The drugs in the class known as benzodiazepines—or benzos for short—are generally used to treat anxiety and panic disorders. While we all feel a sense of anxiety from time to time, a person with a disorder rooted in anxiety or panic may experience those feelings constantly or with particular intensity—or both. For those struggling with anxiety or panic, benzos can provide a sense of calm that they have been longing for but simply could not achieve.
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What Are Benzos?
Benzos are central nervous system depressants. That means they work by applying the brakes to a racing mind. That slowing of brain activity can be a wonderful thing for someone who is used to having their brain going a mile a minute all of the time as they worry about most everything—even things they know they don’t really need to worry about.
But in some cases, this welcome relief from anxiety and panic can lead to something that really is worrisome: a substance use disorder.
Let’s take a look at two specific benzos—Ativan (lorazepam) and Valium (diazepam)—and the ways in which they can go from beneficial to bad news all too easily.
A Is for Ativan
Ativan is one of the more powerful benzos. On the one hand, that can make it useful in treating mental health disorders. On the other hand, the drug can be quite dangerous if misused. As is true with many drugs, the more you take, the more you will need to take to achieve the same positive effects. As your body builds up both a tolerance and a dependence, you will start to notice a range of physical symptoms that are not calming at all:
- Loss of appetite
- Excessive sleeping
- Nausea and vomiting
- Excessive sweating
V Is for Valium
The story with Valium is much the same. It is an effective tool for treating anxiety and panic disorders—and it can be quite problematic when misused. Symptoms associated with misuse of Valium include:
- Changes in appetite
- Drowsiness and/or dizziness
- Dilated pupils and/or blurred vision
- Slurred speech
- Impaired coordination and/or weakness
- Slowed breathing and/or irregular heartbeat
- Skin rashes
- Increased feelings of sadness and/or irritability
W Is for Withdrawal
A person experiencing the negative symptoms of either Ativan or Valium misuse will likely want to stop taking the drug. In theory, that should be a simple matter. Stop acquiring the drug—whether you are doing that via doctor shopping or some other illicit means—and it should be easy to stop taking it.
But the odds are quite good that it won’t be easy at all.
That’s because your body and brain develop a tolerance and dependency on whichever benzo you happen to be misusing. If you try to stop taking the drug, you will likely experience a range of unpleasant withdrawal symptoms—including extremely strong cravings for the drug. Often, these cravings send people back to the drug, even though they know it would be far better to leave Ativan or Valium behind.
To add insult to injury, withdrawal symptoms may include intense feelings of anxiety—the very thing you started taking the drug to overcome. It is a cruel irony that a drug that can be so beneficial can—if misused—cause the very problem it was intended to fix.
Your best move if you find yourself addicted to Ativan or Valium is to get help at a fully accredited residential treatment facility that can see you through detox and rehab and also ensure you have the skills and resources necessary to begin your recovery journey with confidence.
Bel Aire Is for Helping
At Bel Aire Recovery Center, we offer compassion and expertise in a judgment-free environment. Our medically supervised detoxification will get the drugs out of your system safely, and our rehabilitation program will help you develop skills that can form a foundation for your long-term sobriety. We will also address any co-occurring mental health disorders (including the anxiety that led your doctor to prescribe a benzo in the first place) because we understand the strong link between good mental health and lasting sobriety.
If you are struggling with Ativan, Valium, another benzo, or any other drugs, we can help you achieve and maintain your sobriety, shore up your mental health, and reclaim your life.