people have different organizations and they will, therefore, react differently. The acute benzodiazepines withdrawals often take very long making the patients stay for very long in hospitals as they complete the withdrawal period. Patients weaning down on the number of benzodiazepines that they consume is the most withdrawal method that most doctors recommend.  However, this process often turns out to be unsuccessful as most patients often retreat to their usual benzodiazepines intakes. The rapid and accelerated benzodiazepines detoxification take about eight days to complete the withdrawal process thus making it the most effective detoxification process (Ogbru, 2017).

Citations

Lader, M. (2012). DEPENDENCE AND WITHDRAWAL: COMPARISON OF THE BENZODIAZEPINES AND SELECTIVE SEROTONIN RE-UPTAKE INHIBITORS. Addiction, 107(5), 909-910. doi: 10.1111/j.1360-0443.2011.03736.x

Ogbru, A. (2017). Benzodiazepines. Rxlist, 1(1), 1-3.

Saitz, R. (2017). Should Benzodiazepines Be Used to Treat Anxiety in People With Substance Use Disorders? Contentious Debate With Similar Conclusions. Journal Of Addiction Medicine, 11(2), 83. doi: