Benzodiazepines (benzos) are prescription drugs that are typically known as tranquilizers. Some common benzos include Xanax and Valium. They’re a group of drugs primarily used to treat anxiety, but are also effective in addressing many other conditions as well. The exact way benzodiazepines work isn’t clear, but they do influence neurotransmitters in the brain, which are special chemicals nerves release to communicate with other nerves.
One of these important chemicals is called gamma-aminobutyric acid, a neurotransmitter that suppresses nerve activity. Researchers believe that too much nerve activity may cause anxiety as well as many other psychological conditions. Benzodiazepines diminish brain and spinal cord activity by boosting the overall effects of GABA.
Conditions Treated With Benzodiazepines
Benzodiazepines are commonly used to treat:
• Convulsions (seizures)
They’re also used for the following conditions:
• Muscle relaxation
• Panic attacks
• Nausea and/or vomiting
• Drug-associated agitation
• Alcohol withdrawal
• Sedation before surgery
• General anesthesia
• Diagnostic procedures
Benzodiazepines Are Helpful When Used as Directed
Based on your symptoms and particular condition, benzos can be taken once a day, multiple times a day or only as needed. Your physician may start you out on a low dose that can be increased depending on your symptoms. The ideal dosage can vary according to each person and depends a great deal on the severity of the overall symptoms along with unique body chemistry. Benzodiazepines should only be taken as directed by a doctor.
Never increase the dosage without talking to your doctor first. Don’t stop taking a benzodiazepine prescription without consulting your doctor as well. Doing so can cause severe withdrawal symptoms or make both your symptoms and condition worse. When taken as directed, benzos are very helpful and can greatly benefit your condition.
Signs of a Benzodiazepine Addiction
You may suspect that you or a loved one is becoming addicted to benzos and may need expert help. Perhaps you already know about a loved one’s benzo use, but aren’t sure if the person is actually addicted. Maybe you know it’s clearly some kind of tranquilizer, but aren’t sure which one. To determine if your loved one may be addicted to benzos, check for the following signs:
• Slurred speech
• Dilated pupils
• Swollen face
• Loss of coordination
• Loss of appetite
• Impaired judgment
• Memory Loss
Be aware of any extra prescription bottles and pills due to the suspected person seeking multiple prescriptions from various doctors and pharmacies. Many times, an individual who’s addicted to a drug like Xanax may be on the exact same dose for years as prescribed by a doctor, but not even realize she’s become dependent on it.
Five Ways to Avoid Benzodiazepine Addiction
1. Always take your medication as prescribed by your doctor.
Almost all prescription medications have very specific guidelines on how to take them. The best way to avoid unintentionally developing an addiction to a prescribed drug is to simply follow the recommended dosage.
Whenever an individual abuses a prescription drug, she’s substantially increasing the risk of becoming addicted to it. Similar to other drugs, it’s virtually impossible to know if a person will become addicted or not. Some people can abuse prescription drugs just one time and get hooked, while others abuse them for several years before they become addicted. Every case of prescription drug abuse has the potential for developing an addiction. Therefore, it’s never a good idea to abuse them.
2. Seek counseling or therapy for your problems.
Everyone experiences problems in life that can occasionally lead to depression. Life is full of highs and lows that can sometimes be hard to overcome. Habitual drug users are often people who are trying to self-medicate due to psychological problems.
The real problem is that prescription medications don’t treat the mental problems themselves – they just treat the symptoms. Therefore, using a mental health expert to help you work through your problems is a much better and long-lasting way to address an emotional or psychological issue than abusing benzodiazepines.
3. Stay connected with people and do things you enjoy.
Whether it’s a personal relationship or an artistic hobby, having something in your life about which you’re truly passionate will encourage you to stay healthy and drug-free. If you care enough about the special people and rewarding activities in your life, you’re much less likely to risk losing any of those things by experimenting with prescription medications.
4. Maintain a rewarding and satisfying lifestyle that brings you joy.
Depression and low self-esteem are huge triggers to abuse drugs. Sometimes people let their relationships or careers become so overwhelming that they stop participating in other key aspects of their lives. By maintaining meaningful relationships and practicing a good balance between mental and physical activity, you can feel more stable overall and won’t desire to seek comfort in drugs.
5. Be very aware of substance abuse in your family’s history.
Addiction tendencies often are tightly linked to genetics. Be aware of whether or not your parents or other close family members struggled with addiction. This means there’s a greater potential of becoming addicted yourself. Take every precaution to avoid alcohol and drugs.
Regardless of your current situation, family history, or background, it’s very possible to avoid succumbing to the dangers of addiction. The key is to consciously choose a better life.
What to Do if You Suspect Addiction in a Loved One
If you suspect someone you know has developed an addiction to benzodiazepines, you can help the individual. Start by learning about the dangers of abusing benzos so you can have an honest discussion with the person. If your loved one refuses treatment or resists your help, try to get assistance from a drug treatment center that offers intervention services, or call the hotline number at 800-447-9081 for guidance.
Keep in mind that benzodiazepine addiction is probably going to get worse before it starts to get better. The real danger is turning your back on someone you care about and ignoring the problem. Don’t let your loved one slip into the abyss of addiction. You have the opportunity to save the person. Take it.