The Effect of Benzodiazepines on Mental Health

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Benzodiazepines are a type of prescription medication used to treat anxiety disorders, panic disorders, and insomnia. Commonly referred to as “benzos,” this class of medications can be life-saving when monitored by a medical professional.

Which Drugs Are Benzodiazepines?

Benzodiazepines work by enhancing the action of the neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), which inhibits anxiety by reducing certain nerve-impulse transmissions within the brain. These drugs act as sedatives by slowing down the central nervous system which can reduce levels of anxiety, panic, and racing thoughts. Typically, benzodiazepines are prescribed for use on a short-term basis.

Thirty million adults in the United States have used benzodiazepines in the previous twelve months. Of these, about one in six report misusage of the medication. Xanax prescriptions are the most popular ones written by medical professionals, with 45 million being written each year.

Common names of benzodiazepines include:

  • Xanax
  • Ativan
  • Restoril
  • Valium
  • Klonopin
  • Librium
  • Halcion
  • Dalmane
  • Prosom

How Do Benzodiazepines Affect Mental Health?

Benzodiazepines provide much-needed relief for millions. While many people achieve relief with prescribed use of benzodiazepines, others may experience unwanted side effects from treatment. However, when benzodiazepines are abused, they can become detrimental, particularly if the person misusing has developed a substance use disorder.

While the majority of benzo prescriptions are used as directed, they can be abused. It’s also possible for those without a prescription to obtain benzodiazepines through family and friends or via a drug dealer and use them as party drugs or a way to attempt to treat their own medical issues without medical monitoring.

About half of people who seek treatment for substance abuse also have a mental health condition, some of whom struggle with anxiety. Anxiety has been associated with a deficiency in the production of GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) in the brain. Benzodiazepines help increase a person’s GABA efficiency, which, in the long-term, can result in the brain producing less of it. With long-term benzo usage or withdrawal, this can cause or exacerbate depressive symptoms.

What to Do When Benzodiazepine Addiction Occurs

Long-term use or abuse of benzodiazepines can create dependency or the need for a higher dose to produce the same effect. Quitting benzos without proper medical supervision can be dangerous, especially if benzodiazepine abuse was coupled with alcohol use or abuse.

Detoxing from benzodiazepines without appropriate medical supervision can be extremely dangerous. Similarly, alcohol detox can be very dangerous without medical support if an individual has been drinking extensively or for an extended period of time.

Detox or stabilization is an important part of the recovery process. It is the time that allows an individual to safely and comfortably step away from the substances they have been using. If someone has been using substances for any extended period of time, attending a detox or stabilization program can be extremely helpful, and often is very necessary for safety and comfort.

Other Side Effects of Benzodiazepines

Benzodiazepine side effects may include:

  • Sleepiness
  • Slowed breathing
  • Slurred speech
  • Blurred vision
  • Difficulty thinking and concentrating
  • Weakness
  • Difficulty with motor control functions
  • Impaired short-term memory
  • Hallucinations

Benzodiazepine Addiction Treatment in California

Are you experiencing benzodiazepine abuse along with an anxiety disorder? Clear Recovery Center can help you safely and effectively manage both conditions. We offer a full range of outpatient treatment options, including detoxification, residential treatment, outpatient services, and alumni support. If you or a loved one would like more information about our dual diagnosis treatment programs, contact our clinical team today. We are happy to answer any questions and concerns you have.

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