Benzo Addiction Treatment in New Jersey

“Benzos” and “downers” are street names for benzodiazepines. Benzodiazepines are a type of sedative (central nervous system depressant). It’s a prescription medication that can be habit-forming and drug addicts often abuse these drugs to get “high.” Benzos can cause addiction similar to opioids such as:

  • GHB
  • morphine
  • oxycodone
  • hydrocodone

And, just like opioids, benzodiazepine addiction can be treated. Treatment should be done with medical supervision in a hospital or drug treatment center. 

benzo addiction treatmentWhy Do People Use Benzos?

When they’re used as prescribed, benzodiazepines help relieve:

  • panic
  • anxiety
  • insomnia
  • seizures (convulsions)

They can also be used for:

  • depression
  • alcohol withdrawal
  • nausea and vomiting
  • drug-associated agitation
  • general anesthesia (to sedate the patient before surgery or diagnostic procedures)

Side Effects of Benzos

The most common side effects linked to benzos are:

  • Sedation
  • Dizziness
  • Weakness
  • Unsteadiness

Can a Benzo Prescription Drug Be Addictive?

Yes. You can become addicted to benzos even if you take them as they’re prescribed by your doctor or health care professional. And if you have a history of drug or alcohol abuse, it raises the odds of developing an addiction. You may also develop a tolerance if you use them over a long time. This means that you will need higher doses to address your original condition or disease because you have become tolerant of the drug’s weaker form. 

Signs of Benzo Addiction

Occasionally, people taking benzodiazepines may feel drowsy or dizzy, which and can be more noticeable at higher doses. Signs and symptoms of benzo addiction include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Goosebumps
  • Sleep problems
  • Memory problems
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Uncontrollable leg movements
  • Delirium (mostly in older people)
  • Behavior changes ( like increased risky behaviors)
  • Possibility of increased risk of dementia ( not yet proven scientifically)

Dangers of Benzodiazepine Addiction

There are two serious matters regarding benzodiazepine treatment:

  1. The potential for abuse (overdose)
  2. The development of physical dependence (addiction)

While intentional abuse of prescription benzodiazepines is not common among the general population, people with a history of drug abuse should be more careful. They are at the highest risk for acquiring benzodiazepines to experience the high.

Benzos are not usually the only drug of abuse and addicts typically combine benzodiazepines with other drugs to increase the effect. One example is benzos combined with certain opioids (strong prescription pain relievers) to heighten the euphoric effects.

Due to their rapid onset, Valium (diazepam) and Xanax (alprazolam) are the most popular drugs among people who suffer from benzo abuse.

For most patients, using a benzodiazepine for several months doesn’t seem to cause issues of addiction, tolerance, or problems stopping the medication when it isn’t necessary anymore. That being said, several months of use can substantially increase the risk for addiction, tolerance, and the appearance of withdrawal symptoms when the dose is reduced or ended.

Benzo addicts have a higher risk for developing dementia, an illness that affects the brain and causes gradual memory loss, problems with language, and loss of motor skills. So, it is important to seek professional help in overcoming benzodiazepine abuse.

benzo withdrawalBenzo Detox and Withdrawal

All benzodiazepines are habit-forming and can cause physical dependence. And eventually, dependence can lead to a  difficult withdrawal if the person decides to stop. Therefore, treatment for addiction to benzodiazepines starts with a detox. In a  detox center with medical monitoring, detox generally consists of a gradual reduction of benzos to prevent seizures and ease withdrawal somewhat. 

Medications

There have not been any medications approved for the treatment of benzodiazepine use disorders as yet. However, treatment could include antidepressants for depression and sleep problems along with mood stabilizers. 

Symptoms

Naturally, withdrawal symptoms during detox will vary among people but there are some common symptoms. They usually begin within 24 hours of the last dose and may last from a few days to a few months. Four to 6% of who take benzodiazepines for more than 6 months will experience moderate to severe withdrawal symptoms including:

  • Fatigue
  • Tremors
  • Dizziness
  • Sweating
  • Anxiety and panic
  • Gastrointestinal issues
  • Problems with sleeping
  • Muscle cramps and pain
  • Restlessness and agitation
  • Shortness of breath
  • Loss of reality
  • Hallucinations
  • Headaches
  • Seizures

3 Phases to Benzo Withdrawal

  1. Early Withdrawal: Sometimes called rebound symptoms, they occur shortly after you stop taking benzodiazepines. The symptoms of the problem that the drug was meant to treat might rebound or return.
  2. Acute Withdrawal: Acute withdrawal typically begins after the early symptoms. Most of the symptoms occur in this phase and most people claim that this is the hardest part.
  3. Post Acute Withdrawal Symptoms (PAWS): There may be some lingering side effects even though most symptoms subside after the acute phase.

Programs to Treat Benzo Addiction

After detox prepares you for a treatment program, you will enter one of these common programs. 

  • Residential: Residential treatment programs take place in a secure treatment facility where you live for a certain period of time depending on the severity of your addiction and any co-occurring conditions.
  • Partial Care Services (PC): PCs are less intensive than a residential program but can offer the same services except for round-the-clock care. You are free to go home in the evenings.
  • Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP): IOPs offer much the same services as the PC but with a smaller time commitment. This leaves more time for work, school, or family obligations.
  • Outpatient Program (OP): OPs are for individuals who have completed a higher level of care but want continuing support to get back to normal life. Outpatient treatment can also be helpful if for those who had a mild addiction problem.

group therapy for benzo addictionTherapy

While in the treatment programs, you undergo the psychological phase of treatment. There are several common behavioral therapies that have been scientifically proven to help in the treatment of substance use disorders (SUDs).

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): CBT generally involves training to change patterns of thinking. It is the most widely used therapy for benzodiazepine addiction treatment. 
  • Individual Therapy: Individual therapy is a process where patients work one-on-one with an experienced mental health professional. This helps them understand themselves better as they work through challenging or powerful memories.
  • Group Therapy: This type of psychotherapy involves one or more therapists who lead groups of typically 5-15 people.

Getting Benzo Addiction Treatment at Kingsway Recovery

Are you struggling with benzodiazepine addiction? Is it someone you care about? People who abuse drugs often deny they even have a problem or they believe they can handle it themselves. However, the best thing you can do at home is to recognize that there is a problem and help is necessary. 

Benzos change the chemistry of your brain and quitting cold turkey can be dangerous. Kingsway Recovery Center is here to help you make your way to a successful, long-term recovery. Contact us now. We’re here to inform, encourage, and help you carry on with the rest of your life.

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