The opioid crisis is often in the news, and it has led to a severe rise in overdose rates. However, there are other drug issues as well, and one of these is the misuse of benzodiazepines, also called benzos. According to Healthline, “while doctors are prescribing fewer painkillers, prescriptions for these anti-anxiety drugs are still going up.” Are the problems with benzo misuse another crisis in the making?
Benzo Misuse in Ohio
Right now, the focus in Ohio is on the opioid crisis. However, this can mean that other forms of drug misuse can be overlooked, which may not be the best for the future of those who are addicted or will become addicted to benzos.
According to the Ohio Substance Abuse Monitoring Network, access to benzos is widespread in Ohio. The report notes:
“Participants and community professionals continued to report Xanax® as the most available sedative-hypnotic in terms of widespread illicit use.”
Unfortunately, like other drugs, the use of Xanax and other substances can be unreliable. There are pills that are created with designer drugs and fentanyl, but they are sold and look like Xanax. This makes it especially difficult for those who misuse the drugs to know what they are getting, adding further risk to this form of substance misuse.
While the state is more focused on opioids right now, other states are considering how to manage benzo addiction. In Massachusetts, the state passed a bill in July 2018 that asks patients to undertake several forms of patient education prior to receiving benzodiazepines. This could be a possible avenue for Ohio as well if doctors want to continue to prescribe benzos to patients.
Why Are Benzos a Problem?
Patients often come to doctors looking for a simple fix to a problem, and in return, it is tempting for doctors to write a prescription that seems to address that problem. In large part, it was the overprescription of pain medications that led to the opioid crisis. Using those drugs as common painkillers when they are, in fact, seriously addictive led to health effects that are still being felt around the nation.
Is something similar occurring with benzos? According to The Hill, “an article in The American Journal of Public Health warned that the amount of benzodiazepine prescribed has increased by over 300 percent in 17 years.”
Doctors may feel it is their responsibility to focus on making the mental health of their patients better, and those experiencing stress can seek out pills instead of looking to other avenues such as exercise and meditation to control their stress and anxiety. Benzos are also being prescribed for sleep issues such as insomnia.
This would be less of a problem if benzos were not addictive, but they are. Even those who use benzos as prescribed can become addicted to the drugs. In fact, 20 to 30 percent of those who use benzos for more than a few weeks or months will become addicted to them. For those who are experiencing pain and stress or anxiety, benzos can also be prescribed with opioids, exacerbating the addiction issue.
Benzos are usually effective in treating anxiety. Unfortunately, doctors often prescribe them for years. They should be no more than a temporary fix, but instead, people are using these drugs for a long time. According to Healthline, over time these drugs can cause the problem that they are designed to help, leading to problems with anxiety, mood changes and insomnia. For example, if you take benzos to get to sleep, you could have problems getting to sleep without them, so this makes you dependent on the drugs to rest. The brain adapts to the use of these external chemicals and starts to rely on them for assistance. There are also serious potential side effects that include memory loss, confusion, dementia, falls and respiratory arrest.
The process of tapering off from benzos can take over a year. The detoxification from benzo misuse needs to be taken seriously. In fact, it should be medically supervised, since it is a challenging process and can cause serious side effects and even death.
Where Can Ohioans Turn for Help?
When you are struggling with substance misuse, it can be difficult to understand the various options available to you for treatment and how they can help you become mentally and physically healthier. When you are looking for a treatment center, you should look for the following programs and services to help you achieve sobriety:
- Medical assistance: A treatment program can provide assistance in the physical process of withdrawal from drugs.
- Intensive inpatient therapy: This is often the beginning of the road to sobriety. An intensive inpatient program can be residential and generally incorporates therapies such as counseling and group therapy as well as alternative therapies.
- Outpatient therapy: Outpatient therapies allow you to live at home or in alternative housing while you pursue therapy. You may also be able to work part-time.
- Mental health and dual diagnosis support: Many people with substance use disorders have other mental health challenges such as anxiety and depression. It is essential to address these challenges to fully address any reliance on addictive substances.
- Alternative therapies: Treatment centers also offer therapies that can create a more positive space in your life, such as recreation, yoga, art and equine therapy. These are activities that you can carry into your life after treatment.
- Aftercare: These programs are essential for the ongoing health and wellbeing of people who have gone through rehab programs. They provide counseling and other programs that allow you to move into life and work but maintain sobriety. Some treatment centers also offer sober housing to help you find your footing in the community in a positive, sober living situation.
If you are struggling with an addiction to benzos or any other type of drugs, The Recovery Village Columbus is here for you. The facility offers inpatient and outpatient programs that can help you move toward your goal of sobriety. Talk with us today to learn about admission.
Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village Columbus aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.