Benzodiazepine Addiction: The Quiet and Deadly Public Health Crisis

Benzodiazepine Addiction: The Quiet and Deadly Public Health Crisis

Benzodiazepines (benzos) are a class of medications typically prescribed to treat anxiety, insomnia, alcohol withdrawal, and muscle tension. Benzos, such as Xanax, Ativan, Valium, and other anti-anxiety medication, are designed for short-term use, usually a few weeks or months because they are highly addictive. “After four to six months, they generally stop working which is typical of any addictive substance. Users develop a tolerance needing more and more to get the same effect.” (Deane Alban, Reset Me, 2015).

Opioids and benzos

Mixing opioids with benzos increases the risks of health complications and damages the liver, heart, and induces labored breathing. This toxic combination can also have negative effects on emotional stability and mental well-being.

According to Britta Starke, program director for Alcohol and Substance Abuse Outpatient Treatment at UNC, a common pattern is using marijuana first and then benzos when the high from marijuana wears off. She recommends a more natural way to cope with stress and emotions, which is mindfulness. This includes meditation, yoga, and deep breathing techniques, or “20 minutes a day of just relaxing and chilling and getting grounded,” Starke said. Even just walking the dog for 20 minutes has a “far more long-term effect in reducing anxiety than taking Xanax.” (Nagem, 2018).

Opioids and benzos are the most commonly abused prescription drugs. Some patients take more of the drugs than prescribed to get high. Benzos enhance the effects of opioids, which increases the risk of abuse and addiction. Mixing any two drugs together will increase the probability of hurting yourself or others and can result in fatalities.

The warning of using benzos

Each prescription medication has a warning label indicating the harmful effects they have when mixed with other medications or alcohol. Most painkillers are safe and effective when taken appropriately or as prescribed. Prescription pain medicine mixed with benzos can cause serious drug interactions and increase the risk of stomach bleeding, heart attack, stroke, or impaired breathing.

All drugs have side effects whether over-the-counter, prescription or recreational. With the right treatment and support from loved ones, you can overcome addiction to benzos. Read warning labels, know the side effects, and ask a doctor or pharmacist about adverse interactions.

Getting help

If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, you are not alone. While there is no cure for addiction, it is treatable. Take the first step toward a healthy, fulfilling, life in sobriety and get help today. There is hope in recovery. Do not let the stigma prevent you from getting the help you need. Asking for help is the first step to a healthy, meaningful, and fulfilling life.

Offering a full range of recovery and mental health services, Valiant Living offers “Expanded Recovery” to enrich our clients’ lives in mind, body, and spirit. Through evidence-based therapy options and the endless adventure of Colorado, Valiant fosters connection, encouraging clients to get connected to themselves, their peers, their families, and their higher power. With the power of recovery, clients are restored to full health and experience life-changing healing. Call us today for more information: 303-536-5463