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Benzodiazepines: Long Term Effect of Chronic Use

Benzodiazepines, such as Xanax and Ativan, are a category of drugs used for the treatment of anxiety disorders. They work by inhibiting the firing of brain neurons associated with fear and anxiety, leading to calmness, relaxation, and sedation. There is a high risk of abuse of these drugs because of their ability to rapidly reduce anxiety and stress, giving the user a mild euphoria, as well as their ability to potentiate the effects of other substances. Chronic abuse of benzodiazepines carries a multitude of dangerous and possibly fatal health complications.

The possibility of developing physical dependence on benzodiazepines is not limited only to users who abuse the drug, but even those taking it at therapeutic doses. This stems from the drug’s ability to rapidly change brain chemistry. Over a long period of use, the brain begins to show signs of damage from these changes. In a 2010 Psychology Today article, Dr. Christopher Lane explains that “brain scans done on a small group of patients who had been taking diazepam for a number of years had produced evidence suggesting that their brains had been damaged” and points to research showing that the brains of benzodiazepine users who take the drugs in smaller, therapeutic doses still showed signs of damage and shrinking of the brain. There is also a major danger associated with the development of physiological dependence resulting from long-term use. When a benzodiazepine user stops taking the drug, they quickly enter into a state of withdrawal. Brain activity suddenly returns, overshooting normal functioning. This leads to symptoms of anxiety, tremors, panic attacks, and even the possibility of death from seizures. Because of how rapidly benzodiazepines work on the brain, there is also a risk of psychological dependence that can exacerbate drug cravings and emotional instability during withdrawal.

2017 saw the lives of many celebrities lost who had regularly taken, as well as abused benzodiazepines. Sadly, January 2018 revealed that beloved rock star Tom Petty also had Xanax in his system at the time of his death. Benzodiazepines cause a potential for abuse and overdose. Problematically, these drugs are often co-prescribed with opioids, which can create a fatal combination.

If you or someone you care about is struggling with benzodiazepine addiction, Resilient House offers you the help you need. Cultivating resilience for lasting wellness, our co-ed programs offered on a full continuum of care provide holistic and clinical expertise for recovery. Our 50,000 square foot facility in Shreveport provides the tranquility and serenity you need to heal your mind, body, and spirit. It’s time to live. Ready, set, go: 833-CHANGE1