Avoiding Addiction to Benzodiazepines: What You Need to Know

Getting “hooked” on benzodiazepines, a class of prescription drugs, is quite easy even if you did not intend to become addicted. The National Institute on Drug Abuse describes drug addiction as taking prescription drugs in a way other than directed by a doctor or other health professional. 

Misuse and abuse are the two main reasons for addiction. However, addiction can occur even if you take the medication as prescribed or take it for a short duration only. Chronic addiction and misuse has even led to death from vehicular accidents or overdose. 

Considering that careful and responsible use of benzodiazepines can still result in drug dependency, it may help to know the risks involved and ways to reduce the chance of addiction. Even if you already fell into the trap of addiction, you can get the help you need to break the habit. 

What are Benzodiazepines? 

Depressants, stimulants, and opioids are three classes of prescription drugs that commonly cause addiction. Benzodiazepines are a class of Central Nervous System (CNS) depressants. They are used to treat overstimulation in patients with certain medial conditions, including sleep disorders and anxiety. 

The drug has a sedating or tranquilizing effect that slows brain functions and reduce symptoms of the condition treated. Due to their addictive nature, benzodiazepines are not recommended as a first line of therapy for certain conditions. 

How Addiction/Dependence Occurs 

Addiction to benzodiazepines can be voluntary or involuntary. And because they are so deceptively addictive, it is easy get “hooked.” Their ability to cause dependency is due mainly to having similar effects on the brain the way recreational drugs such as methamphetamine, cocaine, and heroin do. 

You already know that using this medication as prescribed does not prevent you from becoming addicted. Others causes of addiction are: 

  • Misuse (using medication that was prescribed to someone else even if you have the same medical condition, or using it in combination with other drugs or substances) 
  • Abuse (e.g., taking larger doses, taking doses more frequently than directed, or continuing use after your doctor tells you to stop) 
  • Non-Medical use (using the drug solely for pleasure, e.g., to feel ‘high”) 

Signs of Addiction 

A common sign of addiction to benzodiazepines is finding yourself compulsively seeking the drugs in spite of their harmful effects. For example, continuing use after your illness goes away. Other signs of addiction include: 

  • Using benzodiazepines prescribed to someone else 
  • Lying or stealing to get the drugs 
  • Changing doctors to get a new prescription 
  • Finishing the medication ahead of the due date 
  • Refilling prescription before the due date 
  • Using larger doses or taking them more often than directed 
  • Craving the drug solely to feel euphoria 
  • Nausea, anxiety, or restless when you don’t get the drug 
  • Recklessness, irresponsibility, or impaired judgement 
  • Mood swings, hostility, drowsiness or confusion 

Reducing the Risk of Benzodiazepines Addiction 

The best way to avoid addiction to benzodiazepines is to never use them in the first place. However, this may not be possible if they were prescribed as treatment for a medical condition. The most important thing you can do is take the drug exactly as directed by your doctor, pharmacist or the prescription label. Other helpful ways to reduce the risk of dependency are: 

  • Do not change or increase the dose unless your doctor approves 
  • Do not crush the tablet or use the capsule powder to snort, smoke, or inject into a vein 
  • Avoid using drugs that was prescribed to someone else 
  • Avoid using alcohol or recreational drugs, such as cocaine, while using benzodiazepines 
  • Stop using the medication as directed or immediately after your illness goes away 
  • Discard expired drugs safely and immediately to prevent use at a later date 
  • Limiting treatment to the shortest possible duration 
  • Avoid use altogether by seeking alternative treatment 

Overcoming Addiction to Benzodiazepines 

It is easy to become addicted to benzodiazepines and difficult to break the habit. Some patients may take years to become “clean.” The extreme withdrawal symptoms also present a roadblock for getting over dependency. They include panic attacks, insomnia, delusion, hallucination, suicidal thoughts, seizure, and stroke. 

However, seeking the right professional care may help you overcome this addiction that can threaten your health and life. Treatment with medication, benzodiazepine detox, rehabilitative care, and psychological therapy are among the various options available. Talk to your doctor today. Your life depends on it!