Benzodiazepines are a drug that belongs to a class of medications called sedative-hypnotics. They work on the central nervous system by enhancing the effects of a receptor called GABA. Benzodiazepines attach themselves to these GABA receptors which in turn slows down nerve stimulation and produces a calming effect. Benzos affect areas of the brain that are responsible for memory, sleep, emotions, rational thought, and some breathing functions too.
Benzodiazepines are often prescribed for anxiety, insomnia, and seizure disorders, or epilepsy. Some of the effects on Benzos can be reduced anxiety, sedation, and muscle relaxation.
Types of Benzodiazepines Available
Benzodiazepines are classified into three different categories based on their half-life: short-acting, intermediate-acting, and long-acting. To determine a Benzodiazepine’s strength, you must consider the drug’s potency and half-life. Half-life is the amount of time it takes for half of the drug to break down and completely exit the body.
The Benzodiazepines with a shorter half-life are often felt more intensely and take effect more rapidly, which often attracts these drugs to abusers.
- Lorazepam (Ativan)
- Alprazolam (Xanax)
- Triazolam (Halcion)
- Temazepam (Restoril)
- Oxazepam (Serax)
- Diazepam (Valium)
- Chlordiazepoxide (Librium)
- Clorazepate (Tranxene)
Lorazepam (Ativan) and alprazolam (Xanax) are the most potent Benzodiazepines. Both of these drugs produce a rapid and intense high or euphoria. Another high potency Benzodiazepine, which is not prescribed in the U.S., is flunitrazepam (Rohypnol). Rohypnol has a relatively long half-life and is often used as a date rape drug. This drug is an illicit substance that is sold only on the streets.
Benzodiazepine Abuse and Addiction
Benzodiazepine abuse is when an individual takes doses larger and more frequently than prescribed to experience the euphoria it produces. Sometimes abusers will crush the medication so it can be snorted, smoked, or injected.
According to the National Institutes of Health:
BZD misuse and abuse is a growing problem. Approximately 2.3% to 18% of Americans have misused sedatives or tranquilizers for nonmedical use in their lifetime. Nearly 10% of these individuals met the criteria for abuse or dependence. In 2010, there were an estimated 186 000 new BZD abusers. Emergency departments (EDs) have seen a sharp 139% increase in BZD-related visits. Older age and the presence of other drugs were associated with more serious outcomes, including death. The number of admissions to treatment programs for BZD abuse nearly tripled from 1998 to 2008. During this same time, the number of all substance abuse treatment program admissions only increased by 11%. (NIH)
Benzodiazepine abuse can lead to addiction and cause several adverse effects and dangers. Some of these effects can include: dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, motor vehicle accidents, confusion, falls and injuries, vertigo, and birth defects. It has also been linked to suicidal ideation and suicide.
One of the biggest and most dangerous effects of Benzodiazepine addiction is the acute withdrawal that comes with abruptly stopping the medication. Benzodiazepine withdrawal can cause grand mal seizures, which can be deadly, and delirium tremendous. The safest way to detox off of Benzodiazepines is in a medically supervised treatment environment. These facilities can monitor you and give you the appropriate medications to help with the withdrawal symptoms.
Treatment for Benzodiazepine Addiction
If you or someone you love is struggling with an addiction, our addiction specialists are available around the clock to assist you. Recreate Life Counseling offers evidence-based addiction treatment programs. Our cutting edge addiction treatment will lead you on a road to long-lasting recovery. Our mission is to offer our clients individualized treatment plans to help recreate their lives. You don’t have to suffer any longer, call us today.