Although alcohol may be somewhat more addictive than benzodiazepines (benzos), many still become are unable to stop using this class of mood-altering substance. Furthermore, the withdrawal from benzos tends to be more prolonged than that of alcohol, though both can be life-threatening. Since benzos are typically prescribed for sleep disorders and anxiety, those who choose to end the madness of addiction or are required to maintain sobriety by a workplace, legal entity, or family by entering a drug and alcohol treatment center, can expect some level of insomnia and anxiety. Thus, it is important to enter a drug rehab that has the capability of treating medical and psychiatric disorders.
Benzos are also prescribed for seizure prophylaxis for those who suffer from epilepsy and other seizure disorders. Seizures are a complication that can occur during benzo withdrawal, even for those who do not have an underlying seizure disorder. So, if you or your loved one is considering entering treatment for a benzo addiction and have a seizure disorder, an inpatient or residential drug detox is likely to be the best and safest option. The facility should have the ability to provide stellar medical care and have access to a neurologist. The physicians responsible for your care in the inpatient drug rehab should access to all the necessary medical information from the neurologist, or other medical provider, who is treating the seizure disorder.
Since drug addiction is characterized by the inability to stop using a mood-altering substance despite negative consequences, some may be dependent upon benzodiazepines, but not technically addicted to them. This means that the person must take benzos to maintain a normal physiologic state, and risk going through a life-threatening withdrawal if the benzo detox is not monitored and the necessary medical care given. But, since those who are dependent on benzos, but not addicted to them, are taking them for a reason – such as anxiety, insomnia, or another psychiatric disorder – treatment in a dual diagnosis residential drug rehab should prove to be beneficial for both the benzo detox and for treatment of the underlying psychiatric disorder. During drug rehab, the patient will be introduced to non-addictive medications that treat the existing disorder and learn new coping skills to deal with the disorder, rather than to continuously take a benzodiazepine, like Valium, Ativan, Xanax or Klonopin.
The onset, severity, and duration of the benzo withdrawal will depend on the duration of the addiction, and the onset and duration of action of the benzo(s) that is being used. For example, a short or intermediate-acting benzo like midazolam (Versed) or lorazepam (Ativan) will not last as long as that of a long-acting benzo like diazepam (Valium).
Also, for those who are addicted to a benzo that is used primarily for insomnia, like Pro-Som, Rohypnol, Restoril, Halcion, or Dalmane, may not have as long of a withdrawal syndrome, if the drug is only abused prior to sleep. But, if the drug is abused throughout the day, a protracted and dangerous withdrawal syndrome may occur. To be sure, in either case, significant insomnia will occur upon the cessation of the benzo addiction. But, a qualified drug treatment center will have medical providers who can evaluate the benzo addict’s situation and prescribe an appropriate medication regimen to assist in the initiation and maintenance of sleep. Counseling, such as that for anxiety reduction and stress relief can also be useful to treat sleep disorders, as can alternative therapies such as exercise, yoga, meditation, acupuncture, reflexology and others.
Some medications used for the induction and maintenance of sleep, like Lunesta – eszopiclone, Sonata – zaleplon, Ambien – zolpidem, and Imovane – zopliclone, are not truly benzodiazepines. But, since they all affect the same neuroreceptor (GABA) as barbiturates, alcohol and benzodiazepines, the abrupt cessation of these addictive and DEA-controlled substances will surely lead to some symptoms, up to and including the symptoms of a full benzo withdrawal. Signs and symptoms like sweating, anxiety, agitation, and insomnia can be treated by an addiction medical professional in a drug and alcohol treatment center.
Because benzo addiction is so destructive, each major benzo will be covered separately:
This drug is the first commercially available benzodiazepine, and is typically prescribed for alcohol withdrawal and for anxiety (rarely). Because Librium is long-acting and has an intermediate onset, it is less sought-after for benzo addicts. It also has a less favorable side-effect profile and does not induce as much euphoria as some other benzos.
The second benzodiazepine that was commercially available, diazepam, is considered the standard to which other benzodiazepines are compared and is prescribed for anxiety, alcohol withdrawal, seizures, and for muscle relaxation. It is available I.V., so it is commonly used in inpatient settings. It is also available to be taken by mouth, is long-acting, and has a rapid onset of action. Because Valium creates more euphoria (sense of well-being) and has a rapid onset of action, it is more commonly abused than Librium.
This benzo is available I.V. and in a pill form and is prescribed for anxiety, seizures, alcohol withdrawal and irritable bowel syndrome. It has an intermediate onset of action when taken by mouth and is intermediate acting. Because of the intense euphoria created, the relative lack of undesirable side-effects, and its wide-availability, Ativan is a commonly abused drug.
Oxazepam does not create as much euphoria as does Ativan, and is less commonly abused. It is also less commonly prescribed, so it is generally less available to those who are in the throes of a benzo addiction, but is still prescribed rarely for anxiety and can be used to treat alcohol withdrawal. Serax has a slow onset and an intermediate duration of action, which also makes it less likely to be abused.
The generic name for Xanax is alprazolam, which is highly euphorigenic (creates euphoria), has an intermediate duration of action and onset, and is commonly abused, especially by teenagers and those who are addicted to opiate and club drugs (Ectasy, Crystal Meth). Xanax is prescribed for mood disorders (anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder), and panic disorder.
This highly-potent, longer-acting benzo has an intermediate onset of action. It may not be as euphorigenic as some of its benzodiazepine sisters, but once addicted, the withdrawal syndrome can be prolonged, and potentially dangerous. This drug is used to treat seizures, but can also be used to treat sedative withdrawal, panic attacks, and anxiety.
As varied as the number of benzodiazepines on the market is as varied as the withdrawal syndrome from them. Even with an addiction to the same benzo, different addicts experience the withdrawal in varying degrees of severity and duration. Since benzo withdrawal can be life-threatening, prolonged and extremely uncomfortable, few are successful without treatment in a drug rehab. To add to the withdrawal from drugs, the underlying disorder for which a benzo was initially prescribed will return, and oftentimes in a much more severe form than originally. Because of this, significant medical and psychiatric treatment is warranted.
Benzos can be taken in a pill form, injected, or snorted. The onset of addiction typically occurs gradually. Because the sedative effects of benzos are magnified when taken while injecting, snorting, or orally taking an opiate, like Vicodin or Oxycontin, and when drinking alcohol, overdoses when taking chances with benzos are not uncommon.
Benzo addiction is frequently associated with club drug addiction, opiate addiction, and for those who are using stimulants, such as meth (methamphetamine) and cocaine. Using benzos, which also using club drugs or other stimulants allows the user to:
- “Come down” from his/her high
- Prevent nervousness, which is a frequent unwanted side-effect of stimulant and club drug use
- Combat the insomnia that is created by using stimulants
- Works as a synergistic adjunct to opiate use
The other common population that becomes addicted to benzos are those who suffer from phobias, OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder), panic disorder, PTSD, generalized anxiety disorder and other anxiety-related disorders. Because benzodiazepines, such as Klonopin, Ativan, and Xanax are very effective treatments for PTSD and anxiety disorders, they are frequently prescribed as a treatment. However, the benzos also cause a tolerance effect, requiring ever higher doses in order to manage the symptoms of the original disorder. Because of this, some who are chronically prescribed benzos develop a prescription drug addiction, or a drug dependence.
To learn more about benzo addiction and benzo detox, you may contact our Addiction Specialists at any time by calling 844-889-8140. Your information will be confidentially maintained.