Benzo Addiction: Signs, Symptoms, & Treatment
Benzodiazepines are sedative-hypnotic medications commonly indicated for the treatment of anxiety disorders, panic attacks, and insomnia. Are benzodiazepines addictive, though? If you have been prescribed benzos and you are concerned about their addictive potential, read on to find out how long does it take to get addicted to benzos and how to connect with evidence-based care for benzo abuse.
Are Benzos Addictive?
Benzodiazepines have a high potential for addiction, which occurs due to the development of tolerance and dependence. Tolerance to benzodiazepines can develop relatively quickly, meaning that a person will require higher doses over time to achieve the same therapeutic effects or to feel the same level of calm or euphoria initially experienced. This escalation in dosage can inadvertently set the foundation for physical dependence, where the body starts to rely on the drug to function normally and withdrawal symptoms present upon cessation.
As tolerance and physical dependence intensify, psychological dependence may also develop. This is characterized by a preoccupation with obtaining and taking the drug, coupled with the fear of not being able to function or cope without it. The person’s life becomes increasingly centered around the substance, and this can affect personal relationships, work, and social activities.
When full-blown benzos addiction develops, it encompasses a combination of physical benzodiazepine dependence, psychological dependence, and behavioral issues. The person continues to use benzodiazepines despite clear evidence of the harm caused to health, well-being, and social or occupational life. Attempts to quit or reduce use may result in uncomfortable and sometimes dangerous withdrawal symptoms, reinforcing the cycle of benzodiazepine addiction as the person may take the drug again to alleviate those symptoms. It is possible to become addicted to benzos even after taking the drug for legitimate medical reasons under a doctor’s prescription.
Signs of Benzo Addiction
The potentially rapid onset of benzo addiction, even in those using the medication as directed, means that many observable signs indicate that someone might be struggling with benzo addiction. These are some common benzodiazepine abuse symptoms:
- Change in sleep patterns: Shifts in sleeping habits, such as sleeping too much or experiencing insomnia.
- Altered eating habits: Significant changes in appetite, leading to weight loss or gain.
- Uncharacteristic lethargy: Displaying unusual sluggishness, fatigue, or a lack of energy.
- Cognitive impairment: Experiencing memory problems, difficulty concentrating, or confusion.
- Physical coordination issues: Showing signs of poor coordination, such as stumbling or being unable to perform tasks requiring fine motor skills.
- Shifts in personality: Exhibiting uncharacteristic behaviors such as irritability, agitation, or appearing sedated.
- Neglect of personal hygiene: A noticeable decline in grooming habits and personal appearance.
- Doctor shopping: Visiting multiple doctors or clinics to obtain more prescriptions for benzodiazepines.
- Changes in social circles: Withdrawing from friends and family, often in favor of spending time with others who use addictive substances.
- Defensive attitude about drug use: Being secretive or defensive about drug use when questioned.
- Financial issues: Running into financial difficulties, which may include spending too much money on obtaining benzodiazepines or unexplained financial losses.
Recognizing these signs in someone you love can enable prompt intervention, something that significantly improves treatment outcomes.
Benzo Addiction Symptoms
DSM-5-TR (the most current edition of Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) outlines the 11 symptoms of benzo addiction as follows:
- Using more benzodiazepines than originally intended or using the medication for longer than planned.
- Making unsuccessful attempts to reduce or discontinue benzodiazepine use.
- Spending a great deal of time obtaining and using benzos or recovering from their effects.
- Experiencing strong cravings for benzodiazepines.
- Ongoing benzodiazepine use leading to a failure to fulfill personal or professional commitments.
- Continuing benzodiazepines use even though it’s causing or inflaming interpersonal problems.
- Giving up or reducing important activities because of benzodiazepine use.
- Using benzodiazepines in situations where it is physically dangerous to do so.
- Continuing use of benzos even though it is triggering or worsening a physical or psychological health condition.
- Needing more benzos to achieve the initial effects due to the formation of tolerance.
- Experiencing withdrawal symptoms upon discontinuation.
Recognizing these symptoms can be the first step toward seeking help for yourself or someone that you care about who may be struggling with benzodiazepine use disorder.
Benzo Addiction Treatment
Benzo addiction treatment normally involves the following steps:
- Medical detoxification: The first step in benzo dependence treatment involves a medically supervised detoxification. This process helps manage withdrawal symptoms, which can be severe and even life-threatening due to benzo dependence.
- Tapering off medication: Gradually reducing the dose of benzodiazepines, rather than abruptly stopping, is a safer and more effective approach. This helps minimize withdrawal symptoms and reduces the risk of seizures.
- Behavioral therapies: CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) is effective in treating benzo addiction. It helps people understand their addiction, develop coping strategies, and change harmful patterns of thinking and behavior.
- Counseling and support groups: Individual counseling, group therapy, and participation in support groups like NA (Narcotics Anonymous) provide emotional support and a sense of community to those battling benzo addiction.
- Dual diagnosis treatment: Many people with benzo addictions have co-occurring mental health disorders. Treating both the addiction and any underpinning mental health conditions simultaneously will improve the chances of sustained recovery.
- Alternative medications: In some cases, other medications may be prescribed to treat withdrawal symptoms or underlying conditions that were initially treated with benzodiazepines.
- Lifestyle changes and holistic therapies: Incorporating healthy lifestyle changes like regular exercise, proper nutrition, and stress-reducing activities can aid in recovery. Holistic therapies like yoga, meditation, and acupuncture may also be beneficial.
- Relapse prevention: Developing strategies to handle triggers and cravings is an essential component of treatment. This includes building a strong support network and learning healthy ways to cope with stress.
- Aftercare planning: Creating a comprehensive aftercare plan may involve ongoing therapy, support group meetings, and regular check-ins with a healthcare provider.
Recovery from benzo addiction is a gradual process that requires commitment and support. With appropriate treatment and support, individuals can overcome addiction and thrive in a healthier, substance-free life.
Find Treatment for Benzo Addiction at Drug Rehabs Centers
Do you need help finding suitable prescription drug addiction treatment in Southern California? If so, you can shortcut your search by reaching out to Drug Rehabs Centers.
Most people who are dependent on prescription drugs find that supervised medical detox provides the smoothest pathway to ongoing recovery. We can help you find licensed medical detox centers throughout the state, enabling you to kickstart your recovery the right way.
We can also refer you to reputable inpatient and outpatient rehabs in California. This allows you to engage with treatment at an appropriate level of intensity for your needs and the severity of your benzo addiction.