Sedative, Hypnotic, or Anxiolytic Related Disorders
Sedative, hypnotic, anxiolytic use disorder is a problematic pattern of use that causes significant problems, distress, and/or impairment. The severity of this disorder is based on how many symptoms the individual is experiencing. When two to three symptoms are experienced in the past 12 months the disorder is considered mild; four to five symptoms are moderate, and six or more symptoms are considered severe.
Symptoms of a sedative, hypnotic, anxiolytic use disorder include the following:
- Larger amounts of sedatives, hypnotics, or anxiolytics are used over a longer period than was intended
- Persistent desire or unsuccessful efforts to control use
- A great deal of time is spent obtaining, using, or recovering from sedatives, hypnotics, or anxiolytics
- Craving or a strong desire to use sedatives, hypnotics, or anxiolytics Recurrent stimulant use when it is physically hazardous
- Continued use despite knowledge of how it is causing or exacerbating physical and/or psychological problems
- Increased tolerance for sedatives, hypnotics, or anxiolytics
- Withdrawal symptoms when use is stopped
Commonly referred to as “benzos,” benzodiazepines include Valium (diazepam), Xanax (alprazolam), and Klonopin (clonazepam), and more. Benzodiazepines are a class of prescription medications that raise the level of the neurotransmitter GABA, that is effective in sedating or calming a person. These drugs are all considered Central Nervous System depressants and slow brain functions and thinking. They can be used to treat anxiety, sleep disorders, and treat muscle spasms. Most benzos are ingested orally in pill form but some crush and snort the medication.
Many doctors consider benzo abuse and addiction in the early stages of an epidemic similar to what we’ve seen as a result of the opioid crisis in America over the last fifteen years. Doctors are almost unanimous in declaring that, while benzos are helpful for treating short-term and acute cases of anxiety and pain, benzos should not be used for long-term treatment of psychiatric problems.
Addiction and dependence on benzos cut through all age groups. A new study warns that millions of elderly Americans have become addicted to Xanax, prescribed for sleep and depression. The study concludes that one in four elderly persons who are prescribed a benzo develops a chemical dependence. The recommended duration of prescription should be no more than four weeks, but often people can be prescribed benzos for more than eight months. For every ten days of use beyond the four weeks, long-term risks double.
Valium treats anxiety disorders as well as an aid in treating withdrawal from alcohol dependence, especially in the treatment of delirium tremens and seizures. It is also used as a sedative for surgery and the relief of extreme muscle spasms. Ironically, valium treats seizures for alcohol addiction, but once addicted to Valium, its withdrawal symptoms cause symptoms as well.
Xanax is a popular prescription used to treat anxiety and panic disorders. Xanax abuse has become a dangerous new trend among teenagers, especially. Because of its non-opioid classification, many teens consider it a safer drug to use compared to prescription opioids or heroin. While teenage drug abuse of opioids is declining slightly, abuse of Xanax is increasing. Withdrawal from Xanax is especially painful and can last for more than two months.
A prescription pill that is often used to treat seizure disorders such as epilepsy. Klonopin has the same severe withdrawals as Valium and Xanax. And like the other benzos, long-term use can result in irreparable brain damage.
Dangers of Withdrawal
Some of the side-effects of benzodiazepines are: slurred speech, confusion, headache, dizziness, memory problems, slowed breathing, and decrease in blood pressure.
Long-term or prolonged use can result in substance abuse dependence and addiction because a person develops a tolerance to the drug. After someone has used benzos consistently for an extended amount of time, the user forms a drug tolerance, meaning that he or she has to take a higher dose to feel the same effects as the first time they used a benzo. Once addicted, withdrawal can begin in as little as a few hours after the drug was last used.
Withdrawal from benzos can be especially dangerous. It is highly recommended by healthcare professionals to detox under medical care and supervision because acute withdrawal can include multiple seizures and hallucinations, in addition to anxiety, insomnia, unbearable cravings, extreme mood swings, severe sweating and dehydration, and increased heart rate and blood pressure.
Seizures from benzo withdrawal are severe. Please contact us if you fear a loved one or yourself is addicted to benzos before you consider quitting cold-turkey.
Benzos and Opioids – A Scary Combination
According to the CDC, deaths involving a combination of benzos and opioids have increased from almost no deaths in 1999 to more than 7,000 deaths in 2015 alone. The amount of benzo prescriptions in America, likewise, has risen by more than 65% from 8.1 million to 13.5 million in 2013. Mixing benzos with opioids is especially dangerous because both drugs sedate users, decrease cognitive abilities, and increase the chance of overdose death because they both severely suppress breathing abilities.
Quitting benzos can be very difficult for the user, and it can result in very serious health complications. If you, your child, your significant other, or your friend is addicted and/or abusing benzos, we are here to help. We have 24-hour medical staff who devise a plan to cut off the dependency while keeping the user safe from unnecessary health complications. Please call us with any questions. We are always available to help and to provide hope for the addict or the addict’s family.