Did you know benzodiazepines are prescribed for women at higher rates than for men? They are a common medication used for a wide variety of reasons: anxiety, panic attacks, grief, physical pain, chronic illness, trauma, and more. While safe to take for short-term periods, long-term benzo use can lead to numerous physical and mental health changes in women.
Long-term benzodiazepine use may start with a prescription with no end date in mind. A woman using benzos for a short time may continue for a longer period if she doesn’t follow up with her doctor or relies on the drug as the only solution for improving her mood. Withdrawal after long-term benzo use can lead to depression, hallucinations, seizures, and other symptoms. Mixing this type of drug with alcohol in any amount can be fatal. Recovery help for benzo use and co-occurring mental health disorders is available for women through dual diagnosis treatment at Hannah’s House.
What Are Benzodiazepines?
Benzodiazepines are a medication that provides a calming, tranquilizing feeling in people prescribed to use them. It works by sedating a person by lowering brain activity. The dose amount can vary depending on the type of benzo. For example, a dose of clonazepam (known by the brand name Klonopin) may be 0.5 to 1 mg three times a day with a maximum of 20 mg/day, while a dose of diazepam (known by the brand name Valium) may be 5 to 25 mg three to four times a day with a maximum of 40 mg allowed per day.
Risks Associated with Benzo Use
As a depressant, even short-term benzo use can produce unwanted side effects. People taking them to treat a mood disorder may experience drowsiness, lack of coordination, or low libido. They can contribute to accidents and injuries, too. When using the medication, driving can become risky as you feel more relaxed and less attentive to your surroundings. A fall caused by benzo use can lead to broken bones for women with low bone density.
Long-term benzo use produces additional risks, including acute anxiety, agoraphobia, depression, a loss of libido, and social phobias. You may lose the sense of pleasure altogether with long-term benzo use. Your perception of yourself and the world around you may change dramatically, too.
Another risk of benzo use is mixing the drug with alcohol or opioids. These kinds of combinations can slow breathing and heart rate. The result can be deadly.
Signs of Addiction from Benzo Use
Long-term benzodiazepine use can leave a person unable to cope with life when not taking the drug. They may experience frequent cravings and struggle to reduce the number of pills they take daily. Physical discomfort may appear if they miss taking their med. You may notice a loved one who uses benzos always keeps the drug within reach and checks their supply often. They may take extra pills when anxious or increase their prescribed dose over time.
Real Issues Masked by Benzo Use
Anxiety and sleeplessness are real issues that require real solutions. Benzo use can be valuable as a short-term solution, but excessive use hides the underlying mental health issues in play. For many women, benzo use may be seen as a way to avoid addressing anxiety symptoms and explore strategies not involving medication.
Anxiety, for instance, may come from a variety of sources. The list may include:
- Past or childhood experiences.
- Family relationships.
- Physical and mental health.
- Someone’s current life situation.
Medication should not become a replacement for responding to the symptoms associated with anxiety that come from any of these sources.
Withdrawal Symptoms after Benzo Use
Most women will experience some symptoms of withdrawal after quitting prescription drug use. For benzo use, the symptoms can be physical. They may show up as flu-like symptoms, nausea, heart palpitations, weakness, tremors, or shaking. Also, a woman withdrawing from benzo use may become sensitive to light, feel depressed, struggle to remember things and feel restless. Changes in her sensory perception may occur as well. Withdrawal symptoms may be more severe in some women. Hallucinations, paranoia, and seizures can occur when long-term benzo use ends suddenly. A medically supervised detox is recommended to safely withdrawal from benzos.
Treatment for Benzos Misuse & Mental Health Disorders
Women with long-term benzo use may have untreated mental health disorders like anxiety. Dual diagnosis treatment at Hannah’s House starts with a medical detox so women can safely experience withdrawal symptoms before starting a personalized program. Under the care of our expert staff, women in recovery learn new strategies for coping with mental health needs and work on sober goals to avoid returning to benzo use. Planning for continuing care is an important element as well. Throughout a program at Hannah’s House, women learn the skills to prevent relapse and sustain recovery through additional sources of support.
Hannah’s House is a well-known care provider offering a range of treatment programs targeting the recovery from substance use, mental health issues, and beyond. Our primary mission is to provide a clear path to a life of healing and restoration. We offer renowned clinical care for addiction and have the compassion and professional expertise to guide you toward lasting sobriety.
For more information about the stages of alcoholism in women or to learn about our programs, call us today: 561.841.1272.