Last updated: 04/30/2019
Author: Addictions.com Medical Review
Reading Time: 3 minutes
Benzodiazepine drugs are widely used in the treatment of anxiety. They are usually prescribed as a quick-acting solution for severe feelings of nervousness and panic. Anxiety disorders are generally viewed as a condition requiring control through pharmaceuticals. Dependence can occur after only a few weeks of use, making benzodiazepine withdrawal treatment necessary.
How “Benzos” Work
Ativan, Xanax, Valium and Klonopin are the most commonly prescribed types of benzodiazepine drugs. They are known as “downers” because of the sedating action in the brain. In a person experiencing anxiety, benzodiazepine acts upon the GABA receptors in the nervous system to slow rapid firing of messages causing anxiety.
Initially, a small dose works to slow the neurotransmitters; however, after only a few weeks of regular use, a tolerance is built requiring higher and higher doses to obtain the same effect.
Anxiety Vs. Dependency
Dr. Jerrold F. Rosenbaum, at a Boston conference in 2004, cited the relative effectiveness of benzodiazepine use in the treatment of anxiety. Since its surge in popularity in the 1960’s, these drugs are still most commonly prescribed for sufferers of anxiety.
Many physicians obviously believe the risks of dependency negligible in the ultimate relief of panic symptoms for patients. Still, other physicians struggle with the ethics of offering treatment that may ultimately result in abuse, dependence and addiction.
While symptom relief is the ultimate goal of physicians, benzos are only a quick fix. Long term use can lead to cognitive decline, and withdrawal symptoms are significant for those seeking to stop taking the drugs. Withdrawal from benzodiazepine drugs include:
- Increased anxiety, including panic attacks
- Muscle Aches
Long Term Consequences
With long term use of benzodiazepines, patients are at great risk for dependence and addiction. Drug addiction is characterized by a hopeless state of mind and body. People stuck in the cycle of addiction feel powerless to stop using drugs because of the mental and emotional side effects of stopping.
To add to this dilemma, benzo users experience confusion and impaired reasoning abilities, so having a moment of clarity regarding the grip the drug has can feel nearly impossible after months of use.
Successful Withdrawal Treatment
Patients wishing to extinguish the use of benzodiazepines need help to battle this powerful addiction. Mental and emotional health services are necessary to treat the root cause of the anxiety that caused the initial need for prescription of the drugs.
Physicians use tapering methods and staggering the use of different benzodiazepine drugs to lessen the side effects. Going cold turkey is not recommended in benzodiazepine withdrawal treatment.
Even though more people are aware of the dangers of addiction, a stigma still exists which causes people to resist help. You don’t have to live with the hopeless cycle of addiction. Nor must you continue to live with debilitating anxiety.
A beautiful, fulfilling and serene life exists without impairing your brain through chemical depressants to get there.
Center for Substance Abuse Research. (2013). Benzodiazepines. Retrieved from: http://www.cesar.umd.edu/cesar/drugs/benzos.asp#addiction
CME Institute of Physicians Postgraduate Press, Inc. (2005). Benzodiazepines: Revisiting Clinical Issues in Treating Anxiety Disorders. The Primary Care Companion to the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry. 7(1), 23-32. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1076447/
Petursson, H. (1994). The benzodiazepine withdrawal syndrome. Addiction. 89(11), 1455-9.