Benzodiazepines are a class of drugs that include commonly prescribed substances such as Xanax and Klonopin. Benzodiazepines are different from each other regarding the specific symptoms they treat and whether they’re short-, medium-, or long-acting, but they have more similarities to one another than differences.
When someone is prescribed a benzodiazepine, it’s often to treat an anxiety disorder, such as generalized anxiety disorder or a panic disorder. Benzodiazepines may also be prescribed as a short-term insomnia treatment, as a treatment for certain seizure disorders, and they’re used to treat symptoms of alcohol withdrawal.
In most cases, benzodiazepines aren’t intended to be used for more than two to four weeks. For example, a benzo wouldn’t likely be prescribed as a long-term insomnia treatment.
The reason benzos are short-term treatments is that they have an abuse and addiction potential. The longer someone uses any of these drugs, the more likely an addiction is to form.
When someone takes a benzo, it activates certain receptor sites in their brain. In particular, benzos affect GABA in the central nervous system. GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter, and benzos increase its effects. This has a calming effect on neural activity, reducing anxiety and brain activity. For some people, this can also lead to euphoric effects and especially if a benzodiazepine is combined with another type of drug.
If the brain’s reward cycle is triggered by the use of a benzo, it can lead to an addiction.
Once someone is addicted to a substance, their use of it is no longer in their control. Addiction is characterized as compulsive and out-of-control use of a substance. While addiction initially occurs because of the effects of benzodiazepines on the central nervous system and the brain, it ultimately affects every aspect of a person’s life. Addiction affects not only the brain but also the behavior and physical health of the person.
Along with addiction, people who use benzos regularly can become dependent on them. Their central nervous system relies on the effects of the drug to function properly. If someone’s dependent on a benzo and they stop using it suddenly, they may go through withdrawal. Benzodiazepine withdrawal can have severe side effects, including the potential for seizures to occur.
If someone uses a benzo exactly as prescribed and only for the short-term, they’re less likely to become addicted or dependent, but the risk is still there.
If someone abuses a benzodiazepine, they’re significantly more likely to become addicted or dependent on it.
Signs of benzodiazepine abuse include:
- Taking more than prescribed or taking it for longer than prescribed
- Using a benzo in a way other than what’s intended, such as crushing and snorting it
- Using benzos only for certain effects, such as to feel relaxed
- Combining a benzo with another substance to heighten the effects
Benzodiazepine Addiction Treatment
The following are some of the potential signs and symptoms of benzodiazepine addiction:
- Continuing to use benzos even when there are bad side effects or consequences
- The use of benzos becomes a top priority
- Having at least one serious but unsuccessful attempt to stop using a benzo
- Putting oneself in dangerous situations while on a benzo or to get more
If someone recognizes the signs of addiction, they may require professional addiction treatment. While many different programs last for different lengths of time and are in different settings, the following are some things that should be part of a benzodiazepine rehab program in most cases:
- Addiction is treatable, but complex and affects many areas of a person’s life and health—this complexity needs to be addressed in rehab
- No one is the same, and their addiction treatment plan and program should be highly individualized
- Staying in treatment long enough is imperative for good long-term outcomes
- Treatment should be readily available
- Some people may require treatment that integrates both therapy and medication
- Dual diagnosis treatment may be necessary, which includes treating any underlying mental health issues or disorders someone might have
Inpatient and Outpatient Benzodiazepine Treatment
Two primary options for someone seeking benzodiazepine treatment are inpatient rehab and outpatient rehab.
Inpatient benzodiazepine treatment requires someone to check into a treatment facility for a period of time. During this time, the patient doesn’t have the opportunity to leave the facility without permission, and they spend days and nights there. Inpatient treatment is also called residential rehab.
Inpatient benzodiazepine treatment is comprehensive, in-depth and provides the opportunity to deal with the full complexity of addiction.
The days are very structured and scheduled, and many people travel out-of-state for benzo rehab. This allows them to leave their home environment which they may associate with their addiction and other problems in their life.
A typical day in inpatient rehab might include a combination of behavioral therapy sessions, some of which occur individually and some that might occur in a group setting. There may also be family or relationship therapy, and supplemental activities to treat patients holistically.
Outpatient rehab is something a person might participate on its own if they have a mild or short-term benzodiazepine addiction. It can also be something a person participates in after inpatient rehab.
Outpatient benzodiazepine addiction treatment doesn’t require a person to stay in a facility, and they can still go to work or school as normal. Outpatient rehab can take many different specific formats. For example, some outpatient rehab programs are informal and require a minimal time commitment, while others are more intensive and may require several hours a week or more spent in treatment.
Benzodiazepine PHP Rehabs
Partial hospitalization programs or PHPs are another option that often serves as a middle-ground between inpatient and outpatient rehab.
A PHP doesn’t require patients to sleep in a facility, but they spend most of the day almost every day in treatment for a brief time.
Their days are highly scheduled and structured, much like is the case with inpatient rehab. The primary difference between inpatient rehab and a PHP is that at the end of the treatment day, participants in a PHP can sleep at home, or maybe return to a sober living facility.
Along with the rehab programs that are available, people with benzodiazepine addictions may require a medical detox before they can begin addiction treatment. Benzodiazepine withdrawal can be severe, and it may be best managed in a professional setting.
Benzodiazepine addiction is treatable, and long-term outcomes can be successful with the right care. To learn more about benzodiazepine treatment including inpatient and outpatient rehab, PHP rehabs, and medical detox, contact Amethyst Recovery Center.