What You Need to Know About Benzo Drug Abuse

Written by Chloe Nicosia

Benzodiazepines are prescription drugs that can cause serious health problems when abused. Here’s what you need to know about benzo drug abuse.

Benzodiazepines are central nervous system sedatives that are commonly prescribed to treat panic and anxiety disorders. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2.2 million people abused benzodiazepines in 2010, and nearly 6,000 people lost their lives to an unintentional overdose of benzos. Benzo drug abuse can cause serious physical and mental health problems and dangerous benzodiazepine side effects.

What Benzos Do to the Brain

Benzodiazepines increase levels of GABA in your brain. GABA is a neurotransmitter that produces feelings of relaxation and calm. When they’re used as prescribed, benzos are safe and effective to use and can improve your quality of life if you suffer from panic attacks or anxiety.

But when you chronically misuse them, what benzos do to the brain is cause problems with memory, judgment, and thinking, and they can produce disorientation and confusion. Other long term benzodiazepine side effects include muscle weakness and problems with coordination. When they’re used with alcohol or other drugs, benzos can result in dangerous problems with heart rhythm and breathing.

Benzo Drug Abuse Can Lead to Addiction and Dependence

Addiction and dependence are not the same things, but benzo drug abuse can lead to both.

Addiction is characterized by the inability to stop using benzos even though your abuse is causing problems in your life, perhaps including legal, health, relationship, or financial problems. Addiction is the result of changes in brain function and structure as a result of abusing benzos, and it changes the way you think and behave. Once you develop an addiction to benzodiazepines, professional help is almost always needed to overcome the addiction, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Dependence occurs when your brain changes its chemical function in order to compensate for the presence of drugs. In the case of benzodiazepines, these brain changes involve reducing the activity of GABA. This results in tolerance, which means you need larger doses of benzos to get the desired effects. Chronic benzo drug abuse can lead to a shift in brain function, wherein your brain begins to function more comfortably when benzos are in your system than when they’re not. Then, when you stop using them, your normal brain function rebounds. This causes the onset of withdrawal symptoms.

Treating Benzo Addiction, and Dependence

Whether benzo drug abuse leads to addiction and dependence depends on a number of factors, including biological, environmental, and genetic factors. Once addiction and dependence occur, a high quality treatment program is almost always needed to help you end your addiction for good. That’s because addiction nearly always has underlying causes that need to be addressed. These may include chronic stress, a co-occurring mental illness, or a history of trauma.

Treatment for benzo dependence is the first step of rehab. Quitting benzos on your own can lead to dangerous shifts in blood pressure and heart rate as well as other health problems. A high quality treatment program will help you detox from benzos by tapering off the doses over time to prevent the onset of withdrawal symptoms and ensure safety.

Detoxing from benzos doesn’t end the addiction, which is far more complex than dependence. To treat addiction, a variety of traditional and complementary therapies should be used to help you delve into the issues underlying the addiction; develop the skills you need to cope with stress, cravings, and other triggers; and re-learn healthy ways of thinking and behaving.

Treatment works, and it can work for you. Better Addiction Care can help you find a high quality, holistic treatment program to end your addiction to benzos for the long-term. Call us today at 1-800-429-7690, and let us help you get on the road to recovery from benzo addiction.