These are depressants that induce sleep and sedation. A doctor will prescribe it as Valium, Xanax or Klonopin. On the street, it is called Benzos, Downers or Tranks. When abused it is normally crushed and snorted. An overdose may be deadly. It can also cause hostility, amnesia, and irritability.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, almost 30 percent of people in the United States experience some anxiety disorder during their lifetime. This ongoing anxiety can affect a person’s ability to function at home, school, and work. Statistically speaking, every 12 months more than 18 percent of people in the U.S. experience symptoms of an anxiety disorder.Xanax
Xanax is a benzodiazepine prescribed to treat panic disorder and serious anxiety. It calms a person by depressing his or their abnormal central nervous system. Those without a prescription may abuse the drug for its fast-acting sedating and relaxing effects. The Drug Abuse Warning Network says Xanax is the most abused drug for these reasons. The bottom line is that this class of drugs have a valid medical use, but they should be used very carefully.
Klonopin & Valium
Much like Xanax, Klonopin and Valium are often misused for their sedative effects. These “highs” can feel similar to the effects of alcohol, including feelings of drunkenness, talkativeness, and relaxation.
Due to these favorable traits, Klonopin, Valium, and other benzodiazepines can be extremely habit-forming, cause blackouts, and even death by overdose. It is not uncommon for Xanax, Klonopin, and Valium to be taken in conjunction with other drugs.
The most common side effects of these medications are drowsiness and dizziness. Drowsiness and dizziness may pass within a few hours. This can impair your ability to drive. If you feel lightheaded or sleepy, don’t drive or operate dangerous equipment. This effect may persist until the next day; studies have shown increased risk of car accidents in people who take benzodiazepines.
Allergic reactions are possible. If you have difficulty breathing, seek immediate medical help. These drugs may also be more powerful and longer-lasting in older adults. Close monitoring is required, and all side effects should be reported to your doctor.
Benzodiazepines can be physically and psychologically habit-forming. This is more likely at higher doses and in patients with a history of substance abuse. Benzodiazepines are intended for short-term use only. The risk of dependence, or developing a tolerance to these medications increases the longer you use them. The risk also increases as you age; the drugs may have a longer action in older adults.
Withdrawal symptoms can occur if you stop taking these medications abruptly. Symptoms of withdrawal may include:
If you want to stop taking either medication, your doctor can help you taper off slowly. Keep in mind that even tapering off slowing can be a very painful process. It should be done with supervision.
You may deny your addiction or abuse to your benzodiazepine medication, after all, it was recommended to you by a doctor. This is fine, but we do ask that you are open minded to the idea that you do have a drug problem.
If you are unclear to if you are addicted or not, then here are a few questions you can ask yourself.
- Do I feel panicked when I am running low on my medicine?
- Have I ruined a relationship because I wouldn't stop taking my medicine?
- Have loved ones told you that you are behaving differently since taking your medicine?
- Have you had trouble at work or school because of your benzodiazepine use?
- Have you bought benzodiazepines off of the street because you were out of your prescription?
Answering questions like this honestly will help you determine where you or your loved one stands with their benzodiazepine use or addiction.
Coming to Terms with Your Benzodiazepine Addiction
If you answered yes to some of the following questions, or something else made you realize that you are addicted, this is good! The first step on the road to recovery is admitting and accepting your addiction. Once you can come to terms with the fact that you have a problem, you can begin to look for help and start your journey.
Dependence vs. Addiction
Physical dependence occurs because of normal adaptations to chronic exposure to a drug and is not the same as addiction. Addiction, which can include physical dependence, is distinguished by compulsive drug seeking and use despite sometimes devastating consequences.
Someone who is physically dependent on a medication will experience withdrawal symptoms when the use of the drug is abruptly reduced or stopped. These symptoms can be mild or severe (depending on the drug) and can usually be managed medically or avoided by using a slow drug taper.
Dependence is often accompanied by tolerance, or the need to take higher doses of a medication to get the same effect. When tolerance occurs, it can be difficult for a physician to evaluate whether a patient is developing a drug problem, or has a real medical need for higher doses to control their symptoms. For this reason, physicians need to be vigilant and attentive to their patients' symptoms and level of functioning to treat them appropriately.
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