Benzodiazepines, often shortened to benzos, are an extremely beneficial drug to treat different anxiety disorders like panic disorder or social anxiety. They are highly effective in providing intermediate relief when someone is experiencing a panic attack or intense anxiety by increasing dopamine levels in the brain and making the body feel more relaxed, similar to the way alcohol relaxes.
But like opioids and other prescription medication, misuse of benzodiazepines can lead to addiction. This is why it is important to work with your psychiatrist when taking medication for anxiety and be aware of any signs that could indicate that you might be experiencing a problem with dependency.
The Science Behind Benzodiazepines
Benzos are given by prescription and most often come under brand names like Xanax, Klonopin, Valium, and Librium. The patient takes a pill when they feel extreme anxiety, such as when a panic attack is coming on, at which point the benzos work by inhibiting dopamine uptake in the brain.
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that makes you feel happy and unstressed. Your brain releases dopamine and then absorbs dopamine naturally. By inhibiting reuptake with benzos, your brain gets a flood of extra dopamine. This combats the anxiety response and is a great solution for when anxiety may otherwise be severe.
Benzos are extremely beneficial for short term use or very occasional use for many people. The challenge of benzos is that while they will initially relieve anxiety, they can actually increase anxiety when taken excessively or for long periods of time.
This happens because dopamine makes your body feel good and this can become a craveable feeling. Additionally, because benzos introduce your brain to higher levels of dopamine, your brain can begin to build up a physical tolerance to this increase and start to need a greater and greater flood of dopamine to feel good, calm, and not anxious.
This affects your brain’s natural ability to regulate itself in less stressful situations where previously your anxiety would have been manageable. Instead, it will start to feel as if you cannot handle any anxiety-inducing situations without the help of your prescription, creating a dependency.
The best way to avoid this is to be aware of what benzos do and take them as prescribed and discussed with your doctor. But knowing the early signs of a benzodiazepine addiction can also help:
- You find yourself often thinking about when you can next take a pill.
- Not taking benzos seems to trigger anxiety or panic attacks.
- You switch from taking benzos on an as-needed basis to a daily or another consistent basis.
- Your prescriptions are running out sooner than expected.
- You are getting prescriptions for multiple doctors.
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms and currently taking benzodiazepines to manage anxiety, Aware Behavioral Health, which offers psychiatry in Dallas, can help with the prescription medication addiction. Because benzos can have dangerous withdrawal effects, we manage the process of stopping your prescription medication carefully, as well as help you establish other solutions for anxiety disorders to help you continue to manage your mental health condition.
Set up an appointment with Aware Behavioral Health to get treatment for prescription medication addiction today.