Asking Yourself: Am I Addicted Benzos?

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If you think you might be addicted to benzodiazepines, you’re certainly not alone. In 2011, an estimated 61,000 Americans sought treatment for benzo addiction.

And that number has been climbing at an alarming rate ever since.

The Benzo Specifics

Benzodiazepines (benzos) are a member of the anxiolytic family – a class of drug commonly used to help relieve anxiety disorders. The most commonly prescribed benzo medications are Xanax and Ativan.

Despite their popularity and dose frequency, Xanax and Ativan were never meant for long-term use. While standard doses of these benzos taken as prescribed can help to relieve anxiety and insomnia, abusing these medications can actually cause these symptoms.

Developing a Dependence

After prolonged use, the body develops a tolerance. That means a standard dose of benzos quickly becomes less effective, requiring the person to take much higher dosages just to have the same effect. Next thing you know, you’re struggling with a physical and psychological addiction.

Signs and symptoms classically related to benzo addiction include:

  • Headaches
  • Weakness
  • Tremors
  • Memory problems
  • Swelling in hands and feet
  • Coordination difficulties
  • Excessive sweating

Once you have a physical and psychological dependency to feed, avoiding withdrawal symptoms quickly consumes your every waking second. Generally speaking, physical withdrawal symptoms manifest somewhere between two and four days after the last use. In addition, there are several behavioral changes seen among benzo addicts, including:

  • “Doctor shopping” to obtain multiple prescriptions
  • Hostility or violence
  • Chewing, crushing or snorting pills to increase the effect
  • Drastic reductions or completely ceasing important school, work or recreational activities
  • Spending large amounts of time either getting, using or recovering from benzos
  • Unsuccessful attempts to reduce benzo use or cease it completely
  • Continuing to use benzos despite being aware of recurring physical and psychological problems

Cold Turkey Detox Can be a Fatal Mistake

If you’re addicted to benzos – no matter how physically durable or mentally prepared you may be – do not try to detox by going “cold turkey” at home. The results could be deadly.

Normally, the benzodiazepine withdrawal process is done under medical supervision. In carefully managed steps, a supervised detox is achieved by slowly reducing the dosage and frequency of administration. Often times, the treatment will include transferring you from a slow acting benzo to an extended release formulation.

Getting Past the Withdrawal Phase

It’s also a good idea to be prepared for an extended withdrawal process. In fact, full resolution of benzodiazepine withdrawal symptoms can take up to 6 months or more. The acute phase lasts anywhere from seven to 90 days, while post-acute withdrawal syndrome can last up to two years. Some of the most common withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Moderate to severe depression
  • Extreme anxiety
  • Body tremors
  • Migraine
  • Heart palpitations
  • Burning sensations going through the brain
  • Muscle twitching

Though the withdrawal symptoms related to benzoidazepines can be difficult, this addiction is certainly not impossible to overcome. In fact, tens of thousands of people have kicked their benzo addiction, going on to lead healthy, happy and decidedly sober lives…and you can be one of them.

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