in 2021 alone, there were 538 deaths from benzo poisoning. Despite this shocking figure, Benzodiazepines continue to be among the most frequently prescribed drugs in the UK.
Benzodiazepine addiction is a serious condition that is a risk of being prescribed benzos without the right education, and can be incredibly difficult to overcome on your own. Fortunately, there is professional help available and Banbury Lodge has guided and supported many people on the journey to lifelong recovery.
What are benzodiazepines?
Benzodiazepines are a class of psychoactive drugs that are widely prescribed for various medical conditions including anxiety, insomnia and seizures. They work by increasing the level of a neurotransmitter called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) which is a natural sedative that helps to calm the brain and reduce anxiety. By increasing the level of GABA, benzodiazepines produce a calming effect that can help to reduce anxiety, promote sleep and relieve muscle tension.
What is benzodiazepine addiction?
Benzodiazepine addiction is a form of prescription drug addiction, where you take benzo medication compulsively despite it causing harm to your health, relationships or other aspects of your life. All types of benzos can be potentially addictive but some of the most common include:
Diazepam (Valium) Addiction
Diazepam is a commonly prescribed benzodiazepine that is used to treat anxiety and muscle spasms. Prolonged use or misuse of Diazepam can lead to physical dependence and addiction.
Librium is used to treat anxiety, alcohol withdrawal and other mental and emotional health conditions. Addiction to Librium can also develop from prolonged, excessive or recreational use.
Lorazepam (Ativan) Addiction
Lorazepam is another benzodiazepine that is prescribed for anxiety, insomnia and other conditions. Lorazepam abuse and misuse can also quickly lead to addiction.
Alprazolam (Xanax) Addiction
Prescribed for anxiety and panic disorders. Addiction is a major risk for anyone who abuses the medication recreationally or takes it for longer than prescribed.
How does benzodiazepine addiction develop?
When used as directed by a doctor, benzodiazepines are usually safe and effective for the short-term management of certain conditions. However, benzodiazepine addiction can develop both as a result of misusing prescription medication and recreational benzodiazepine abuse.
Abusing benzodiazepines is defined as taking them outside of the recommended dosage or when they have not been prescribed to you. Some people become addicted to benzos after being prescribed medication for a genuine condition but then taking it for longer or in greater quantities than directed by their doctor.
Others want to experience the drugs’ calming or sedative effects, to enhance the effects of other substances or to lessen the symptoms of “comedowns” after taking stimulants.
Whatever the initial reason for taking benzodiazepines, over time, the body adjusts to the presence of the drugs, leading to increased tolerance. This encourages people to take more benzodiazepines in order to achieve a ‘high’ or just to feel “normal”.
A your body adjusts to the presence of benzos, you may experience unpleasant withdrawal symptoms if you stop taking them. Once this physical dependence has taken hold, psychological reliance on benzodiazepines is likely to follow.
Am I addicted to benzodiazepines?
Spotting benzodiazepine addiction signs in yourself is not always easy as the condition will try to convince you all is well. However, it is important to realise that you need help so you can reach out as soon as possible. Ask yourself the following questions which could point to common benzodiazepine addiction signs:
- Do I take benzodiazepines more often or in higher doses than prescribed?
- Am I preoccupied with thinking about benzodiazepine and how to obtain it?
- Have I lost interest in hobbies, work or social activities due to this preoccupation?
- Do I feel increased anxiety or insomnia when I stop taking benzodiazepines?
- Do I continue to take benzodiazepine despite knowing it’s causing harm?
- Have I lied or acted illegally to obtain benzodiazepines?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, it may be time to get professional help.
Risk factors for benzodiazepine addiction
Anyone who takes benzodiazepine can develop an addiction, but there are certain factors that can increase the risk, including:
- Family history of substance abuse
- Mental health disorders, like anxiety or depression
- Chronic pain or medical conditions
- Long-term use of benzodiazepine
- Taking high doses of benzodiazepine
- Misusing benzodiazepine by taking it in a different way than prescribed
All of these can potentially increase your chances of benzodiazepine so it is important to tell your doctor about them if you are being prescribed any benzo medication.
The negative impact of benzodiazepine addiction
Benzodiazepine addiction can have serious consequences on a person’s health and well-being and affect every aspect of your life including:
Physical health effects…
- Memory problems
- Coordination issues
- Increased risk of falls and accidents
- Liver damage
- Decreased sex drive
- Dangerous withdrawal symptoms
Mental health effects…
- Emotional instability
- Cognitive problems
- Concentration issues
- Distant behaviour
- No communication or emotional intimacy
- Secretive behaviour
- Lies and deception
Career and financial problems…
- Decreased work performance
- Increased absenteeism
- Financial issues due to the cost of drugs and work issues
Poor quality of life…
- Decreased motivation and energy
- Reduced ability to engage in leisure activities and hobbies
- Reduced sense of well-being
All of these effects of benzodiazepine addiction can make life a daily struggle and create a vicious cycle that can be incredibly difficult to break without professional support.
Can benzodiazepine addiction be overcome?
Benzodiazepine addiction is a complex condition that stems from underlying issues and in order to overcome the condition, a comprehensive approach is required. This includes:
- Benzodiazepine detox: The process of removing benzodiazepines from your body to break physical dependence.
- Benzodiazepine rehab: Structured treatment that provides support and resources to help you overcome the psychological aspect of benzodiazepine addiction through therapy.
While the idea of opening up to others about benzodiazepine addiction may seem daunting, team effort and honesty is the most effective way to achieve successful recovery.
Lies your benzodiazepine addiction will try to tell you
Benzodiazepine addiction is a master at deception and will try to tell you many lies so that you can rationalise or deny your substance abuse altogether. Here are some of the most common lies that the condition will try to convince you are true:
“You can control your benzo use”…
This is a very common lie that benzo addiction will try to tell you but the truth is it’s a progressive condition that becomes increasingly difficult to control over time without professional help.
“You only use benzodiazepine to manage your anxiety”
While benzodiazepines are often prescribed to manage anxiety, prolonged use can actually worsen anxiety symptoms and lead to dependence as you end up self-medicating for these exacerbated symptoms.
“Your benzodiazepine abuse isn’t hurting anyone”…
While it may be true that you are not intentionally harming others, benzodiazepine addiction can have a hugely negative impact on not just yourself but on everyone around you too.
“You can just quit on your own”…
Quitting any substance can be difficult but it is especially true when dealing with benzodiazepine addiction. This is why getting professional help at a centre like Banbury Lodge is often necessary to overcome the condition.
It’s important to understand that these lies are part of the cycle of addiction and acknowledging and addressing them is a critical step in overcoming benzodiazepine addiction.
How to help a loved one with benzodiazepine addiction
Being there for a loved one with benzodiazepine addiction can make all the difference in them seeking the help they need or falling further into the isolation of their condition.
Here are some useful tips for helping them:
- Educate yourself: Learn about benzodiazepine addiction, its effects and the best ways to support your loved one.
- Encourage them to get help: Encourage your loved one to seek professional help and support them in their journey towards recovery.
- Don’t enable them: Avoid enabling your loved one by, for example, giving them money or lying to cover up their behaviour.
- Look after yourself: Caring for a loved one with an addiction can be emotionally and mentally draining, so it’s important to practise self-care to give yourself the energy and focus you need.
- Be patient: Your loved one may not be ready to make a change yet so stay patient, keep supporting them and hopefully they will come to the realisation that they need help.
What are the next steps?
If you or a loved one is struggling with benzodiazepine addiction, seek help immediately. Get in touch with Banbury Lodge today and our admissions team will help you get started on the road to recovery.