Benzodiazepine addiction has quickly turned into another epidemic sweeping America. Benzodiazepines, commonly referred to as benzos, are drugs typically prescribed to calm or sedate a person who is suffering from anxiety, panic attacks and/or a debilitating mental health disorder. Common types include Xanax, Ativan, Klonopin and Valium. Any form of Benzodiazepine is strong, effective and dangerous. Their chemical composition and action in the body make them especially easy to abuse.
Between 1996 and 2013, the number of adults who filled a prescription for Xanax or another benzodiazepine medication increased by 67 percent, from 8.1 million to 13.5 million. Any type of use can lead to addiction, especially long-term. Once the medication wears off, people can feel anxious and jittery. High anxiety from the withdrawal and the feeling of wanting more can be the biggest set up for addiction.
Along with that, adolescent brains are at a higher risk. Teenagers are going to be withdrawn and moody when taking and/or coming off their benzodiazepine medication. A significant change in their behavior can be a telltale sign of drug misuse, along with increased sleeping and tiredness.
The addictive power of benzos is similar to that of opioids, cannabinoids, and GHB – all substances with strong addictive characteristics. As benzos accumulate in the body, they alter the structure and function of certain receptors in the brain that make them more susceptible to excitable surges from other neurotransmitters. All of these chemical actions add up to a high many people do not wish to give up, and the progression from use to abuse to addiction can occur shockingly quickly.
On average, tolerance can develop after just 6 months of use, though it is possible to become physically dependent sooner. It is estimated that over 44% of users eventually become dependent on benzos. Once your body has become dependent on the medication, quitting is not easy.
When it comes to teens, according to Yael Klein, “One in every ten American adolescents has tried benzodiazepines at least once in their life” according to a study that surveyed high school seniors in America. Among these 11,000 students, 7.5% of the teens were taking the drug without a doctor’s prescription.
Completely stopping the medication is never advised, and will likely result in severe withdrawal symptoms, including but not limited to:
- Muscular pain and tremors
- Difficulty concentrating
- Perceptual changes
- Sleep disturbance
- Increase tension and anxiety
- Panic attacks
- Heart palpitations
- Seizures and psychosis
Prescription drug abuse is often not seen right away or passed off as innocent behaviors with both adolescents and adults. Waiting for help is not a safe option. Early intervention has the best chance at long-term recovery. Horizon can help! Call us today at 716.831.1800. We are experts in the mental health and substance use field for children, adolescents and adults and are here to help!