They act like a tranquilizer and affect most parts of the body. While they are very effective, they can also cause dependency that leads to addiction. If a family member or loved one has been taking benzodiazepine and is showing signs of addiction, it’s important that you encourage them to get help. It can be very difficult to come off of benzodiazepine and impossible without professional medical help.
What are Benzodiazepines?
Benzodiazepines include brand name prescription drugs such as Xanax, Klonopin, Ativan and Valium, as well as several other generic names. More than 2000 different benzodiazepine drugs have been produced, but only 15 different varieties are FDA-approved in the U.S.
Benzos can be used for treating panic disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, seizures and alcohol withdrawal. Other prescribed reasons include muscle relaxation and inducing amnesia for uncomfortable procedures. They affect the neurochemistry of the brain’s GABA system to achieving a tranquilizing effect on the mind and body.
How Does Benzodiazepine Dependence Develop?
Benzodiazepines are physically addictive because of their effect on the GABA system in the brain. Although many people who take benzodiazepine can come off of the drug in a regular medical setting, some become very addicted to the drugs.
Addiction starts with benzodiazepine tolerance. After just a short amount of time, patients will need more and more of their drug in order to have the same effect. At this point, a patient will either get a larger prescription or may start abusing their prescription and taking more.
Chronic addiction causes the liver and brain to absorb more and more of the drug’s chemical. Once physical addiction has set in, a patient can become psychologically addicted to the drug. Abuse normally doesn’t come from overdosing on the drug, but from the effects of the drug itself or from combining benzos with alcohol or antihistamines. The side effects of using benzodiazepine are exacerbated when someone becomes addicted. They can experience confusion and short term memory loss. Alcoholics are also prone to benzodiazepine abuse.
It’s important for benzodiazepine addicts to get professional help, especially if they are abusing multiple drugs.