Benzodiazepines, also known as benzos, are most commonly used to treat anxiety, but they are also used to address insomnia, alcohol withdrawal, and some other conditions. Medications such as diazepam (Valium), alprazolam (Xanax) and clonazepam (Klonopin) fall under the benzodiazepine class of drugs. Although they are highly effective in treating conditions they are intended for, it must be prescribed with caution and consumed as per the physician’s instructions. Individuals abusing opiates also abuse benzodiazepines simultaneously in order to spike the high they get from opiate abuse. If used for extended periods of time patients may develop a dependency on benzodiazepines because they are highly addictive.
The pleasurable sensations that make addictive drugs disastrously attractive for vulnerable individuals happens when dopamine levels in the brain’s reward area surge suddenly. Benzodiazepines work by inhibiting neurons that normally prevent excessive dopamine levels by down regulating the firing rates of neurons that produce dopamine, causing a dopamine surge. Such dopamine surges are temporary events, but when used repeatedly, addictive drugs cause long lasting changes in the reward system when used for a longer period of time.
What are Withdrawal Symptoms?
When usage of benzodiazepines is stopped abruptly after dependency has been developed, the person using/abusing benzodiazepines can experience intense unpleasant physical reactions. These are known as withdrawal symptoms. Benzodiazepine withdrawal symptoms include sleep disturbance, irritability, increased tension and anxiety, panic attacks, hand tremor, sweating, difficulty concentrating, dry wretching and nausea, palpitations headache and muscular pain. The intensity of these symptoms depends on the duration and frequency of drug intake. Unlike withdrawal from opiates, withdrawal from benzodiazepines can be dangerous as it can result in seizure, or even stroke. Most of these withdrawal symptoms usually last between 10 and 14 days, but increased anxiety can last until medication assisted detoxification is instituted.