Benzodiazepines (benzos) are sedative drugs that doctors typically prescribe to treat anxiety, sleep, and panic disorders. Benzos are central nervous system depressants that work by slowing down the brain. While medically useful, benzos are highly addictive, and benzo addiction and abuse are serious public health problems in the UK.
Benzos can be fast-acting or slow-acting depending on how quickly you feel the effects, and long the effects last. Short-acting benzos such as temazepam (Restoril) and flunitrazepam (Rohypnol) are useful for sleeping disorders, while long-acting benzos like lorazepam (Xanax) and diazepam (Valium) are effective treatments for anxiety.
BENZOS AFFECT THE BRAIN AND BODY
Benzos increase the levels of a neurotransmitter called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain. GABA slows down brain activity and has a calming effect on the central nervous system, making you feel sleepy and relaxed.
If you repeatedly use benzos, you may develop a tolerance to the substance. Your brain gets used to the increased GABA levels in the body and responds by limiting its natural production. You begin to need higher and higher doses of benzos to experience the same effects and eventually, you become dependent on benzos just to feel normal.
Physical dependence on benzos can develop very quickly – research suggests that you are likely to develop dependence after just three to four weeks. If you try to stop using the substance you typically experience a range of withdrawal symptoms which can be uncomfortable and in severe cases dangerous, making it hard to quit.
RISK FACTORS FOR ADDICTION
While everyone’s experience of addiction is different, certain factors make you more at risk of developing a benzo addiction. These include:
- Duration of substance use – the British National Formulary (BNF) recommends that doctors should not prescribe benzos for more than four weeks
- Pre-existing mental illness like anxiety or depression
- Parents or other family members using drugs at home
- Age – teenagers and young adults are more likely to develop an addiction
MISUSE, ABUSE AND ADDICTION
Benzos are some of the most commonly abused prescription drugs. People misuse benzos to experience their relaxing effects, aid sleep and relieve stress. In the UK, 7.7% of adults have reported misusing benzos.
Drug abuse is when you use a substance recreationally or in a different way than your doctor prescribes. It is possible to develop an addiction to benzos even when using them exactly as your doctor prescribes, but misusing benzos makes it much more likely. Benzo misuse typically involves taking higher doses and using them for longer than a doctor would recommend, which increases the risk of addiction.
Benzo abuse and addiction can cause serious damage to your health, social life and work, and taking benzos at higher doses can have a range of negative side effects. High doses of benzos may impair your judgement and cognitive skills, putting you at risk of accidents and causing injury to yourself and others. The effects of benzos can last much longer than you think and may affect your ability to work and perform tasks safely the following day.
If you repeatedly use benzos, over time you can also develop long-term health and social problems. These may include:
- Cognitive decline
- Difficulty in thinking clearly
- Loss of libido
- Loss of interest in everyday activities
- Decreased performance at work
- Increased anxiety
- Sleeping difficulties
In severe cases, prolonged benzo use can worsen the mental health conditions they are usually used to treat. Long-term benzo use can cause or exacerbate conditions including insomnia, anxiety, suicidal ideation and severe depression.
If you suddenly stop taking benzos without medical support or professional supervision, you may experience withdrawal symptoms. Benzos work by slowing down your brain, so when you withdraw from the substance, it can have the opposite effect. This can lead to seizures and other harmful consequences.
Benzo withdrawal symptoms include:
- Muscle aches and tension
- Difficulty sleeping
- Panic and anxiety attacks
THE treatment PROCESS
In recent years, extensive scientific research into the nature of addiction has led to the development of effective treatments for all kinds of substance use disorders. Effective treatment helps you to identify and overcome the causes of addiction and maintain sobriety in the coming years.
Revoke by Animo Healthcare offers the most advanced and up-to-date treatment for benzodiazepine addiction via The Revoke Programme. A combination of cognitive-behavioural therapy, individual counselling and group therapy helps you make meaningful changes to the thought and behavioural patterns that underlie your addiction.
This intensive outpatient programme allows you to apply the skills you learn in real-time and see immediate improvements in your work, relationships, and well-being.
At Revoke by Animo Healthcare, you can overcome your addiction and achieve your true potential. Contact us today to begin the recovery process.
Join Our Community
Revoke by Animo Healthcare offers specialist benzodiazepine rehabilitation treatment plans to ensure you can recover and can lead a positive, fulfilling life free from benzos.
If you have been struggling with any issues related to drugs or alcohol, Revoke by Animo Healthcare can provide the therapeutic support you need. Please call us for more details, to ask any questions, or to schedule an assessment and start to reclaim your life today.
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You are not alone. Reach out to us today if you would like to find out more about The Revoke Programme by Animo Healthcare.
The Revoke Programme by Animo Healthcare is a leading outpatient treatment programme and is part of the Animo & Associates Group.