Anti-anxiety medication is part of the Benzodiazepines class of psychoactive drugs. Benzodiazepines also are known as “benzos” work in the central nervous system and are used to treat a range of conditions, including anxiety, panic disorders, and insomnia. Generally viewed as safe and effective for short-term use, all benzodiazepines can cause some level of physical dependence, even when they are taken according to the physician’s instructions.
For those who are not familiar with benzodiazepines and its prescribed treatment application, the list below may help you identify them:
- Anxiety Disorders – diazepam (Valium), lorazepam (Ativan), alprazolam (Xanax), chlordiazepoxide (Librium), chlorazepate (Tranxene)
- Seizure Disorders – clonazepam (Klonopin), clobazam (Onfi), diazepam (Valium), clorazepate (Tranxene), lorazepam (Ativan)
- Insomnia – estazolam (Prosom), triazolam (Halcion), temazepam (Restoril), flurazepam (Dalmane), quazepam (Doral)
- Anesthesia – lorazepam (Ativan), diazepam (Valium), midazolam
Like most medications, the sedative effects of benzodiazepines are temporary and relatively short-lived, meaning that the person taking these medications will need more and more of it with time to accomplish their desired effects. While people often start taking these psychoactive drugs to manage anxiety, it is not uncommon for them to begin turning to their medication for even the smallest concerns – sometimes as a preventative measure, before a problem occurs. That is often when the vicious cycle of addiction starts. Although addiction and dependence is not the same thing, both conditions can be difficult to recognize and stop before serious issues develop. For this reason, it’s vital for individuals who have been prescribed these medications to be informed about its side effects, dependence and addiction risk factors before they start taking them.
The two key indicators of dependence are withdrawal and tolerance.
Withdrawal– All benzodiazepines can cause some level of physical dependence, even when they are taken according to physician instructions. Withdrawal occurs when the body has acclimated to a certain amount of a substance, adjusting neurotransmitter production accordingly. The first signs of benzo withdrawal are tremors and heart palpitations, quickly followed by an inability to concentrate, difficulty sleeping, increased anxiety, muscle stiffness, and visual hallucinations. Other symptoms may include seizures, rapid heart rate, increased blood pressure, and potentially death, depending on the severity of the dependency.
Tolerance – The trademark of developing a chemical dependency (and the beginning of addiction) to any drug is the establishment of tolerance. In these instances, the individual will require more and more of the drug in order to achieve the same effect over time. This happens because the body has become used to the benzodiazepines, and, through a process of neuroadaptations, has altered its chemistry to compensate.
Other strong signs that an individual is abusing anti-anxiety medications include:
- taking anti-anxiety medications against a physician’s instructions
- taking anti-anxiety medications without a physician’s prescription
- exhibition of drug-seeking behaviors such as doctor-shopping (visiting multiple clinicians to obtain more medication)
Loved one may notice behavioral symptoms such as irritability, tension, drowsiness, sluggish movement, memory problems, or personality changes which may be indicative of withdrawal symptoms.
Help for Benzodiazepine Addiction
If you or a loved one is concerned about the use of benzodiazepines, call Florida Center for Recovery (FCR) at (800) 851-3291. With almost two decades of experience providing addiction treatment and mental health services through our inpatient rehab programs, FCR is one of the best addiction treatment providers in Florida.
Florida Center for Recovery
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