While the opioid epidemic is justifiably getting a lot of attention, other drugs pose serious threats, too. If not treated properly, benzodiazepine addiction can be fatal. Becoming addicted to benzodiazepines (or benzos) is surprisingly easy, and it can occur after short-term usage.
Researchers discovered the addictive power of benzos is similar to the addictiveness of opioids. Benzos spike the dopamine in your body, which causes a sudden, strong wave of pleasure. For some people, this feeling proves to be irresistible.
Oxazepam is a benzo that was initially created to treat anxiety disorders and insomnia. As the most common mental illness in the U.S, anxiety disorders affect about 40 million adults older than age 18, which is 18 percent of the population. However, only 36 percent of these users will ever receive proper treatment. Anxiety and depression often go hand-in-hand, so individuals who have both disorders may turn oxazepam.
Unfortunately, users get addicted to oxazepam because it works so well. Even if they take it as prescribed, they may not understand the true impacts of taking it. The chemical composition of benzos can make it easy to abuse the drugs. Individuals may feel like they have their lives back, but if they start abusing oxazepam, they could be worse off than they were before they started taking it.
Treatment for substance abuse requires a multitude of therapy sessions. Quitting is extremely difficult, and it can be dangerous. Among all prescription medications, benzos are associated with the greatest number of early deaths.
By increasing the levels of a chemical called gamma-Aminobutyric acid (GABA), your brain can regulate feelings of anxiety, stress, and fear by inhibiting the nerve impulses that carry these feelings to the brain. Oxazepam mimics this natural GABA flow, so it binds with receptors in the brain, activates them over and over, and creates an excess flood of GABA.
Abusing oxazepam can create a euphoric high that’s similar to drunkenness. When the drug is taken for longer than intended, it can easily lead to tolerance, dependence, and addiction.
When taken in high doses, it can lead to a fatal overdose, and the potential for this outcome is even higher when users also take opioids, alcohol, or barbiturates.
Oxazepam is almost always prescribed for short-term therapeutic use. So when the drug is used for longer than four weeks, the odds increase that the user will become addicted.
When used as prescribed, oxazepam can be an extremely positive way to treat sleep or anxiety disorders. The problem lies in the assumption that the drug is safe because a doctor prescribed it. Due to this popular misconception, users should be aware that prescriptions come with risks.
Drug addiction isn’t easy to detect in some, but there are warning signs that you can identify in oxazepam abuse.
The first sign is developing a tolerance, which occurs when the brain requires more of the substance than when you started using it. When you increase the dosage, you risk physical dependence. This outcome occurs when the brain starts relying on the drug to maintain normalcy, and sudden cessation can lead to withdrawal symptoms, which include:
Withdrawal symptoms from oxazepam can be dangerous if they aren’t properly treated. If you’re thinking about no longer taking this drug, you must speak with your physician to devise a plan that will prevent dangerous repercussions.
Addiction is the final, most serious stage of a substance use disorder. It’s defined as the compulsive use of a drug, despite serious consequences. Addiction is a chronic disease. While it’s difficult to conquer it on your own, it’s treatable with the assistance of medical professionals and addiction specialists.
The problem with sedative drugs like oxazepam is that its effects lead to injuries or accidents. To make matters worse, mixing sedative drugs with alcohol increases the sedative effects. By doing this, it increases the risk of injury while driving or when performing tasks that require you to be alert.
Using oxazepam and alcohol can also increase the odds of experiencing life-threatening side effects. These may include lightheadedness, unusual dizziness, severe sleepiness, and difficulty breathing.
When oxazepam is mixed with opioids like Vicodin or OxyContin, the risk of life-threatening side effects can increase. Overdose is extremely common when people mix opioids with benzodiazepines, which can ultimately lead to death. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), more than 30 percent of overdoses involving opioids also involve benzodiazepines. When two depressant drugs enter the equation, the chance of death increases exponentially.
An oxazepam overdose will occur when someone takes too much of the drug. It can occur on purpose, or by accident, but benzos are some of the most commonly used medications used for suicide.
If you suspect someone has overdosed on oxazepam or any drug, you must immediately contact 911. Most people will recover with the right treatment, but slow breathing or being in a coma for extended periods can result in permanent damage. While there are dangers associated with drug abuse, it is challenging to stop using the drug on your own.
The safest, most effective way to overcome an addiction to oxazepam is to commit yourself to a treatment center. Addiction is a deadly but treatable disease that requires the assistance of trained medical professionals. The path to sobriety can be long and dark, but users who attend treatment centers have a higher rate of long-term success. With the right motivation and therapies, sobriety is achievable.
The first stage of treatment is medical detoxification, and it’s often regarded as the most difficult stage. Substances such as oxazepam are immediately admitted to detox, which involves 24/7 treatment by medical professionals. For instance, they provide medications that help users safely taper the user off the drug.
You’ll be monitored to ensure you’re responding to treatment without any medical complications. Detox is also an ideal place for users who have dual diagnosis. As you start detox, you’ll be medically assessed by the medical staff to determine the state of mind you’re in, including whether other drugs are present in your system. You’ll only be required to attend minimal group therapy in detox.
The staff understands how difficult this transition can be, and they want to make you as comfortable as possible. After detox, the clinicians will determine the next level of care that corresponds to your current needs, which could mean residential treatment to continue your recovery or admittance to an outpatient treatment center. If the clinicians determine that you require additional care to treat medical problems, they will place you in residential treatment, depending on the severity of your addiction. You’ll live onsite for up to 90 days, and you’ll attend various therapy sessions.
If you can live on your own without medical complications or the risk of relapse, you’ll be placed in an outpatient program, an ideal placement for users who are students or full-time employees. You will receive the same kinds of therapies as residential, but you will be able to commute to them. Some of these therapies include:
Lydiard, R. B. (n.d.). The role of GABA in anxiety disorders. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12662130
Anxiety and Depression Association of America. (n.d.). Facts & Statistics. Retrieved from https://adaa.org/about-adaa/press-room/facts-statistics
National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018, March 15). Benzodiazepines and Opioids. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/drugs-abuse/opioids/benzodiazepines-opioids
What is GABA? Retrieved from https://www.webmd.com/vitamins-and-supplements/qa/what-is-gaba
National Institute on Drug Abuse. (n.d.). 8: Medical detoxification. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/teaching-packets/understanding-drug-abuse-addiction/section-iii/7-medical-detoxification