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Awareness for Benzodiazepine

Benzodiazepine, commonly known as Xanax, Valium or Ativan are the most widely prescribed drugs in the world. Used to help with sleep and anxiety, these drugs can become extremely addictive, causing long-term withdrawal symptoms such as hallucination and suicidal thoughts when trying to break away from the drug.

Benzodiazepines are a type of medication known as tranquilizers, and when left untreated, abuse of these drugs can negatively impact relationships, careers, and physical and emotional health.

What are Benzodiazepines

Benzodiazepines are central nervous system (CNS) depressants. CNS depressants slow certain types of brain activity which can result in drowsiness and sedation. This can be useful when prescribed by a doctor to treat anxiety, panic attacks, acute stress reactions, sleep disorders, muscle spasms and seizures.

Benzodiazepines can only treat symptoms of anxiety or insomnia, and do not solve the underlying causes of these conditions. 

How they work

Benzodiazepines enhance the effect of the neurotransmitter known as gamma-aminobutyric acid, or GABA.

Neurotransmitters are chemicals that communicate messages between brain cells. These messages can either have a stimulating or a calming effect. GABA is a neurotransmitter that sends calming messages to the body.

When a person feels anxious, overstimulation occurs in the brain. When people take Benzodiazepines, the brain will send messages to counter this overstimulation. This activity then reduces the symptoms and aids better sleep or functioning.

Recreational use

Some people take benzodiazepines illegally at parties to get high or feel a sense of euphoria. They are commonly mixed with other stimulant drugs such as cocaine, MDMA or ecstasy to come down. But Benzodiazepines can be dangerous when mixed with other drugs or alcohol and can lead to overdose or other harm. 

Like any drug, Benzodiazepines are dangerous and very addictive when used for prolonged periods of time. Benzodiazepines belong to the prescription sedative class of drugs, and although they have a calming effect, they are highly addictive. The effects of abuse can be detrimental, and the person can face a wide range of negative symptoms.

Eventually a person will build a tolerance, and over time they will require a higher volume of Benzodiazepines to reach the same high. When the abuse stops or the dose is quickly cut down, withdrawal symptoms will arise. Benzodiazepine withdrawal can be particularly dangerous and even life-threatening, and a medical detox by a doctor is strongly advised.

Withdrawal Symptoms

A person can quickly become dependent on Benzodiazepines when taken for an extended period of time. Due to the risk of withdrawal symptoms and the potential for misuse, Benzodiazepines are generally prescribed for short-term use of 1 to 2 weeks. However, many people still have illegal access to the drugs and continue taking them for months on end.

Due to the brain’s rewired chemical circuitry after prolonged use, someone suffering from a Benzodiazepine addiction will likely experience physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms when attempting to quit.

Withdrawal symptoms can range from mild to severe and may vary in duration depending on the specific Benzodiazepine used. Some of these symptoms include seizures, panic and anxiety, coma, hallucinations, paranoia, muscle pain and cramps, dizziness, depression and suicidal thoughts

Users who abruptly stop Benzodiazepine are more likely to experience severe withdrawal symptoms than those who gradually taper down.

Benzodiazepine awareness

For years, patients have either been mis-prescribed, over-prescribed, or unaware of the ways Benzodiazepines affect the brain and body. Every July, Benzodiazepine Awareness Day takes place to remind people of how quickly one can become dependent on these drugs and the damaging effects withdrawal can have on your body.

Always acquire professional medical assistance when taking these drugs or if you’re trying to break away from them.

Although Benzodiazepines are effective in a wide range of medical and psychiatric conditions, caution must be exercised with their use, particularly when these prescribed to patients with an active or remote history of substance abuse or addiction. Their greatest asset is also their greatest liability: drugs that work immediately tend to be addictive.

Sources:

https://drugabuse.com/blog/7-things-about-benzo-withdrawal-you-might-not-know/

https://www.aafp.org/pubs/afp/issues/2000/0401/p2121.html

https://americanaddictioncenters.org/benzodiazepine/symptoms-and-signs