In our country’s ongoing fight against substance abuse, opioid medications like Oxycodone and hydrocodone have taken up most of the headlines. It is more than likely due to the fact that these drugs share a common link to heroin, and being able to mention a hard drug in relation to prescription drugs is good sensationalism for the media.
In this quest for ratings, the group of drugs known as benzodiazepines, or ‘benzos’ are just as harmful, but often ignored by the media. Popular drugs such as Ambien, Valium, and Xanax fall under the category of benzos and the American Addiction Centers wants to tell people they are just as addictive and dangerous as any of the previously mentioned opioid drugs.
According to the American Addiction Center, benzodiazepines are normally used to treat brain conditions such as anxiety, epilepsy, and seizures. However, these drugs are very easy to abuse. This is because of their ability to cause slowing and a calming effect on the brain. Overtime the brain develops a tolerance to the drug and requires more of it to gain the same effect.
This tolerance can increase and increase until it becomes a dependency. Once the dependency comes, then comes the addiction phase. Once the addiction phase is on, suddenly stopping usage of the drug will cause withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms include vomiting, hallucinations, and even death, depending on the severity of the addiction.
Benzodiazepines cause addiction through the effects they have on chemicals in the brain. The calming effect is caused by a stimulating of a brain chemical known as GABA. Benzos will also cause dopamine surges that the brain craves and associates with happiness. This will cause the brain cells to continually call for the drug. Most cannot resist these calls.
Dr Lawrence Weinstein, the Chief Medical Officer of the American Addiction Centers
has given some proper advice for anyone who has or anticipates a need for benzodiazepines in the future. Doctors are encouraged to use benzos as a third resort. Perhaps some supplements or meditation should be advised before any prescription medicine. Goals for healing need to be established while options are discussed.
If any benzos are needed in treatment, a thorough discussion of the side effects and signs of addiction must be discussed with the patients. Benzos should never be considered as a long term treatment, due to the high likelihood of high tolerance and addiction.
Benzodiazepines have become common in the medicine cabinets of more and more Americans, to the tune of a 67 percent increase in the past decade. More than 1 in 8 adults have used benzos in the past year, with 17 percent reporting high usage.
Regular use of benzos cause cognitive impairment and memory loss, and has been known to cause dementia. Other side effects include dizziness, impaired coordination, and depression. Weinstein encourages his patients to consider alternative drugs, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs.
Of course, no one should ignore the non drug treatments, such as therapy and relaxation technologies.
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