Have you ever heard someone say that too much of a good thing can be a bad thing? This is certainly the case when it comes to using benzos. Benzos (short for benzodiazepines) are a type of medication commonly used to treat anxiety, alcohol withdrawal symptoms, and more. Many benzos are FDA-approved and legally prescribed. When used as intended, they can be a great tool to help you manage difficult symptoms. However, when used for too long or outside of the way in which they’re prescribed, they can become dangerous and cause more harm than good.
Read on to learn more about benzos, how they work, the risks associated with them, and what you can do if you or a loved one is addicted to benzos.
What are benzos?
Benzos are a class of medications known as tranquilizers which can be used to treat a number of conditions. You may be prescribed benzos to help you manage insomnia, muscle tension, anxiety, or seizures. You may also take benzos to relax before a medical procedure or to assist you with the painful symptoms associated with alcohol withdrawal.
Benzos range from short- to long-acting, depending on the specific drug. The short-acting drugs (like Versed or Halcion) start working quickly but also leave your system faster. Longer-acting options like Valium or Librium take longer to start working but are effective for a longer period of time. Other drugs, like Xanax or Ativan, fall somewhere in the middle. Short-acting drugs may be used to treat acute tension, seizures, or insomnia. The longer-acting benzos are often used for anxiety and alcohol withdrawal symptoms. Of course, there could be variations based on what your doctor finds to be the best treatment plan for you.
How do benzos work?
Benzos work by depressing the central nervous system, the part of your body that regulates important bodily functions such as heart rate, body temperature, and blood pressure. When you undergo stress or anxiety, these things tend to rise due to increased stimulation in the brain. Benzos get in the way of that stimulation, so to speak, and slow brain activity to keep your bodily functions at a healthier level. As a result, you’ll typically feel calmer and more relaxed when benzos are in your system.
What are the risks associated with taking benzos?
In most cases, benzos are intended for short-term treatment. Long-term use, on the other hand, can result in tolerance and dependence. As mentioned before, this is a case where too much of a good thing is a bad thing. Over a longer period of time, as your brain becomes used to the presence of benzos, you may find you require more and more of the drug in order to get the same results you enjoyed initially.
At this point, some users begin abusing benzos by taking more than prescribed, combining them with alcohol, or crushing the pills before taking them. Abusing benzos is extremely dangerous, and overdose can be fatal. Researchers have found that an estimated 22,767 people died of an overdose involving prescription drugs in the United States in 2013. Of those fatal overdoses, approximately 31% involved benzos.
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Signs of dependency and addiction may include but are not limited to headaches, tremors, memory problems, swelling in your feet or hands, and excessive sweating. There are also a host of uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms associated with being weaned off of benzos. These can include irritability, anxiety, insomnia, muscle weakness, dizziness, difficulty concentrating, sweats, depression, cravings, and an increased heart rate. You may also experience more of the symptoms you originally aimed to treat with the help of benzos.
The risks associated with extended use are why benzos are typically used to help the brain and body calm down quickly, while those who need long-term treatment may take benzos in conjunction with antidepressants for a safer option.
Even short-term use of benzos as prescribed can put you at risk for some unpleasant side effects. Users may experience headaches, drowsiness, depression, short-term memory loss, nausea, confusion, or fatigue—just to name a few.
How can I take benzos safely? What should I do if I’m addicted to benzos?
Anytime you take a prescription drug, there will be some associated risks. You could experience a range of side effects or none at all. This depends on your metabolism, dosage, and more.
That being said, the best way to minimize your risks when taking benzos is to follow your doctor’s orders very carefully. Never take more than prescribed or for a longer period of time than prescribed.
If you believe that you or someone you know is addicted to benzos, do not try (or encourage your loved one to try) to quit “cold turkey.” This type of detox is extremely dangerous and can even be fatal. Withdrawal from benzos should only be done under medical supervision. This is key to keeping you as safe as possible while also minimizing any uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms.
After a medically supervised detox, treatment for benzos addiction can include a combination of evidence based treatment, experiential therapies, and holistic health services. Residential therapy is highly recommended to allow you to focus fully on your recovery and obtain the tools you need to achieve holistic health after a benzos dependency.
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If you believe you or someone you know may be addicted to benzos, contact us today at 866-491-8009
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