Benzodiazepines, or benzos for short, are prescription drugs to treat anxiety disorders. However, even when used as prescribed, they can be highly addictive. Long-term use of the drug can lead to significant dependence that requires benzodiazepine addiction treatment and rehab. There are many benzodiazepine prescriptions available on the market. The most common ones are Xanax, Ativan, Klonopin, Valium, and Restoril. While they each have specific medical uses, they’re most commonly prescribed to treat general anxiety, panic attacks, muscle spasms, and seizures. With benzodiazepine addiction increasing by 67% between 1996 and 2013 in the United States, understanding the different options available to treat and recover from benzo addiction is critical for sustained recovery.
What is Benzodiazepine Addiction?
Benzodiazepine addiction happens when people misuse their prescription. This includes buying the drug illegally, mixing benzos with alcohol, taking it in more significant amounts, and taking it for an extended amount of time despite medical advice to do otherwise. Addiction won’t likely occur if a patient follows their doctor’s instructions, but unfortunately, some people become accustomed to the drug’s effects. Today, benzodiazepines are Schedule IV drugs, which means they have a high potential for abuse and addiction with limited medical uses. It’s most often used as an anti-anxiety and insomnia medication, which might also help with panic disorders. In rare cases, it’s used as a muscle relaxant. Most benzodiazepines are habit-forming sedatives that can lead to addiction when someone doesn’t take them according to their doctor’s instructions. People who take the drug excessively may begin to experience high levels of relaxation. When this happens, people tend to develop a tolerance, taking higher doses to mimic that initial high.
Effects of Benzodiazepine Abuse
A person that’s struggling with benzodiazepine addiction might start experiencing the following symptoms:
- Memory problems
- A sense of depression
- Sleep disturbances
- Loss of orientation
Over time people who abuse benzos are more likely to develop dementia. One of the things that’s different about benzodiazepines addiction is that they’re commonly abused with other drugs. For example, people mix benzos and opioids or benzos with alcohol to create a greater sense of euphoria. Not only does this make the addiction more challenging to treat, but it also makes the withdrawal and overdose risk more dangerous. Long-term effects of benzo addiction include:
- Uncontrollable disinhibition
- Impaired memory
- Impaired balance and coordination (ataxia)
- Loss of coordination
- Permanent cognitive deficits
- Muscle stiffness
- Slowed heart rate
- Sexual dysfunction
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Signs and Symptoms of Benzodiazepine Addiction
When someone develops a benzodiazepine addiction, they’re likely to start exhibiting behavioral changes. As people start spending more time getting, using, and recovering from their substance abuse, friends and family quickly notice the shift in personality. The most common behavioral signs of benzo abuse include:
- Withdrawal from friends and family members to use the drug
- Sudden financial and legal problems
- Engagement in risky activities, such as driving under the influence
- Poor hygiene and grooming
- Secretive behavior about their daily schedule
- Sudden shifts in mood and personality
- Prescription and doctor shopping behaviors to maintain their medicine supply at home
Benzodiazepine Addiction Treatment
Though the course of treatment and type of rehab program will vary considerably, various treatment settings are commonly used to treat benzodiazepine addiction.
The first step to help someone struggling with benzo withdrawal symptoms is to follow a detox protocol. Benzodiazepine detox often involved tapering down from the drug. In this case, a physician will manage the dose reduction or prescribe a lesser potent benzo. The goal here is to determine the severity of addiction rather than the drug to understand the treatment plan fully. Sometimes patients enter medication-assisted programs to help their withdrawal process and reduce their symptoms. However, these are on a case-by-case basis and depend on a myriad of factors.
Inpatient rehab programs often incorporate a medical detox program to help during the withdrawal phase. Because patients live at the rehab facility throughout their treatment, they have access to medical and emotional support, critical during withdrawal. Once they complete detox, most patients move to traditional inpatient rehab or residential rehab programs. These are highly comprehensive treatment programs that can last between 30 to 90 days. They include medical support and intensive therapy in a highly structured environment designed to help people struggling with addiction. These programs can offer many services, but most likely will include:
- Individual counseling
- Group therapy
- Family therapy
- Support groups
Intensive Outpatient Rehab
These are dedicated and comprehensive treatment programs that resemble inpatient programs but allow patients to go home at night. With intensive outpatient programs (IOP), patients attend the rehab facility during the day for anywhere between 10 to 30 hours a week. They go through monitored check-ins and participate in therapies very similar to those in inpatient rehab. These programs offer many services, but most likely will include:
- Individual counseling
- Group therapy
- Family therapy
- Support groups
- Relapse prevention
Finding Benzodiazepine Rehab Centers
Each type of benzodiazepine rehab program has its strengths and weaknesses. Finding the right one for you or a loved one will depend on several factors, including:
- Location: Whether or not the rehab facility is near you is essential. People with a supportive home environment might benefit from seeking treatment close to home. At the same time, those living in a toxic environment can benefit from removing themselves from day-to-day stressors that might have contributed to their addictive behaviors in the first place.
- Amenities: Some rehab centers offer luxury accommodations with private hotel-style rooms, pools, yoga classes, and more. These amenities tend to increase the cost of treatment. Other treatment centers may have a focus on faith or religion, outdoor activities, and so on. If extras are essential to you, this will determine the choice of rehab center you attend.
- Insurance: Many insurance companies will cover some or all the extent of addiction treatment. However, it is essential to check with the rehab center to see if they work with your insurance and what your insurance will cover.
- Cost: Addiction treatment can be expensive. Consider how you can cover the cost of treatment. Some treatment centers will offer flexible payment options and plans to help you pay for whatever part of treatment your insurance doesn’t cover. Ask for flexible choices and payment plans to help you make a decision.
Recovering from Benzodiazepine Addiction
Staying sober is a difficult task. Those triggers that may have caused you to use drugs in the first place may come back when you leave the rehab center. That is why having a plan for dealing with such triggers is vital for a sustained recovery. Many people find that meeting with a counselor after leaving rehab is enough to stay sober. Others need to keep in touch with a strong sober community, so they attend support group meetings like Narcotics Anonymous (NA) and Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) to support their sobriety. In addition to these efforts, many rehab centers offer aftercare programs. These programs incorporate individual counseling and group therapy in a less intensive schedule to help people solidify their sobriety in early recovery. These programs might also include life skills training and development, relapse prevention techniques, and even help place people in sober living facilities. Recovery is a life-long process. The risk of relapse is very high in the weeks following rehab. So, relying on a strong support system and aftercare plan is paramount for long-term recovery. At Lighthouse Recovery Institute, our rehab programs incorporate everything you need to achieve sustained recovery. If you or someone you know is struggling with benzodiazepine addiction, reach us at 866-308-2090 today and speak with our admissions team to learn more about our programs.