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Why Should You Be Worried About the Benzodiazepine Epidemic?

An alarming trend among teens and young adults is the growing use of Benzodiazepine. This class of drugs is more commonly known as “benzos.” Some of the most common forms of benzodiazepines include Valium, Xanax, Klonopin, Ativan, and Librium. 

What you might not know is that they are some of the most addictive substances on the market, even more so than tobacco and alcohol. Due to this fact, they are taking lives faster than cocaine and heroin combined. This epidemic has made an impact on a lot of people. The National Institute On Drug Abuse states that overdose deaths involving “benzos” increased nearly ten folds since 1999

What Are Benzodiazepines?

Benzodiazepines are a class of medications that work in the brain and central nervous system. They are often prescribed to treat anxiety and sleep disorders. They also treat muscle spasms, seizures, trouble sleeping, alcohol, and withdrawal. 

Essentially, benzodiazepines act on receptors in the brain that help regulate the body’s response to stress. They increase the activity of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), a neurotransmitter that inhibits activity in your central nervous system. Some examples of benzodiazepines include:

  • Alprazolam (Xanax)
  • Estazolam (ProSom)
  • Flurazepam (Dalmane)
  • Temazepam (Restoril)
  • Triazolam (Halcion)
  • Clonazepam (Klonopin)
  • Diazepam (Valium)
  • Lorazepam (Ativan)

Benzodiazepines Impact on the Brain

The human body naturally produces chemical compounds known as endocannabinoids that influence receptors in the brain. According to scientific research, benzodiazepine drugs bind to these same receptors to produce their effects. Most benzos work by enhancing the impact of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), a neurotransmitter that suppresses or dampens nerve activity in the brain. Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) is an inhibitory neurotransmitter that sends messages from one neuron to another, telling them to slow down or stop firing nerve impulses.

Benzos also affect another part of the brain called the mesolimbic system, responsible for feelings of reward and pleasure. With repeated use, benzos enhance these feelings, causing dopamine to flood through the brain. This reinforces behaviors like taking more benzos, building up addiction.

The Addictive Nature of Benzodiazepines

Unfortunately, benzodiazepine abuse has become a much more common occurrence among teens and young adults. While these medications can be helpful for the short-term treatment of anxiety or trouble sleeping, they are not intended for long-term use because they can cause mental and physical dependence. For the following reasons,  benzodiazepines prove a high risk for dependence and addiction: 

  • Widely available: Benzodiazepines are the most commonly prescribed medications in the United States, with over 100 million prescriptions written last year. Even teenagers can easily obtain benzos. This is because benzos are often prescribed to teens to treat anxiety and depression. Teens can access benzos even without a prescription from peers or family members.
  • Intense feelings of euphoria: Benzos, potent sedatives prescribed to treat anxiety and insomnia, can lead to feelings of euphoria even when used as directed. As a result, many users increase their dosages or take several doses throughout the day to maintain the euphoria or sedative effect. Addiction becomes more likely since a greater dosage produces an even more incredible sensation of relaxation and bliss. 
  • Benzodiazepines act quickly: Benzodiazepines produce their calming effect within 20 minutes to 2 hours after ingestion. This fast-acting effect makes benzodiazepines very tempting for people who need relief from anxiety or stress. Other anti-anxiety medications may take several weeks before they start working at total capacity, which makes benzos more attractive for people. 
  • Withdrawal symptoms: Though benzodiazepines work quickly, they leave the body quickly. Subsequently, they may cause dangerous withdrawal symptoms when they wear off. Additionally, long-term benzodiazepine users may suffer withdrawal symptoms when they try to quit, making it hard for those who abuse the drug to stop. Withdrawal symptoms include anxiety, insomnia, nausea, muscle cramps, irritability, and even severe seizures.
  • Combining it with other substances: Some teens combine benzos with other substances. They often mix benzos with other drugs like alcohol or opioids, increasing their sedative effects. Such a combination also increases the risk of overdose and dependence.
  • The teen’s brain: Scientists show the impact of the brain’s hyperactive reward system during adolescence. The reward center of a teenager’s brain responds when they think they will receive something positive. Unfortunately, drug use can trigger this same response, leading to addiction. Ultimately, the more often teens use benzodiazepines, the more their brains adapt to their presence. It can lead to tolerance and dependence, which means teens will need to detox from it. 

Benzodiazepine Treatment for Teens with SUD

Treating a benzodiazepine addiction can take months. However, with the right combination of detoxification and therapy, teen addicts can become sober, healthy, and happy. 

With detoxification, the body eliminates Benzodiazepine from its system. Teens can do this with medical supervision at a detox center or hospital. Once the body clears the body of the substances, the teen can receive therapy and educational counseling. These sessions usually transpire in one-on-one or group settings with other teens who share similar problems. Counseling and therapy work hand-in-hand to resolve the issues behind their addiction and prevent relapse.

Dependence can quickly develop when teens use prescribed benzodiazepines to treat anxiety or depression. Teens hold a greater risk of abusing these substances due to the recreational use of benzo. Teens also face significant stressors from peers, parents, teachers, school, financial problems, and self-esteem. The onset of SUD is a clear indication that your teen needs help from an addiction treatment center like Clearfork Academy. With us, your teen will develop the tools necessary to live a life free from addiction. We offer a warm environment to help your teen feel safe as they work through treatment. Our program utilizes evidence-based practices, and our staff consists of some of the most highly regarded professionals in the field. If you suspect that your child has benzo addiction, seek professional help today. Our admissions staff is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. To learn more,  contact us at (817) 259-2597.

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