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August 18, 2018
How to Help Someone with a Benzodiazepine Addiction
Addiction Treatment

How to Help Someone with a Benzodiazepine Addiction

Families all around the country are waking up to the dangers that certain prescription drugs hold. The opioid epidemic has shown us that it is all-too-possible for pharmaceutical companies and doctors to make mistakes and overprescribe dangerous drugs to people. These drugs can be addictive and deadly.
While many now know the dangers of opioids, many still don’t realize the dangers that benzodiazepines can hold, even though they are one of the most commonly prescribed medications in the United States.

What are Benzodiazepines?

Sources: Wikipedia

What Are Benzodiazepines?

Benzodiazepines are a class of drugs, rather than a specific drug, that are used to treat a number of conditions including anxiety, epilepsy and preventing seizures, muscle spasms or pain, and insomnia. These drugs treat various conditions by working on the neurotransmitters in the brain, particular the gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) transmitters – which actively works to suppress the activity of nerves.

These drugs can have a great many benefits for patients afflicted with diseases or conditions, but the benefits need to be carefully weighed with the drawbacks and side effects of benzos.

Benzodiazepines Types

  • Alprazolam (Xanax, Xanax XR)
  • Diazepam (Valium, Diastat Acudial, Diastat)
  • Clobazam (Onfi)
  • Clonazepam (Klonopin)
  • Clorazepate (Tranxene)
  • Chlordiazepoxide (Librium)
  • Lorazepam (Ativan)
  • Temazepam (Restoril)
  • Triazolam (Halcion)

Drawbacks and Negatives of Benzodiazepine Use

Doctors have been prescribing benzodiazepines since the 1960s, and the common perception of benzos is that they are relatively safe for use – especially, when compared to methaqualone and other sedative drugs that were previously used to treat these conditions. Benzodiazepines are not 100% safe though, and not every condition requires the long-term high dosage use of benzodiazepines that current prescription practices support. Some of the concerns include:

Are Benzodiazepines Addictive?

Yes, not only are benzodiazepines addictive, but the withdrawal symptoms of benzodiazepine addiction are so severe that they can be deadly, and benzodiazepine withdrawal has been compared to alcoholic withdrawal in its severity.

Can You Overdose on Benzodiazepines?

Yes. Even though the risk of respiratory depression (stopped breathing) with benzodiazepines is less than with opioids like heroin and fentanyl, benzodiazepines are classified as Central Nervous System (CNS) depressants. The risk of overdose is greatly increased when mixed with other drugs like prescription opioids and alcohol.

Are Benzodiazepines Used for Recreational Purposes (To Get High)?

Yes, prescription drug abuse has grown in popularity since the early 1990s, as many unwittingly feel that since prescription drugs are given by a doctor, they must be safer than illicit drugs. Even high school kids commonly abuse benzos like Xanax and Valium for its relaxing and euphoric effects.

Can Benzodiazepines Cause Anxiety and Depression?

Yes, benzodiazepines can help to treat both anxiety and depression in those that have existing mental health conditions, panic and anxiety disorders. However, if someone abuses these drugs without a pre-existing condition, the subsequent benzodiazepine addiction and withdrawal symptoms can cause anxiety, panic, depression, mood changes, and a long list of other benzodiazepine withdrawal symptoms.

What to do When your Loved One is Addicted to Benzodiazepines

The first step is to identify a benzodiazepine addiction. Since benzodiazepines are used to treat many medical conditions, it can be difficult to distinguish between legitimate benzo use and benzo abuse and addiction. How do you know if your loved one has exceeded the recommended use of benzodiazepines and is now addicted?

How Does a Person Become Addicted to Benzodiazepines?

An addiction to benzodiazepines can develop even with the recommended use and dosage prescribed by doctors. This can happen if the underlying condition that the benzos are prescribed to treat is a severe condition, like severe anxiety and panic attacks, epilepsy, tremor diseases (Like Parkinson’s Disease), and any condition where the medication is needed to preserve quality of life.

Should Families Question a Loved One’s Benzodiazepine Use or Dependency?

Because, benzodiazepines are commonly a form of treatment used for medical conditions, families of addicts and potential addicts are often concerned with calling out an addiction to, or problem with prescription medications. “What right do I have to question a doctor’s diagnosis and suggested treatment?” families often ask.

In situations where you suspect a loved one is addicted to a medication, or that medication is causing serious issues in a loved one’s life, it is ok for family to question whether or not this form of treatment’s benefits outweigh the risks. In fact, the family’s questioning is often needed to address the addiction, as the addict is not likely to proactively choose to discontinue using a substance they are addicted to. The addict’s judgement could be clouded by addiction, and the addict’s physician or doctor may not be informed to the seriousness of the addiction.

In these cases, a family’s intervention into the wellbeing of a loved one is not only the right choice, but could save a loved one’s life.

What Kind of Treatment Does a Benzodiazepine Addiction Require?

An addiction assessment with a certified addiction specialist will identify each addict’s individual and unique needs for benzo addiction treatment, but generally a benzodiazepine addiction will require the following types of treatment:

Medically Assisted Benzodiazepine Detox

Again, we want to stress just how dangerous benzodiazepine addiction is, and how deadly withdrawals can be if benzodiazepine use is stopped suddenly, without a full medically assisted and supervised benzo detox.

Addiction withdrawal is dangerous with any type of substance, but there are 2 types of substances that are the most dangerous, from a detox perspective: Alcohol and Benzodiazepines. Many are familiar with the fact that quitting alcohol abruptly can lead to the DT’s (Delirium Tremens) and can cause death. Benzodiazepine withdrawal also cause a condition similar to DT’s called Benzodiazepine Withdrawal Syndrome – an acute form of benzodiazepine withdrawal.

The most dangerous symptoms of withdrawal can include seizures, increased blood pressure and heart ailments, if detox is not performed under the care of a licensed and medically supervised benzodiazepine detox program.

If families only take one piece of advice from this article, it should be that your loved one needs to be treated in medically assisted detox before entering any type of addiction treatment program or rehab for benzodiazepines.

Dual Diagnosis Benzodiazepine Addiction Treatment

Because benzodiazepines are commonly used to treat and underlying condition – such as depression, anxiety, or another mental health condition – the majority of patients with an addiction to benzos will also have co-occurring disorders. With co-occurring disorders, it is very important that an addiction treatment program also treats the underlying condition that the drugs were originally prescribed for, and any other underlying condition.

In short, the possibility of a dual diagnosis is extremely high with benzodiazepine addiction, and it is recommended that families seek a dual diagnosis benzodiazepine addiction treatment program.

Benzodiazepine Addiction Treatment Aftercare and Ongoing Family Support

Relapse is a common concern with drug addiction, even with prescription drug dependence. Because there is a risk of benzodiazepine addiction relapse, it is recommended that those receiving treatment for benzo addiction also have access to aftercare and ongoing family support after the initial treatment and rehab stay.

Alternative Therapy Options for Underlying Medical Conditions

One of the most common concerns expressed by individuals addicted to benzodiazepines is, “how will I manage symptoms of my medical condition without benzodiazepines?” This is similar to the concerns expressed by chronic pain sufferers addicted to painkillers. The symptoms still need to be treated, but how?

Alternate therapy options exist for a number of the conditions that benzodiazepines are commonly used to treat. The trick is to find the treatment option where the benefits outweigh the risks. In many cases, the wrong type of benzodiazepine or the wrong dosage was prescribed by a doctor, and this is what led to the addiction.

In these cases, a different type of medication may be a better fit for the patient, or more careful monitoring of dosages will be suggested by doctors. Additionally, alternate therapies may present the most benefits with the least amount of risks. The available solutions to the problem should be carefully coordinated with a doctor and addiction treatment counselors.
The most important thing in this decision is to recognize that the patient is susceptible to an addiction, and take this into account when prescribing a medication or form of treatment – something the original prescribing doctor may not have taken into account.

Where to Find Benzodiazepine Addiction Treatment Programs

Finding benzodiazepine addiction treatment options can be difficult for families who are not readily familiar with substance abuse and addiction treatment practices. There are literally thousands of drug and alcohol rehab programs across the United States, and each one of them says they are the best and want to help your family.

All treatment programs are not created equal, however, and parents and family of benzodiazepine addiction sufferers need to be very careful when choosing a rehab or addiction treatment program, as the future of your loved one depends on whether or not they get the addiction care they need.

Intervention Helpline offers our knowledge and experience in helping families choose a rehab for a loved one. Our certified interventionists and addiction treatment professionals can identify the needs of your loved on, find addiction treatment programs that meet those needs, and all programs we suggest are vetted and must meet our standards for patient care and family support.

Call Us Today to start and assessment of your loved one’s treatment needs, and we will narrow your search for rehabs down to the options that will set up your loved one for addiction recovery success.

Mike Loverde

Mike Loverde is a Certified Intervention Professional with more than 10 years of experience, and he is the founder and president of Intervention Helpline. He believes in taking a family-first approach to every intervention, and he created Intervention Helpline with the primary purpose of saving each family’s loved one before it is too late.

Furthermore, he is the primary writer for the Intervention Helpline Blog. He is always eager to share his insight and expertise on interventions, addiction treatment programs, rehab insurance coverage, relapse prevention and many other related topics.

Read the latest blog articles from the desk of Mike Loverde here, and don’t hesitate to contact if you have any questions or need intervention help now.

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