Benzodiazepine addiction is a severe and life-threatening condition that can significantly impact the physical and mental well-being of those who suffer, as well as the people who love them.
Drugs classified as benzos are indicated for the treatment of anxiety disorders and insomnia but are frequently obtained through drug diversion and used for non-medical purposes.
All benzos are central nervous system (CNS) depressants, commonly known also as sedatives or “downers.” As such, they reduce neurological activity in the CNS, lessen anxiety, and induce pleasant effects such as relaxation and feelings of well-being. Abuse of benzos, however, can and often does result in dangerous complications including excessive sedation, respiratory suppression, coma, and death.
Benzos are addictive because once taken, they have a significant impact on GABA, a chemical neurotransmitter in the brain. When released, this chemical causes deep muscle relaxation and sleepiness, as well as pleasurable feelings that motivate the person to use more of the drug to maintain this state of relative comfort.
Prolonged benzo use often results in dependence, a state in which the person using finds it difficult to function normally without the drug’s presence. When the person tries to quit or cut back, the body experiences a great deal of stress while attempting to restore stability. This conflict then results in a multitude of unpleasant withdrawal symptoms, effects which discourage continued cessation and promote relapse.
Following chronic use, GABA receptors become desensitized to the effects of benzos and therefore, response diminishes. When the person is no longer feeling the desired effects, they often have little choice but to turn to a higher level of drug use to accomplish their objective. This condition is known as tolerance – and is one of the main precipitators of severe drug-related complications, overdoses, and a general acceleration of drug abuse.
While there is no cure for benzo addiction, people who elect to participate in addiction treatment can fully recover and look forward to a life of sobriety and wellness.
If you or a loved one is struggling with an addiction to benzos or any other substances, it’s not too late to get help.