The most commonly prescribed medication for anxiety and depression are a group of drugs called benzodiazepines. This category includes recognizable names such as Xanax and Valium. These medications are prescribed for a variety of conditions, including anxiety, insomnia, withdrawal from alcohol, seizure, as a muscle relaxer, and as a sedative before events such as surgery.
Because the drugs have such strong, sedative effects and can be found in medicine cabinets across the country, it is quite common for them to be abused. What starts as simple experimentation with the drugs may quickly lead to chronic abuse.
Benzodiazepines rarely are the cause of death or illness when taken on their own, but when combined with other substances such as alcohol, the results can be deadly. There are many cases of intentional overdoses, as well as accidental ones, in emergency rooms nationwide. Many notable celebrities and other public figures have died from a lethal combination of benzodiazepines and alcohol in recent decades.
There has also been a recent rise in instances of benzodiazepines being used as a sort of date rape drug, where a medication is added in powdered form to a drink containing alcohol. This is usually done at a party or other social setting where drinking is occurring. The combination then impairs the normal functioning of whoever consumes the drink.
There's no doubt that benzodiazepine abuse has become part of a larger prescription drug abuse epidemic in our country. This is why it's important to be aware of the issue and know how to recognize the symptoms of abuse. Some of these include: extreme drowsiness or dizziness, confusion, blurred vision, weakness, slurred speech, lack of physical coordination and balance, difficulty breathing, and with very high doses, coma.
Many of those who abuse benzodiazepines can continue to function in their day to day life, but as their addiction progresses they may take bigger and more frequent doses which then cause some noticeable symptoms.
It's important to monitor the behavior of a loved one who is taking benzodiazepines. Have they been taking more than their recommended dosage, or exhibiting some of the physical symptoms? Their appearance or behavior may have changed drastically or their relationships may begin to suffer. It may be time for them to get help.
Benzodiazepine addiction creates a physical and psychological dependence that is difficult to overcome. An abrupt halt to the dosages will create withdrawal symptoms that can be life threatening. This is why it's important to seek professional help.
If you suspect that a friend or loved one has taken benzodiazepines with alcohol, it's important to get them to a hospital. The combination of the two often causes a lethal overdose.
Getting help for prescription drug abuse will need to be done with the help of a doctor or an addiction specialist. Often, a person will start out by undergoing a detox under medical supervision or in a rehab facility.
This involves a gradual reduction of the amount of benzodiazepines in the patient's system to prevent any serious withdrawal symptoms. Next, they'll begin treatment for their addiction. Rehab is a good option because it provides professional addiction treatment as well as social support from others in the facility.
After a stay in rehab is completed, it's important for the patient to continue their recovery process with 12 step groups or other support groups that keep them focused and motivated. Family and friends should be part of their support system as well.