What Are Benzodiazepines?
Benzodiazepines are Schedule IV psychoactive drugs, which means they are (illegal to use without a prescription. Benzodiazepines are depressant drugs that “lower” brain activity and are commonly prescribed for things like insomnia, panic, anxiety, convulsions and seizures. The first benzodiazepine to become available (in the early 1960s) was Librium, which became widely prescribed in the 70s and following decades. Librium, along with other benzodiazepines, was eventually discovered to lead to widespread problems with dependence and addiction.
Benzodiazepines enhance the effect of the neurotransmitter “GABA” (gamma-amino-butyric acid,) which sends relaxing or calming messages to the body, When a person is anxious or panicked, other neurotransmitter chemicals stimulate and excite the brain. Since benzos “lower” brain activity in this area, they can counteract this anxious stimulation with a reduction in the feelings of anxiety.
The following is a list of common benzodiazepines, by branded and generic names and their most common uses:
- Versed (Midazolam): Anxiety, help with sedation for medical procedures esp. intubation
- Halcion (Triazolam): Insomnia, staying asleep longer
- Tranxene (Clorazepate Oral): Anxiety, acute alcohol withdrawal and seizures
- Xanax (Alprazolam): Sudden, unexpected panic attacks, extreme fear and worry
- Lexotan (Bromazepam-not currently prescribed in the U.S.): Anxiety, insomnia and alcohol withdrawal
- Onfi/Sympozam (Clobazam): Often used for Lennox-Gastaut syndrome (a rare syndrome associated with epilepsy)
- Klonopin, Rivotril (Clonazepam): Anticonvulsant, anxiety, panic disorders and epileptic seizures
- Restoril (Temazepam): Insomnia, fall asleep faster, stay asleep longer
- ProSom (Estazolam): Insomnia, fall asleep faster, stay asleep longer
- Ativan (Lorazepam): Anxiety, insomnia and before surgery to reduce or eliminate the memory of the procedure
- Serax (Oxazepam): Anxiety, insomnia and alcohol withdrawal
- Librium (Chlordiazepoxide): Anxiety, alcohol withdrawal symptoms and tremors
- Centrax (Prazepam): Panic, seizures, anxiety, alcohol withdrawal
- Valium (Diazepam): Anxiety, anticonvulsant, muscle spasms, alcohol withdrawal
- Dalmane (Flurazepam): Sedative-hypnotic for insomnia
- Doral (Quazepam): Sedative-hypnotic for insomnia
Who Is Misusing or Abusing Xanax and Why?
According to a recent analysis by NIDA and SAMHSA, benzodiazepines, such as sedatives and sleeping aids, were used by 12.5 percent of adults in the U.S. (about 30.5 million people.)
The research also questioned why people misuse these medications. Among past-year benzodiazepine users, 5.2 million were self-proclaimed “misusers” with the following answers to research questions:
- 46.3 percent reported that the motivation was to relax or relieve tension
- 22.4 percent reported helping to sleep
- 5.7 percent reported they were “experimenting”
- 11.8 percent reported using them to get high or because they were “hooked”
The data also showed that most misusers obtained benzodiazepines from friends or relatives, with only about 20 percent receiving them from their doctor.
What Are The Negative Effects of Benzodiazepines Like Xanax?
- Slurred speech
- Poor concentration
- Problems with movement and memory
- Lowered blood pressure
- Slowed breathing
How Can You Recognize When Xanax Is Being Misused or Abused?
Xanax and other benzodiazepines are frequently abused because they are so commonly prescribed and easily available. The uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms associated with Xanax abuse can make it difficult for people to stop using.
It’s important to learn a few slang terms for the drug (to recognize in overheard conversations) if you suspect it is being abused by a friend, family member or loved one:
- Bicycle Handle Bars
- School Bus
If you notice recurrent issues with any of the following, it may indicate benzodiazepine abuse:
- Doctor shopping (going from doctor to doctor if one refuses to prescribe more medication)
- Spending a lot of time trying to get, use or recover from the effects of Xanax
- Blurred vision
- Poor judgment or thinking
- Asking friends, family, colleagues and/or classmates for their pills
- Wanting to cut back but not being able to
- Continuing to use despite interpersonal problems due to drug use
- Being unable to fulfill major obligations at work, home or school
- Mood swings
- Risk-taking behaviors, such as driving while taking benzodiazepines
- Combining benzodiazepines with alcohol, opiates or other drugs
What Kind of Person Abuses Xanax?
Nonmedical use of prescription drugs is a major concern in the U.S. Many people who originally receive Xanax via prescription for medical use can take it for nonmedical reasons. Around one-third of people who abuse benzodiazepines get the drug from multiple or illegal sources. Misusers of Xanax may get pills from an illegal source, such as buying them on the street or getting them from a person who has a prescription. It is also available through illegal websites or social media apps.
- A SAMHSA study reports that 18 million people over 12 years of age admitted using prescription drugs for nonmedical reasons at least once in their lifetime. Gender does not seem to play a significant role. Young adults aged 18 to 35 have the highest rate of benzodiazepine abuse.
- People with a co-occurring psychiatric disorder (like depression or bipolar disorder) have a reported misuse rate of around 40 percent.
- People who have a history of alcohol dependence or antisocial personality disorder have been reported to have a higher risk of benzodiazepine abuse.
- Recreational use of Xanax alone is comparatively rare: It’s more common for people to mix Xanax with other drugs of abuse. Opioids and alcohol are most frequently the primary drugs of choice—around one in five people who abuse alcohol also abuse benzodiazepines.
- In addition, people who abuse certain types of drugs, such as cocaine, may also abuse Xanax to ease the effects (such as insomnia) associated with coming off or “coming down” from these drugs.
Risk of Death From Overdose: Benzodiazepines and Opioids
We have all heard that opioid overdose deaths are at an all-time high and we know that opioids are extremely dangerous. But did you know that in 2019, 16 percent of those opioid overdose deaths also involved benzodiazepines?
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA,) between 1996 and 2013, the number of adults who filled a benzodiazepine prescription increased by 67 percent, from 8.1 million to 13.5 million. Opioid use also increased dramatically in recent decades. Combining opioids and benzodiazepines can be unsafe because both types of drug sedate users and suppress breathing—the cause of overdose fatality—in addition to impairing cognitive functions.
Unfortunately, many people are prescribed both drugs simultaneously. In a study of over 300,000 continuously insured patients receiving both opioid and benzodiazepine prescriptions between 2001 and 2013, there was an increased risk for visiting the emergency department or being admitted to a hospital for a drug-related emergency.
In a study of overdose deaths in people prescribed opioids for non-cancer pain in Canada, 60 percent also tested positive for benzodiazepines.
How Is Xanax Addiction Treated?
The safest path to Xanax detox is a medically supervised extended taper where the substance is given in steadily decreasing amounts over a period of time. This may be difficult in the case of short-acting benzodiazepines like Xanax, so the individual may instead be put on a long-acting benzodiazepine or barbiturate like phenobarbital.
When a therapeutic, symptom-relieving dose is achieved, the stabilizing drug can be reduced systematically to prevent severe withdrawal symptoms. More time between these dose reductions results in a safer, more comfortable detox but will of course prolong the process.
Other medications that may be used for Xanax withdrawal are:
- Clonidine: frequently used in opioid withdrawal, this medication can treat Xanax withdrawal symptoms such as tremors.
- Carbamazepine, valproate or trazodone: These anticonvulsants and sedating medications may help to reduce symptoms in people with mild dependence, but they can be more effective in combination with phenobarbital or a long-acting benzodiazepine rather than as a standalone treatment.
Addiction is so much more than a physical dependence on drugs or alcohol. Treatment for Xanax abuse disorder must include learning coping skills through therapy conducted by skilled professionals. Once you have eliminated the substance from your body, you will need time, talk and methods to overcome that physical and mental dependence.
So many social activities, friends and family units have inherent triggers that can push you into relapsing back into drug, alcohol or other substance use. If you commit and take time to recover in a protected setting like Windward Way Recovery, you will gain the strength, knowledge and tools necessary to deal with all the stressors in your life without using or abusing substances like household inhalants.
How Can Windward Way Recovery Help People Who Are Experiencing Xanax Addiction?
Windward Way Recovery offers partial hospitalization, intensive outpatient and outpatient treatment services. However, the first step in any recovery process is reaching out for treatment. Whether starting with inpatient detox or outpatient detox, your treatment begins by asking for help.
It only takes a simple phone call to (855) 491-7694, a message through our website or a Facebook message to begin admission. This process can be overwhelming. At Cardinal, we understand how hard this step can be, so we work hard to make the process as comforting and straightforward as possible. It’s helpful to gather all your current and previous health information before calling us. The following is our process and the steps necessary to join us at Windward Way Recovery.
1. Pre-Admissions Process:
- Cardinal staff will ask about a person’s drug and alcohol history and current situation.
- Other medical conditions will be disclosed and discussed
- The list of doctors a person is seeing will be gathered
- Discuss prior treatment history (if any)
2. Next, a Cardinal staff member will discuss programs at our facility to see if there is a suitable match for your needs
3. Should Cardinal be a good fit, insurance information will be discussed. If you don’t have insurance, there may be private self-pay options or even possible scholarships. There may be a waiting list, or we may be able to take you in right away.
4. Admission: Immediately after arriving at the recovery facility, each person undergoes a comprehensive health assessment. Addiction professionals will discuss a person’s substance abuse history, relevant mental and physical health conditions and family life. Then, you will be provided with our policies and rules.
5. Treatment Length: the length of treatment varies greatly depending upon the substance used, the length of time using and the presence of co-occurring disorders like depression, anxiety or other mental illnesses.
How Can Windward Way Recovery Help Me?
From its leafy suburban setting to its wide variety of holistic therapies, Windward Way Recovery is an industry leader in substance abuse treatment care. We adhere to the highest standards and utilize cutting edge research findings in all of our methodologies and levels of care including:
- Inpatient care
- Outpatient care
- Partial hospitalization
- Individual, group, family and nature therapy
Types of Therapy Offered at Windward Way Recovery
Our intensive group therapy sessions offer the opportunity for:
- Psychoeducational groups (education about substance abuse)
- Skills developmental groups (learn the tools you’ll need to break free from addiction)
- Cognitive-behavioral groups (rearrange patterns of thinking that lead to addiction)
- Support groups (a forum where members can supportively challenge each other to debunk “excuses”)
- Interpersonal process group (members help each other process the relational and other life issues that were previously escaped through addictive substances)
We offer family therapy work to include:
- Family engagement (begins the conversation and involves family and the individual in the recovery process)
- Relational reframing (rather than placing all the blame of addiction on the child, family therapy will emphasize the root causes of the addiction and move the source of some issues from internal to external)
- Family behavioral change (enabling communication, rules and limits; with room to express how everyone is feeling)
- Family restructuring (this process can help break down barriers and establish an environment that encourages open communication)
Our unique, holistic approach includes nature therapy (also called green or eco therapy):
- Nature meditation
- Horticultural therapy (gardening and plant care)
- Animal-assisted therapy
- Physical exercise outdoors (yoga, hiking, etc.)
- Conservation (taking action to help preserve nature)
What Steps Can You Take Right Now?
The desire to stop using drugs or alcohol is essential to begin a lifelong recovery path. Reach out to our staff at Windward Way Recovery. If you live anywhere in the Midwest, Cardinal is centrally located in Franklin, California, just thirty minutes south of Californiapolis, with a wide spectrum of programs and resources to help people with substance abuse issues.
Please visit our website to learn more about our programs and the treatment options available. Take a look at our tranquil suburban facility, where you can find refuge from the stresses and triggers of the everyday world to work on self-care, rest, therapy and take back control of your life.
- In most cases, if a person has a substance abuse disorder, recovery begins at the detox stage. Medical monitoring of this stage reduces the risks to mental and physical well-being.
- Following medical detox, Cardinal’s treatment options include inpatient rehab in a residential treatment program, outpatient rehab, partial hospitalization programs (PHP), intensive outpatient programs (IOP) and sober living homes.
- The intensity of these treatment program options ranges significantly, from outpatient counseling to intensive inpatient therapy.
Windward Way Recovery is part of the Zinnia Health Network of addiction and mental health services. There are seven facilities in the network, focused on treatment paths that include detox and stabilization, residential/outpatient/partial hospitalization options, holistic and family approaches and unique LGBTQ+ program tracks. Please call, message or email us today to begin the process of freeing yourself from the prison of addiction.