Benzodiazepine Abuse, Addiction, And Treatment Programs

Benzodiazepines can become addictive with repeated misuse, and may result in severe withdrawal symptoms if a person tries to stop. There are several types of treatment for overcoming benzodiazepine abuse and addiction. This includes detox and inpatient treatment options.

Benzodiazepines, also known as “benzos,” are a type of sedative drug prescribed to treat anxiety disorders and insomnia. Although they are believed to be safer than previous drugs for anxiety—such as barbiturates—benzos can also cause severe drug dependence and are commonly misused.

The National Survey on Drug Abuse and Health estimated that about 5.4 million people aged 12 and older in the United States misused prescription benzodiazepines in 2018.

According to the American Journal of Public Health, the number of annual prescriptions for benzodiazepines increased 67 percent from 1996 to 2013. Benzodiazepines are also sometimes misused with drugs like alcohol and opioids—a dangerous and potentially lethal combination.

Benzodiazepine addiction can disrupt a person’s ability to work, hurt relationships, and cause negative effects on physical and mental health.

At Spring Hill Recovery Center, we know that recovery from benzodiazepine addiction is possible.

Here you’ll find information about:

  • what benzodiazepines are
  • how they can be misused
  • treatment programs for benzodiazepine addiction
  • signs and symptoms of benzodiazepine abuse
  • an overview of our accredited addiction rehab center in Massachusetts

What Are Benzodiazepines?

Benzodiazepines are a class of psychoactive drugs that work in the body by enhancing the effects of the brain chemical, gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). This slows down brain activity, which can result in a sense of relaxation throughout the body.

Benzodiazepines are primarily prescribed to treat anxiety, panic disorders, and insomnia. The strength of their effects, and how long it takes to feel their effects, depends on the type of benzo, dosage, and method of use.

Common types of benzodiazepines include:

There is little evidence to suggest that benzodiazepines are beneficial for long-term use. On the contrary, long-term use of benzodiazepines has been linked to worsened health conditions, severe drug dependence, as well as greater risk for dementia and cognitive decline in elderly adults.

For these reasons, benzos are primarily prescribed as a short-term treatment for panic attacks, anxiety, or to relieve sleeplessness. Taking benzodiazepines for more than three to four weeks may cause withdrawal symptoms if you stop taking the drugs abruptly.

How Benzodiazepines Can Be Abused

Benzodiazepines can be acquired by prescription, or through illicit means. Prescription benzos, like Xanax, can come in the form of a pill or tablet.

Benzodiazepine misuse can generally be defined as taking benzos in any way that is not prescribed by a doctor. There are several ways in which benzodiazepines can be misused.

What benzodiazepine misuse can look like:

  • taking higher doses than prescribed
  • taking doses more frequently than prescribed
  • taking someone else’s prescription
  • taking benzos recreationally
  • crushing and snorting tablets
  • mixing benzos with other drugs (e.g. alcohol, opioids)
  • taking benzodiazepines for longer than prescribed

Over time, the repeated misuse of these drugs can cause both a physical and psychological addiction. This can develop as the result of multiple factors, including effects on the brain, genetic factors, family history of drug abuse, and co-occurring mental health conditions.

Benzodiazepine abuse and addiction can be very dangerous. Over the last two decades, drug overdose deaths involving benzodiazepines have risen sharply. This can happen after taking a very high dose, or mixing benzos with other drugs, like alcohol or opioids.

Treatment For Benzodiazepine Addiction

Addiction is a mental and physical disease that is complex, but treatable. Benzodiazepine addiction can be very difficult to overcome without treatment.

Treatment for benzo addiction may be received within an inpatient setting—such as a benzodiazepine rehab center—or on an outpatient treatment basis with a primary care doctor and substance abuse counselor.

The level of care someone needs to treat benzo abuse may depend on the severity of their drug dependence, how long they’ve been abusing benzos, co-occurring mental illness, and other personal factors.

Types of treatment programs for benzodiazepine use disorders (addiction) include:

  • drug detox
  • inpatient treatment
  • residential rehab
  • day treatment/partial hospitalization
  • intensive outpatient treatment
  • outpatient programs

Overcoming substance use disorders involving benzodiazepines may require treatment at multiple levels of care, beginning with detox.

Benzodiazepine Withdrawal And Detox

Taking benzodiazepines for more than a few weeks on a regular basis can cause increased drug tolerance and drug dependence. This can happen in people who take these drugs as prescribed, as well as those who misuse them for their effects.

Drug dependence occurs when the body has become accustomed to having one or more drugs in your system. Abruptly stopping your use of the drugs can cause a reaction in your body known as withdrawal.

Benzodiazepine withdrawal can cause both physical and psychological symptoms. These can be highly uncomfortable, ranging from severe agitation and insomnia to heart palpitations and seizures.

Getting sober from benzodiazepines may require a tapering process, in which a doctor instructs you on how to gradually lower your dosage over a period of time. If you’ve become addicted to benzodiazepines, the safest way to withdraw from these drugs is to enter a medical detox program.

Medical detox programs provide 24-hour medical and behavioral support within a supervised setting. Within this quiet setting, doctors and other supportive staff can monitor individuals undergoing early stages of drug and alcohol withdrawal. In the case of benzodiazepines, withdrawal can pose a number of serious health risks.

If you’ve become addicted to benzodiazepines, don’t try and stop taking them alone. Severe cases of benzodiazepine withdrawal can be life-threatening. Consult a doctor or call a detoxification center to seek professional help.

Inpatient Treatment

Getting sober, or beginning to reduce your benzo dosage, is only the first step towards overcoming addiction. Addiction is an all-consuming illness that can affect all areas of a person’s life. Recovering from addiction can take time, and may require ongoing support from mental health and substance abuse professionals.

Inpatient rehab and residential rehab programs are the most effective type of addiction recovery program. This type of treatment offers the highest level of support and structure for people in early sobriety. Those newly in recovery may need ongoing support as they work through the physical and psychological effects of their benzo addiction.

Residential treatment programs involve temporarily residing within a drug rehab center for 24-hour hour care and supervision. On average, these programs last 30 to 90 days.

Residential rehab programs for benzodiazepine addiction may incorporate a variety of treatment services to heal both the mind and body in early recovery.

Treatments for benzodiazepine abuse and addiction include:

  • Behavioral Therapy: Behavioral therapies, like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), can be an effective way to address underlying causes and triggers of your addiction. It can also teach supportive strategies and skills for better managing stress and anxiety.
  • Group Therapy: Support groups offer a safe and supportive space for people to voice their challenges and successes in treatment and recovery. This can be a useful way to learn from others and feel less alone as you work through your struggles. Group therapy may come in the form of peer support groups, 12-step groups, psychoeducational groups, and skill development groups.
  • Medication Management: Withdrawing from benzodiazepines may be an extended process. People with a severe addiction may be maintained on low doses of extended-release benzodiazepines in the process of stopping the drugs completely. The need for medication in treatment may vary depending on personal needs. This can be discussed with a psychiatrist or primary care doctor specialized in substance abuse.
  • Mental Health Treatment: Many people who become addicted to benzodiazepines also have a mental health disorder, like anxiety or depression. This may require a treatment plan that incorporates mental health counseling as well as substance abuse treatment. This integrated approach is known as dual diagnosis treatment.

Addiction treatment centers can vary in the types of behavioral health treatment services they offer, and their approach to addiction recovery. For instance, some treatment centers may offer holistic therapies in addition to traditional and evidence-based treatments.

Not every treatment facility offers dual diagnosis care. If you have a mental health disorder in addition to benzodiazepine addiction, make sure to look for a rehab center that offers both mental health and substance abuse treatment.

Outpatient Addiction Treatment

Continuing treatment on an outpatient basis is strongly encouraged for people who are newly sober or are tapering their benzodiazepine dosage.

Outpatient treatment for benzodiazepine addiction may involve attending individual therapy sessions and regular appointments with a primary care doctor and psychiatrist, as needed.

It’s normal for people to continue seeing a counselor for months, or even years, after beginning their journey towards long-term recovery. If you’ve recently completed a residential rehab program, your treatment team may recommend that you begin a step-down program, such as a day treatment or intensive outpatient program (IOP).

Many people also seek outpatient counseling or medication support services after experiencing a relapse. Relapse is a common struggle among those who used to have an addiction, but it doesn’t have to hinder your recovery. If you’ve recently relapsed or are worried about your risk for relapse, don’t be embarrassed to reach out for help.

Signs Of Benzodiazepine Addiction

Addiction is not always obvious, but there are certain signs to look out for if you believe you or a close family member may be addicted to benzodiazepines.

Signs of benzodiazepine addiction include:

  • being unable to stop taking benzodiazepines
  • trying and failing to reduce your dosage with medical guidance
  • increased tolerance to the effects of benzodiazepines
  • relying on benzodiazepines to get through the day
  • constantly thinking about your benzodiazepine use
  • continuing to abuse benzos despite negative effects on mental and/or physical health
  • feeling a loss of interest in activities you used to enjoy
  • avoiding other people out of shame, embarrassment, or guilt about your drug use

The underlying causes of benzodiazepine addiction can vary from person to person. People at greatest risk for developing an addiction are those who take benzodiazepines for an extended amount of time, mix them with other drugs, and have co-occurring mental health issues.

Addiction can affect people from all walks of life. No one is immune. Many people who become addicted to drugs feel pressured to suffer in silence or deny that they have a problem. This is normal. If you or a loved one has become dependent on benzodiazepines, it’s strongly encouraged that you seek help sooner rather than later.

Begin Your Recovery From Addiction At Spring Hill Recovery Center

If you or someone you know in the Greater New England area is struggling with an addiction to benzodiazepines, look no further than Spring Hill Recovery Center in Ashby, Massachusetts.

At Spring Hill, our treatment professionals are dedicated to helping residents conquer their addiction and learn the tools they need to succeed in their recovery. Our Ashby rehab center offers a range of treatment programs, including residential rehab and intensive outpatient treatment.

Our Massachusetts rehab center offers:

  • evidence-based treatment
  • a compassionate approach to treating addiction
  • an array of traditional and holistic therapies
  • dual diagnosis treatment
  • a peaceful, home-like environment
  • relapse prevention planning and aftercare

Located about an hour from Boston, our Massachusetts treatment center is ideal for residents of Massachusetts, as well as those traveling from nearby New England states. By contacting our office, we can assist in scheduling an initial evaluation, verifying insurance, and making travel arrangements to help with the admissions process.

Don’t wait to reach out for help. Contact us today to learn more about our New England addiction recovery programs and the types of treatment services we offer.

  1. National Institute on Drug Abuse—Benzodiazepines and Opioids
  2. American Journal of Public Health—Increasing Benzodiazepine Prescriptions and Overdose Mortality in the United States
  3. U.S National Library of Medicine: PubMedCentral—Management of benzodiazepine misuse and dependence

Written by Spring Hill Recovery Editorial Team

© 2024 Spring Hill Recovery | All Rights Reserved

* This page does not provide medical advice.

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