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Benzo addiction treatment

Are Benzos Addictive?

Benzodiazepines, commonly known as benzos, are a class of prescription drugs often prescribed for conditions such as anxiety, insomnia, and seizures. They are highly effective in treating these conditions, but what many may not realize is the addictive potential these drugs hold. Are benzos addictive? The short answer is yes. Benzo addiction is a real and growing problem, one that needs to be addressed with urgency and compassion.

Understanding Benzodiazepines

Benzodiazepines are classified as sedatives, working on the neurotransmitter GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) to calm nerve impulses and, by extension, anxiety. They’re commonly known by their brand names, such as Xanax, Ativan, and Valium. While these drugs are extremely beneficial when taken as prescribed, the danger lies in their misuse and resulting benzo addiction.

Mechanism of Action

When consumed, benzos cause a surge in dopamine levels, flooding the brain with this feel-good neurotransmitter. This sudden wave of pleasure is rewarding; to some, it can prove irresistible. Over time, the body develops a dependence on the drug, resulting in addiction.

The Addiction Process

Researchers have found that the addictive power of benzos is similar to that of opioids, cannabinoids, and GHB—substances known for their exceptionally strong addictive qualities. As benzos accumulate in the body, they alter the structure and function of certain receptors in the brain, making them more susceptible to excitatory surges from other neurotransmitters and increasing dopamine rushes.

This chemical action results in a high, leading to a swift progression from use to abuse to addiction. On average, tolerance can develop after just six months of use, though it is possible to become physically dependent sooner. About 44% of users eventually become dependent on benzos.

The Warning Signs of Benzo Addiction

Benzo addiction can be subtle at first, going unnoticed for a period of time. However, as the addiction progresses, certain behaviors and symptoms become more apparent.

Physical and Psychological Symptoms

Individuals dealing with benzo addiction may experience a variety of physical, psychological, and behavioral symptoms. These can include:

  • Increased dosage or frequency of use
  • Inability to function without the drug
  • Continued use despite negative impacts on physical and mental health
  • Irritability and hostility towards others
  • Reduced inhibitions and impaired judgment
  • Periods of time they can’t account for (blackouts)
  • Withdrawal symptoms such as heightened sensitivity, anxiety, depression, tremors, and sleep disturbances if the drug dosage is reduced or stopped

Behavioral Change

Changes in behavior due to benzo addiction can be drastic. Individuals may withdraw from life, distancing themselves from their responsibilities and relationships. The drug becomes the most important thing to them, with their time and energy revolving around benzos. In extreme cases, individuals may resort to stealing or risky and dangerous activities to feed their addiction.

The Risks of Benzo Addiction

The risks associated with benzo addiction are high, with severe implications for both physical and mental health. Knowing these risks can be crucial in recognizing the gravity of the situation and the need for immediate intervention.

Cognitive Impairment

Long-term use of benzos can lead to cognitive impairment. Users may experience memory loss or difficulty performing tasks they once knew how to do. This cognitive impairment has been consistently linked to doses of the medication, with both older and younger individuals experiencing the same impairment.

Increased Risk of Alzheimer’s Disease

Long-term benzo use has also been associated with an increased risk of Alzheimer’s Disease. Studies show a clear association between long-term benzo use and Alzheimer’s risk, with the risk increasing with the amount of benzos taken.

Early Death

Perhaps the most alarming risk associated with benzo use is the possibility of early death. Extensive research has shown that benzodiazepines are associated with a significant number of early deaths among all the prescription medications tested. The chances of early death double with the prescription of a benzodiazepine.

Seeking Help for Benzo Addiction

Recognizing that you or a loved one is struggling with benzo addiction can be challenging, but it’s the first step towards recovery. Remember, addiction isn’t a choice, and it isn’t a reflection of a person’s character or willpower. It’s a disease that requires treatment, and there is no shame in seeking help.

Treatment Options

Professional drug and alcohol addiction treatment programs, like the programs offered at Lighthouse Recovery Institute, provide the support needed to overcome addiction. Our benzo addiction treatment program is designed to help individuals address their addiction and develop strategies for a drug-free life.

Treatment usually starts with detox, allowing the person to withdraw from the drug in a safe environment. This is followed by various therapies, workshops, and support groups to help the person understand the causes of their addiction and develop strategies for long-term recovery.

Benzo addiction is a serious issue, but it’s not an insurmountable one. With the right help and support, recovery is entirely possible. If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, reach out to Lighthouse Recovery Institute. It’s never too late to start the journey towards recovery.

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