The state of Texas is home to The Alamo, flies the flags of Spain, France, Mexico, Republic of Texas, Confederate States, and the United States of America, and was fought over for decades in the late 1800s. Texas is proudly nicknamed the Lone Star State and for good reason—to proclaim its former title of an independent republic and independence from Mexico. The state wears many badges of honor, but Texas also has a dark side and is home to problems with drug abuse and addiction. Addiction doesn’t look the same everywhere you go in the state, but a lot of Texas cities have had a serious problem when it comes to drugs like heroin, cocaine, marijuana, crack or meth—or even benzodiazepines. Sometimes treatment at a rehab center is the best way to fight addiction.
Benzodiazepine addiction has been on the rise in most parts of Texas for several decades. It’s a sedative used in medicine to treat people suffering from depression, muscle pains, anxiety, insomnia, panic disorders and alcohol withdrawal. As soon as a benzodiazepine (or any other prescription) is used for something other than its intended purpose, it becomes illegal; this is also known as drug abuse. Benzodiazepine abuse often leads to addiction and quitting once you’re addicted is one of the hardest things you’ll ever have to do and finding the right rehab can be the difference between life and death.
Understanding Benzodiazepine Abuse
When you take Benzodiazepine it gives you the feeling of euphoria. “The pleasurable sensations that make addictive drugs disastrously attractive for vulnerable individuals occur when dopamine levels in the brain’s reward area abruptly surge” (National Institute on Drug Abuse – NIDA). Drugs like benzodiazepines are commonly used for their pharmaceutical benefits, but can also be habit-forming. By definition, benzodiazepine abuse is using the drug any way other than it’s intended purpose. Abuse can include taking someone else’s prescription, self-medicating for anxiety, continuing to use benzodiazepines after the doctor recommends that you stop or taking the drug to get high and so on.
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Benzodiazepine has a sedating effect opposite of cocaine or caffeine—it’s more like opiates, cannabinoids or GHB. Researchers from Switzerland have done studies which suggest that “benzodiazepines weaken the influence of a group of cells, called inhibitory interneurons, in the brain’s ventral tegmental area (VTA). These neurons normally help prevent excessive dopamine levels by downregulating the firing rates of dopamine-producing neurons. Two negatives make a positive, so when benzodiazepines limit the interneurons’ restraining influence, the dopamine-producing neurons release more dopamine.”
What Are The Most Common Benzodiazepines Used In Texas?
Benzodiazepines can have a lot of different purposes and also comes under different names. These are the five most commonly prescribed and illicitly used forms of benzodiazepines on the market:
“Benzodiazepines are widely prescribed drugs. According to IMS HealthTM, there were 49.0 million alprazolam, 27.6 million lorazepam, 26.9 million clonazepam, 15.0 million diazepam, and 8.5 million temazepam prescriptions dispensed in the U.S. in 2011.” And even though Rohypnol (date rape drug) is illegal in the United States, it isn’t in Mexico and is regularly smuggled into Texas and California.
Is Benzodiazepine Addictive Or Habit Forming?
“Usually, benzodiazepines are not prescribed for long-term use because of the risk for developing tolerance, dependence, or addiction” (NIDA). It can be challenging to stop using benzodiazepines if you’ve build up a tolerance or become dependent on them. Once addiction sets in, it can seriously affect your life and more than just your mental stability. Addiction can affect your work, personal and financial life. Anyone can become addicted to drugs, but here’s one notion to consider from the DEA, “there is the potential for dependence on and abuse of benzodiazepines particularly by individuals with a history of multi-substance abuse.”
Benzodiazepine Withdrawal Symptoms
When a person stops using sedatives their brain is still craving the drug and so it produces an overflow of adrenaline which then leads to withdrawal symptoms. The withdrawal from benzodiazepines can be life threatening and lead to seizures and brain damage. You won’t necessarily have seizures when you stop using any benzodiazepine—it depends on the potency of the drug and a your individual reaction to lack of it.
Some of the most common withdrawal symptoms of a physical addiction to benzodiazepine are:
- Sleep Disturbance
- Increased Tension
- Panic Attacks
- Hand Tremor
- Difficulty Concentrating
- Dry Retching
- Some Weight Loss
- Muscular Pain and Stiffness
(U.S. National Library of Medicine)
As mentioned, “withdrawal phenomena appear to be more severe following withdrawal from high doses or short-acting benzodiazepines. Dependence on alcohol or other sedatives may increase the risk of benzodiazepine dependence, but it has proved difficult to demonstrate unequivocally differences in the relative abuse potential of individual benzodiazepines.”
How Many People Get Treatment For A Benzodiazepine Use Disorder In Texas?
It can be surprising to find out that a friend, loved-one or coworker is abusing drugs. It can be especially difficult to understand why they still use them once awful things have started to happen in their life—which is customary of a benzodiazepine use disorder. Although the exact number of people abusing benzodiazepines in Texas isn’t certain, the number of admissions into treatment is.
“Approximately 2 percent of the clients entering DSHS (Department of State Health Services) funded treatment in 2013 reported a primary problem with benzodiazepines. The number of treatment admissions with problems with alprazolam increased from 581 in 2010 to 995 in 2013” (NIDA). People who get treatment for addiction, whether by choice or not, can be fortunate enough to stay clean for the rest of their lives but sobriety is never a sure thing.
Sadly relapse is a possibility and can eventually lead to increased use, overdose and even death. From 1999 to 2013 poisoning from benzodiazepine increased from 55 to 254. “Alprazolam was the most abused benzodiazepine in terms of calls to poison control centers” (NIDA).
Why Does Texas Have Such A Big Problem With Addiction?
Texas isn’t nationally ranked as having the worst problem with prescription drugs, however with its proximity to Mexico makes the people living here more likely to try some of the illicit drugs being smuggled in. It is common for someone suffering from an addiction will have a drug of choice but be willing to try something new “at least once.” Cities like Houston, Dallas, Fort Worth, Austin, and Corpus Christi can potentially face problems with any drug that enters into the city, because more often than not, they are entering in large shipments which puts everyone at risk.
What Is A Houston Cocktail?
An article by The Texas Tribune proclaims that “deaths from accidental overdoses increased in the state by more than 150 percent from 1999 to 2007, from 790 to 1,987… Accidental poisoning during that time was the third-leading cause of injury-related deaths statewide, behind only car crashes and suicide…research shows that both in Texas and nationally, legal prescription drugs like oxycodone, hydrocodone and Xanax contributed to more overdose deaths than illicit drugs… The problem is particularly pronounced in Houston, where prescription drugs were identified in half of all accidental overdose deaths from 2005 to 2009.”
If you abuse drugs long enough, over time, you build up a tolerance and need to use more of the drug to get the same effect. Or you might use it with other drugs (i.e. alcohol and marijuana, heroin and crack, or benzodiazepine and prescription opioids). From this idea has been born the Houston Cocktail; which is a mixture of hydrocodone (Vicodin), alprazolam (Xanax) and carisoprodol (Soma). The Houston Cocktail or “Holy Trinity” has a similar high as heroin and can just as likely result in overdose.
Mixing Benzodiazepines With Opioids Or Alcohol
It can be dangerous to continue on living with a benzodiazepine addiction and even though drugs like opioids and alcohol can be dangerous on their own but mixing them with benzodiazepines can be deadly. So much that the Food and Drug Administration specifically warns against it; “taking opioids with benzodiazepines, other CNS depressant medicines, or alcohol, and caregivers of these patients, should seek medical attention immediately if they or someone they are caring for experiences symptoms of unusual dizziness or lightheadedness, extreme sleepiness, slowed or difficult breathing, or unresponsiveness.”
It might be hard to stop on your own and treatment and therapy for some, is the only thing that works. It won’t be easy—most people will have terrible withdrawals, relapse or find themselves replacing one drug with another. Even though it’s hard, it’s possible and millions of people find their own road to recovery through rehab. So if you’re struggling with an addiction to benzodiazepines, seeking treatment can be one of the best decisions you’ll ever make.
Benzodiazepine Addiction Treatment Modalities
There are a lot of different addiction treatment programs and oftentimes the methods used will be different from one person to the next. Some people will need the surveillance of a residential treatment and some may be able to get by with an outpatient treatment. Again, everyone’s addiction is caused by different variables and where one person’s environment may have played as the main part, another person may have become hooked on drugs as a result of a past trauma. Either way, most people aren’t able to stop using drugs or alcohol based on willpower and wishful thinking.
No matter who you are, your body will almost definitely go through a detoxification period when you first stop using benzodiazepines. After detox, some of the different addiction treatment modalities that can help you are:
- Medical Detoxification
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
- Dialectical Behavior Therapy
- Mindfulness and Stress Management
- Motivational Interviewing
- Inpatient and Outpatient Treatment
- Individual and Group Therapy
- Family Therapy and Support
- Relapse Prevention and Aftercare Support
- Adventure and Outdoor Therapy
Benzodiazepine Medical Detoxification
After you stop using any drug, your body goes through a detoxification stage where it pushes the drug out of your system. Let’s face it, a lot of us don’t have a great diet as it is and chemicals from drugs can build up – making us less healthy. During detox, you’ll really have a chance to kick out the impure remnants left over from an addiction allowing you to begin your road to recovery in the healthiest way possible. From a medical stand-point, a “detoxification safely manages the acute physical symptoms of withdrawal associated with stopping drug use. However, medical detoxification is only the first stage of addiction treatment and by itself does little to change long-term drug use” (NIDA).
Is There Medication-Assisted Therapy For Benzodiazepine?
Medication-Assisted Therapy (MAT) “is primarily used for the treatment of addiction to opioids such as heroin and prescription pain relievers that contain opiates.” Up to this point there is no medication approved by the FDA to help treat benzodiazepine addiction, withdrawals and/or detoxification. On the contrary, “combining medications used in MAT with anxiety treatment medications can be fatal. Types of anxiety treatment medications include derivatives of Benzodiazepine” (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration).
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) can help you better understand certain instances in life and see them for what they really are. It can show you how to have neutral feelings rather than harmful ones. CBT can also help you to realize that it is our reaction to things in life that can often harm us the most. The essence of CBT is that every behavior is learned and can therefore be forgotten or replaced; this is the main idea behind Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. It also works with the theory that a person’s thoughts, actions and reactions all play a part in helping them to achieve a balance. CBT can also be extremely helpful to help prevent relapse.
It works with a benzodiazepine addiction by teaching you how to cope with emotions with healthy behaviors rather than by using drugs. From the U.S. National Library of Medicine, “it does not deal primarily with the past. Cognitive behavioral therapy is much more concerned with dealing with current problems. The most important thing is helping people to help themselves: They should be able to cope with their lives again without therapy as soon as possible.” As with any drug treatment modality, Cognitive Behavior Therapy isn’t a no holds barred approach to addiction treatment. It requires complete participation from the patient, which is often one of the hardest parts.
Dialectical Behavior Therapy
Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) was originally used to help suicidal adult women with borderline personality disorder, but since is used in many forms of psychology. DBT can be used to help treat anxiety, depression, eating disorders, panic disorders and substance use disorders (SUD) such as benzodiazepine addiction. Much like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, DBT is based on changing your behavior and often rethinking your negative beliefs. It reminds you that it isn’t always necessary to always hide emotions though there is certainly a right time to hold back a little; an action also learned through DBT.
DBT teaches patients coping strategies, but also teaches them that it’s not only necessary to display emotion but also healthy. If you’re dealing with an addiction, you very well may be trying to mask emotions, or have simply gotten to the point where you don’t ever show them. Dialectical Behavior Therapy helps people remember that it’s okay to show emotion; to be angry, sad, or happy. We aren’t invincible so why try to pretend? Part of DBT works by helping you set goals and achieve them through a series of classes with a therapist and take home assignments. From the U.S. Library of Medicine, the goals and targets to reach regarding substance abuse include:
- decreasing abuse of substances, including illicit drugs and legally prescribed drugs taken in a manner not prescribed;
- alleviating physical discomfort associated with abstinence and/or withdrawal;
- diminishing urges, cravings, and temptations to abuse;
- avoiding opportunities and cues to abuse, for example by burning bridges to persons, places, and things associated with drug abuse and by destroying the telephone numbers of drug contacts, getting a new
- telephone number, and throwing away drug paraphernalia;
- reducing behaviors conducive to drug abuse, such as momentarily giving up the goal to get off drugs and instead functioning as if the use of drugs cannot be avoided; and
- increasing community reinforcement of healthy behaviors, such as fostering the development of new friends, rekindling old friendships, pursuing social/vocational activities, and seeking environments that
- support abstinence and punish behaviors related to drug abuse.
It’s also important to consider that, “patients with SUD typically begin DBT in a mental and behavioral state that we call ‘addict mind.’ Their thoughts, beliefs, actions, and emotions are under the control of drugs. As they achieve increasingly lengthy abstinence, they typically develop an outlook that we call ‘clean mind.’ In this state, they are off drugs but seemingly feel immune from future problems—a lack of vigilance that can set the stage for lapses” (U.S. National Library of Medicine).
Individual And Group Therapy For Benzodiazepine Addiction Treatment
Individual therapy can be essential for a person to get to know their therapist and grasp the methods being taught. It can also give a therapist an opportunity to get to know their patient, gain their trust and help them based solely on their needs. Group therapy can be just as beneficial, but for different reasons. Oftentimes in group settings of about 10 to 15 people, a therapist will go over a broader topic related to addiction. This can be helpful for each patient, because it helps them realize that they aren’t the only person who deals with the pain of an addiction—many times this is the first taste of a support group; which can be helpful both during and after treatment.
Inpatient Treatment And Outpatient Treatment
Of all of the different treatment plans, there are two main categories—inpatient and outpatient. Inpatient treatment can be beneficial, because it allows you to “get away from it all” and really focus on your recovery. Some say that with inpatient treatment that it’s more difficult to readjust once back in “reality,” but a lot of that has to do with keeping up with aftercare support and their relapse prevention plan.
Outpatient treatment is for the person who can’t get away from it all; which can can be due to obligations with work, school, children or others. Some people say that outpatient treatment was better for them because they were able to face “reality” as it came and use the methods learned in behavioral therapies like CBT and DBT when such problems arose. Either way you look at it, any treatment is better than no treatment and not everybody’s the same—neither approach will be easy and will both require the work and focus of each patient.
Holistic Benzo Addiction Treatment
If you are going to get well, you must decide for yourself to stop using benzodiazepines. Living with addiction is hard and quitting can be just as hard. We also understand that it can be just as hard to love yourself or others when your mind has been taken over by an addiction. Addiction is a disease of the mind, body and spirit and at Vertava Health of Texas we want to treat the whole problem and help you escape from the prison of addiction.
Contact us today with any more questions you may have about benzodiazepine addiction treatment.
- Drug Enforcement Administration — Benzodiazepines
- Food and Drug Administration — FDA Drug Safety Communication
- National Institute on Drug Abuse — Misuse of Prescription Drugs
- National Institute on Drug Abuse — Substance Abuse Trends in Texas: June 2014
- National Institute on Drug Abuse — Understanding Drug Abuse and Addiction: What Science Says
- National Institute on Drug Abuse — Well-Known Mechanism Underlies Benzodiazepines' Addictive Properties
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration — Medication and Counseling Treatment
- The Texas Tribune — State of Overdose
- U.S. National Library of Medicine — Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
- U.S. National Library of Medicine — The Benzodiazepine Withdrawal Syndrome
- U.S. National Library of Medicine — Dialectical Behavior Therapy for Substance Abusers