Benzodiazepines, also known as benzos, are commonly prescribed to combat anxiety and sleep disorders like insomnia. In the last fifteen years, benzo use has been steadily rising, and along with it have come higher death rates, notably when these drugs are used in combination with opiates or opioids.
One in four people who are prescribed benzodiazepines will abuse them
According to a study published by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 30.5 million American adults use benzodiazepines, representing between four and six percent of the population. Of those, about 17 percent overuse, or take them for uses other than they were intended.
A short-term solution
Generally, benzodiazepines are never recommended for long-term use, and rarely without an adjunct therapy, like psychiatric counseling or cognitive behavioral therapy. If taken as prescribed, and only for a short duration of treatment, they help address issues such as anxiety, seizures, and insomnia. They are also used in conjunction with treatment for alcohol addiction to ease tremors and other symptoms.
Some commonly prescribed benzos include:
- Klonopin (clonazepam)
- Xanax (alprazolam)
- Valium (diazepam)
- Librium (chlordiazepoxide)
- Ativan (lorazepam)
- Restoril (temazepam)
- Halcion (triazolam)
- Serax (oxazepam)
Because they are not as strictly controlled as opioids, they are often easy to obtain from a doctor. However, in about 20 percent of cases that result in benzo abuse, users get them from a friend or family member.
Because they are so effective at relieving anxiety, they can become highly addictive, leading some to look no further for a solution to their problem.
Benzo use is on the rise
As life becomes more hectic, fast-paced, and stress-filled, benzos can become a quick fix that eventually turns into a habit. While many doctors recognize that there are many non-drug interventions that can be more effective over the long term, the fact remains that prescriptions for benzodiazepines have doubled over the past 20 years.
Living in the age of anxiety
Anxiety, panic, and fear are very real in this day and age, and not just to those with a diagnosed mental illness. The pressure to perform at work, to engage in social media, or to over-achieve in school can be enough to drive anybody over the edge.
If an individual is not encouraged to seek an alternative treatment, taking a pill now and then may seem harmless enough. If it helps us cope with the constant barrage of noise we are faced with every day, it might seem like a godsend – at least, at first.
Ironically, the symptoms of benzo overuse are much the same as the symptoms for which they are prescribed. Anxiety, insomnia, headaches, dizziness, weakness – all of these can manifest as a result of benzo withdrawal. Symptoms can last anywhere from a few days to several months, and prolonged withdrawal is not uncommon, sometimes years after the drugs have been discontinued.
Getting help for benzo dependency
Recovering from benzo dependence is not something you should attempt on your own. With the right interventions and treatments, it is possible to put it behind you and take back control of your life – and learn how to cope with your anxiety.
If you or a loved one is struggling with a benzo dependency, we can help. Reach out today to get started.