Addiction is a very indiscriminate disease, affecting virtually the entire demographic spectrum. No matter whether a person is male or female, young or old, black or white or green, he or she could develop a debilitating substance abuse problem that would ruin or end the person’s life. According to current estimates, there are 24.6 million addicts over the age of 12 in the U.S. alone, which amounts to almost ten percent of the country’s population.
Due to these alarming numbers, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is referred to the escalated rates of addiction as an epidemic, especially with regard to rates of heroin and painkiller abuse, putting into perspective the serious effects that this disease is having at both the micro and macro levels.
In addition, to there being many people who are suffering from addiction, there are also a variety of substances to which they are addicted. Although some substances are inherently more dangerous than others — for instance, cocaine is much more dangerous than marijuana — each substance comes with its own set of dangers.
In addition to being addictive, these substances cause physical, mental, emotional, and even spiritual changes that cause a person to barely resemble his or her former self. Moreover, addiction is a disease that affects an addict’s loved ones almost as much as the addict him or herself, which is why it’s often referred to as “the family disease”.
If one were to ask several people to name to most addictive and dangerous drug, it’s likely that one would get several different answers since, again, each mind-altering, a chemical substance has its own specific risks. However, there’s been increasing evidence suggesting that benzodiazepines are one of the most dangerous drugs, but part of its danger actually pertains to some of its effects when a benzodiazepine addict stops taking the drug. As such, the following will define and describe benzodiazepines, explaining their specific effects and why benzodiazepine withdrawal is so dangerous.
What Exactly are Benzodiazepines?
Before the heroin epidemic that is ravaging the U.S. today, there was a serious painkiller epidemic that was a top concern of both lawmakers and citizens alike. There were vast amounts of various types of prescription medications being prescribed and over-prescribed, causing many of them to be diverted and sold to substance abusers on the streets.
Moreover, there were some states — such as Florida — that lacked a centralized database to monitor the prescribing and dispensing of dangerous controlled substances, which caused many substance abusers to make monthly trips these states, oftentimes from the other side of the country, to see several different doctors, obtain duplicate prescriptions for controlled prescription drugs, and return home with hundreds of pills that would be sold on the streets.
Most people associate the prescription pill epidemic with opiate painkillers since they were the most desired prescription medication; however, another type of medication that substance abusers sought was benzodiazepines. Different from opiates in a number of important ways, benzodiazepines are psychoactive drugs that target the central nervous system, causing sedating, hypnotic effects.
Benzodiazepines such as Xanax and Valium were prescribed to patients who suffered from conditions involving anxiety, insomnia, panic attacks, epileptic seizures, panic attacks, and similar conditions. However, due to their effects, benzodiazepines are also frequently used for This type of medication worked by enhancing a particular neurotransmitter — gamma-aminobutyric acid, or GABA for short — that effectively reduced the activity of neurons in the brain that are responsible for feelings of anxiety and stress. Typically, benzodiazepines were prescribed and taken for only short periods since their effects are quite strong and they have a high potential for abuse and addiction.
What Makes Benzodiazepines so Dangerous?
Although many substance abusers consider the effects of benzodiazepines to be much less pronounced than more preferable, powerful substances like heroin and painkillers, benzodiazepines are still incredibly dangerous for a few important reasons. First, being that their effects are less pronounced than most other substances, people who abuse benzodiazepines are prone to overdosing by taking too many of them in an attempt to amplify their effects.
Additionally, substance abusers frequently take benzodiazepines with other substances, especially opiates, because layering the drugs amplifies the effects of both; again, this significantly increases one’s potential for overdosing. There are some combinations involving benzodiazepines that can very easily be lethal, including the mixing of benzodiazepines with methadone or other opioids.
However, one of the most unexpected dangers of benzodiazepines is when a person stops taking the drug. When an addict wants to overcome his or her addiction, the first step is to cease consumption and complete a detox. For a benzodiazepine addict, detoxing is one of the most dangerous phases of its abuse. Benzodiazepines were put to medicinal use due to their being so effective for altering one’s brain chemistry, but this efficacy is also what makes them dangerous.
In effect, when a medication is significantly altering one’s neurochemical levels, he or she can’t simply just stop taking the drug due to its intense physiological effects on the brain and the body becoming intensely dependent on the drug’s effects. This makes benzodiazepines quite similar to alcohol in the sense that both substances can harm addicts who cease consumption too abruptly. Without the proper precautions, there have been a number of instances of benzodiazepine withdrawal becoming fatal.
How to Mitigate the Dangers of Benzodiazepine Withdrawal
In order to overcome physical benzodiazepine withdrawal without putting a person’s safety and life in jeopardy, he or she needs to complete detoxification in a medically-supervised detox program at a drug rehab that’s specifically equipped to monitor for signs of danger during this process.
Fortunately, it’s possible to detox from benzodiazepines safely, which is most often accomplished by slowly tapering the individual’s dosage rather than ceasing use all at once, or by switching the individual to weaker benzodiazepine and tapering him or her off the weaker drug. Although there are a few other, less common ways of achieving a benzo detox, these methods are considered the most effective and have the most evidence for success.
Reclaim Your Independence by Calling the Palm Beach Institute Today
While it’s true that benzodiazepines are incredibly dangerous, any other substance can be dangerous as well. It’s important for those who are addicted to mind-altering substances to get the treatments they need so that they don’t fall victim to some of the worst outcomes associated with drug use. For a free consultation with one of our recovery specialists, call the Palm Beach Institute at 855-960-5456. We’re available day or night to help you or a loved one begin the healing journey.