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Benzodiazepine Addiction, Abuse and Dependency
Benzodiazepines (or ‘Benzos’ for short) are normally used to treat anxiety, insomnia and alcohol withdrawals. Examples of Benzodiazepine include: Diazepam, Xanax and Librium. Some people take them in conjunction with other drugs to help them with their ‘come-down’.
If you are struggling with Benzodiazepines and believe you may be addicted to them, you are probably feeling many different emotions right now, but try not to worry, you’ve come to the right place. It’s possible this all started from having been prescribed them as a medication by your doctor/GP – it is difficult to know whether or not your dependence has turned into a prescription drug addiction.
If you take more Benzodiazepines than what you have been officially prescribed, or are continually taking them beyond your course, then it is possible your benzodiazepines dependence has turned into an addiction. If taking Benzodiazepines impacts day to day, mental health or finances, then it is time to seek help. This is what you’re doing right now. While Benzodiazepine addiction may appear hopeless – please continue reading, there is hope.
Why Are Benzodiazepines Addictive?
Benzodiazepines interact with the chemicals in your brain to cause intense relaxation and stifle anxiety. When you’re given these drugs to help with depression, anxiety or sleep, they can be so effective that it’s difficult to stop taking them. It’s also believed that using them impacts dopamine, which is the neurotransmitter most strongly associated with the process of addiction. When your dopamine receptors are stimulated, your brain tells you to do the thing that stimulated them again.
The short half-life found in many of the benzodiazepines means that your body is able to processes them quickly. This also means that your body learns to recognise how to eliminate them faster. In real terms, this is experienced as building a tolerance. As your body learns to process the drug quickly, you need more and more to achieve the same effects. Once you start taking the drug in larger quantities, your chances of becoming addicted become higher and higher.
What Causes Benzodiazepine Addiction?
If you’ve fallen victim to these drugs, there is no need to feel ashamed or alone. The powerful impact of benzodiazepines, in combination with how seemingly innocent they are, have driven countless people into the same position. The good news is that at Sanctuary Lodge, we know how to help you overcome this.
Addiction is treatable, and with the support of a team of addiction specialists, you can learn how to regain control.
While each individual is unique, there is a range of environmental and genetic risk factors that contribute to developing this kind of addiction (1).
Environmental risks play a part in developing an addiction to benzodiazepines, but it’s never just this one factor alone that leads to the addiction. If you’ve been unlucky enough to develop a compulsive need to take benzodiazepines, there will be a complex range of factors that have led up to it. The fact that these drugs are available to be prescribed by a doctor is one of the main reasons people can easily fall prey to becoming addicted to them.
Among young people, their popularity has grown given their reputation for being useful for when you start to feel the negative effects from a ‘come down’ from other drugs. Peer pressure can be a problem, with people taking drugs to fit in with their friendship groups. With any drug, taking it from a young age makes you more likely to become addicted to them. A history of drug-taking in the family and experiencing unresolved trauma during childhood are also factors that put you at higher risk of becoming addicted to benzodiazepines (2).
Genetics are known to play a role. As you get older, your genes are less likely to dictate what you do, but they are still key contributing factors. The main genetic factors that are thought to predetermine addiction are certain personality traits such as impulsivity and sensation-seeking behaviours (3).
Genetic factors alone are not enough to cause addiction, and neither are environmental factors. Sometimes, a traumatic event can be the cause, and with benzodiazepines, exposure alone can enough for someone to become addicted to them.
If you’ve been legitimately prescribed this type of drug, it can be very easy to justify taking it in ways other than what you were originally directed to. Benzos don’t have the same reputation as heroin or cocaine, so taking an extra dose or using them outside of when you were told to may seem harmless. Unfortunately, they have a high potential for harm. Due to the way our bodies build a tolerance to them, taking them for more than four weeks is one of the major risk factors for addiction to them.
Benzodiazepines and Physical Dependence
The almost positive reputation of Valium and other benzodiazepines is surprisingly misleading. Like opioids and alcohol, they have a strong propensity for physical dependence. This means that when you take them for a prolonged period of time, your body starts to depend on the chemicals in them instead of your own body producing those chemicals by itself. This is why your GP or therapist will not prescribe them in excessive doses or for longer than usually a week.
However, if you have already developed a dependence or an addiction to these medications, you should first detox from the substance(s) and then continue onto rehab to help your mind recover as well.
We fully support anyone who is going through this addiction; you should not suffer alone. We can help you safely detox from benzos in a way that minimises withdrawal symptoms and the unpleasant side effects.
Signs and Symptoms of Benzodiazepine Addiction
- Insomnia (or inability to sleep without benzodiazepines)
- Memory problems
- Poor judgement
- Preoccupation with obtaining benzodiazepines
- Lack of personal care
- Spaced out
- Slurred speech
- Trouble breathing
- Blurred vision
- Lack of coordination
Getting Help for Benzodiazepine Addiction
If you are here because you feel like you need help, you should feel extremely proud. It can be difficult to realise when addiction has taken a hold, so if you have decided it is time to find your route to recovery, you’ve already taken the first step. While we advise going to see your GP for advice, be aware, the NHS can only offer outpatient programmes.
At an inpatient rehab, like Sanctuary Lodge, you receive personalised treatment that is specific to your individual needs.
Inpatient benzodiazepine rehab
Benzodiazepine addiction can be an all-encompassing. Depending on how long you’ve been taking them, you may need a range of different therapies and treatments to help you overcome your affliction. Our team places great importance on holistic therapies, which targets your mind, body and spirit. We also use traditional therapies to teach you as many techniques as possible to overcome addiction for the long term.
Sanctuary Lodge is a state-of-the-art rehab facility, with its own gym, beautiful countryside views, TV and relaxation rooms and a ready-made support network. Upon arrival, one of our consultant psychiatrists takes you through assessment. This helps to determine the specifics of your care plan, tailored to your individual needs. The next stage is benzodiazepine detox, which is a seven- to ten-day process that clears all traces of the drugs from your system.
The assessment also helps us to decide if you will require a medical detox. If this is the case, a qualified medical professional administers medication to help ease your withdrawal symptoms. Once detox is complete and your body is free from substances, you will move into the rehabilitation area of the treatment centre. Here, we provide a range of traditional and holistic therapies, aimed at giving you as many tools and methods of overcoming your affliction as possible.
One of the most successful ways to treat addiction is continued attendance to support groups. You’ll attend group therapy on a daily basis, providing you with the vital space required to talk through and share your experiences as well as listen to your peers. Positive social relationships are vital in long-term recovery, and our 12-step model fully embraces this. (4)
Outpatient NHS services
If you visit your GP, they will likely refer you to an outpatient treatment programme, which is free on the NHS, but there are both pros and cons to opting for NHS treatment:
- Treatment is free of charge
- Sometimes therapy sessions can be offered during evenings/weekends
- You can take the lessons you learn and apply them to daily life straight away
- Some local authorities offer family therapy
- You can continue attending work, university or school
- Care plans aren’t usually personalised
- You don’t develop relationships as close as you would in a residential setting
- The waiting lists can be several months
- You may not have learned to cope with some of the triggers in your daily life as they arise
- You could still have access to external influences (e.g. drug dealers)
Support groups are an integral part of recovery, and their effectiveness can’t be underestimated. Listening to the stories and situations of your peers can help to put your issues into perspective. They also give you the opportunity to share your feelings in an open and honest manner. Often, sharing our true feelings and feeling the empathy of a group of likeminded people have a significantly positive impact in the battle against addiction. (4)
Narcotics Anonymous is a national support group that holds meetings in every town. Here, you can learn from people who have shared similar experiences as well as teaching them. The autonomy of peer-led support groups is also an important factor in how effective they are.
Frequently Asked Questions
At Sanctuary Lodge we have helped countless people overcome substance misuse, and we can help you too. Our luxurious facility is the ideal space for you to focus on getting better while our team of medical professionals give the advice, guidance and support that you need.