American Addiction Centers
Benzodiazepines, also known as benzos, consist of things like Xanax, Valium, Ambien, Ativan, and Klonopin. While yes benzodiazepines is often prescribed to treat conditions like seizures and anxiety, it can be very dangerously addictive. The American Addiction Centers want everyone to be aware of these kind of dangers.
The National Institute of Drug Abuse, NIDA, says that the number of adults that are prescribed benzodiazepines has increased by 67% from the year 1996 to 2013. The way most of these kinds of drugs work on the brain is by increasing the activity of the chemical that causes a calming or drowsy effect called GABA.
Over long periods of time, the patient might end up needing larger doses in order to achieve the same therapeutic effect. This process is known as tolerance. This can lead to them developing a dependency or even cravings for the drugs. If the patient decides to suddenly stop taking the drugs, they would look at experiencing severe withdrawal symptoms, including death.
Benzos can also cause dopamine surges that the patients brain will associate with reward and joy. Because our brains are wired to repeat activities that bring us pleasure, these surges will cause the neural connectivity that cue these people to repeat activities to change.
The brain cells start to insistently call for the drug, and this call is very hard to ignore. This is what makes the addiction develop.
In one recent article, Dr. Lawrence Weinstein, an addiction expert and the chief medical officer at the American Addiction Centers, talks about benzodiazepine addiction.
They share very important information like what the warning signs are, what withdrawal symptoms look like, and even treatment for it. This is what doctors really want you to know about benzo addiction:
Benzodiazepines should not be what you choose first.
Dr. Weinstein warns that benzodiazepines would not be a good idea to have as your first treatment option. Majority of patients use them as a second or even a third line of defense so they have a very clear end in sight.
He also says that if your doctor does prescribe benzos as your first option then you need to have a very thorough discussion about all the side effects and the signs of addiction or tolerance increase.
Weinstein states that in situations like this education will be the safety net that helps you through this short- term treatment plan. Since there is a high chance of tolerance or addiction, benzos is not a good choice for any long- term treatment.
The addiction risk is increasing
The number of people who use benzodiazepines is continuing to increase. Dr. Weinstein said that a study was done in 2018 and it found that 1 in 8 adults had used benzos within the past year. A whopping 17% of those adults ended up misusing the drug.
The increased number of users means that the number of people that could be suffering form benzo addiction is also increasing. Mind you, intentional abuse in not extremely common. Weinstein warned that it can only take a few months (if even that) for someone using benzos to become dangerously addicted.
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