According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, prescription drug abuse is the fastest-growing drug problem in the United States. Some of the most commonly prescribed drugs are benzodiazepines (a.k.a. benzos).
As the number of these prescriptions has grown, so has the abuse. Some types of benzos are more commonly misused recreationally, often in combination with alcohol. Others are more likely to be abused as a result of an unnecessary prescription.
Unfortunately, many people who abuse these drugs assume that since their use is so common, they must also be “safe.” This is far from the truth.
Benzodiazepines can be useful for those with panic disorders, generalized anxiety disorder, insomnia, and even, in some cases, alcohol withdrawal. They are best prescribed by doctors when they believe that the patient’s need for them outweighs the possible risk of addiction, overdose, or abuse. Xanax is one of most popular and well-known of these types of benzos, but other varieties include Klonopin, Valium, Ativan, Restoril, Librium, ProSom, Halcion and Versed.
Doctors typically recommend that benzos either be used only occasionally, as in the case of patients who take Xanax when facing a panic attack, or for short-term courses, as when easing symptoms from alcohol withdrawal. The longer benzos are used, the greater the risk. Even prescribed doses, when taken for a year or longer can cause serious withdrawal problems.
Unfortunately, many people do end up using these drugs to the point of becoming addicted, either as a result of bad advice from their doctors or by choosing to continue to take the drug longer than necessary.
Doctors often prescribe medications in the benzodiazepine family to correct a chemical imbalance in the brain. So, patients who truly struggle with anxiety and panic disorders may not find the drugs to be especially “fun” or interesting. They serve to bring them to a baseline level of emotion and daily functioning.
But, when people who do not have anxiety or panic disorders take benzos, they often find that the drug can bring them a sense of deep relaxation and feelings of euphoria. Instead of taking them to correct an imbalance, they take them to boost the euphoria.
According to Addiction, people who are addicted to benzos often take 30 to 120 times more than experts recommend. Over time, they often develop a tolerance to the drug and have to find new ways to take the drugs—like snorting or injecting— in order to the get the same high. Taking extremely high doses of benzodiazepines can result in coma or death.
Some studies have shown that the number of annual benzodiazepine-related unintentional deaths have begun to outnumber those related to cocaine and heroin. Several celebrities have died in the past 10 years who had benzos in their systems that may have contributed to their deaths. Heath Ledger died in 2008 from a mix of opioid and benzo prescriptions. Amy Winehouse had Librium in her system when she died in 2011. And, Whitney Houston, when she died in 2012, had a combination of Xanax and alcohol in her system.
Benzodiazepine abuse rarely occurs alone. The majority of people who abuse benzos also use another substance (most commonly heroin, cocaine, methadone, prescription painkillers and alcohol) at the same time. Mixing benzos with any other drug that affects your nervous system—even antihistamines—can be dangerous.
For example, when a person combines Xanax and alcohol, they find themselves feeling unexpectedly sleepy and get into the shower to try to wake themselves up. Since they are so sedated, they can end up losing their ability to stay balanced and stay conscious which can lead to them falling and drowning from inhaling water into their lungs.
It is very common for those who abuse benzos to also struggle with other disorders like depression, anxiety, panic disorders, bipolar disorders, and PTSD. Sometimes they have been prescribed these drugs as a way to manage the symptoms of these disorders. They may eventually end up abusing them, as they build up a tolerance and find themselves needing larger doses to get the same effects as before.
This is why, at The Meadows, we believe it’s important to find and treat the underlying causes of behavioral disorders, and not just the symptoms. Benzos and other substances, when used to mask the symptoms of another addiction or disorder, can contribute to a sense of powerlessness people often have about their disease. By addressing underlying trauma, patients can take back the control of their day-to-day lives from the unhealthy coping mechanisms they’ve developed in the place of real healing.
Once someone has developed a dependency on benzos, avoiding withdrawal symptoms may start to be their biggest daily motivation. Some of the signs that someone you know may be addicted to benzos are…
It is critical that those addicted to benzodiazepines get proper medical and psychological treatment from qualified addiction professionals. A cold-turkey approach to quitting benzos can be deadly due to the likelihood of developing a withdrawal syndrome. Patients need a supervised, structured withdrawal program, where they are safe and can also learn techniques, like mindfulness and meditation, for relieving the increased feeling of anxiety that can come with withdrawal.
Since benzo addiction so often occurs with other mental health issues, they also need a program where they can address their addiction, their disorder, and any underlying emotional issues that are likely fueling both. At The Meadows’ programs, we specialize in providing intensive, highly-individualize treatment for complex and cascading disorders. Although the thought of spending 45 days or more in an inpatient facility, away from the life you’re familiar with, may be scary, it is sometimes the best way to finally free yourself of the dangerous trappings of addiction. If you or someone you know needs help, give us a call today at 800-244-4949 or contact us online.
We are thrilled to announce that The Meadows' Senior Fellow, Alexandra Katehakis, MFT, CSAT-S, CST-S, and co-author Tom Bliss will receive the 2016 Clark Vincent Award from the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists (CAMFT) for the book Mirror of Intimacy: Daily Reflections on Emotional and Erotic Intelligence. The award will be presented at CAMFT's Annual Meeting in Sacramento, Calif. on May 14, 2016.
She will also serve as the opening keynote speaker for the meeting this year.
In 2015, Mirror of Intimacy was the co-recipient of American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists (AASECT) Book of Year award.
In addition to serving as Senior Fellow at The Meadows and Gentle Path at The Meadows, Alexandra Katehakis is the Founder and Clinical Director of the Center for Healthy Sex in West Los Angeles, California. She has extensive experience in working with a full spectrum of sexuality from sexual addiction to sex therapy, and problems of sexual desire and sexual dysfunction for individuals and couples. Alex has successfully facilitated the recovery of many sexually addicted individuals and assisted couples in revitalizing their sex lives.
She also appears as a regular guest sex expert every Friday on Dr. Drew Midday Live on KABC Talk Radio to discuss sex, addiction and sexuality. She is the author of Sex Addiction as Affect Dysregulation: A Neurobiologically Informed Holistic Treatment (Summer 2016,) Erotic Intelligence: Igniting Hot Healthy Sex after Recovery From Sex Addiction, the co-author of Mirror of Intimacy: Daily Reflections on Emotional and Erotic Intelligence and a contributing author to Making Advances: A Comprehensive Guide for Treating Female Sex and Love Addicts — all available on Amazon.
We’re nearly halfway through NCAA® March Madness® tournament. The excitement is ramping up as the team in the Sweet Sixteen prepare for the next round. Those whose brackets aren’t already busted are anxiously waiting to see if their picks will help them reign supreme over their friends and co-workers, and maybe even allow them to take home a cash prize.
But some people—an estimated 6 million in fact— might instead be anxiously waiting for the tournament to be over. They are the people who struggle with pathological gambling addictions. For them, this time of year presents an overabundance of challenges and triggers. While many of us are cheering our teams on the road to the Final Four, they are fighting to stay on the road to recovery.
While participating in your friends’ or co-workers’ NCAA bracket pool doesn’t necessarily put you on the path to addiction, many problem gamblers did experience their first gambling-related rush from participating in a March Madness tournament bracket pool or purchasing a Super Bowl square. They are likely to have been introduced to these forms of gambling as teenagers by family members and middle school or high school classmates.
This may partially explain why the rate of gambling addiction is actually higher among young adults and adolescents. According to U.S. News and World Report, the rate of young adults addicted to gambling is up to four times as high as the adult rate, and 4 to 7 percent of college students meet the criteria for pathological gambling. However, it’s important to remember that gambling addiction can affect almost anyone, of any age, at any time—even if they are not entirely new to gambling.
Those who are addicted to gambling feel an uncontrollable urge to place bets, visit casinos, use Internet gambling sites, and/or buy lottery tickets in spite of the negative ways their behavior is affecting their lives and the lives of their loved ones. An untreated gambling disorder can lead to devastating personal debt and bankruptcies, and even prison time if the addicted person turns to stealing or fraud to support their gambling habits.
For those who are prone to addiction, gambling starts out as just another recreational activity but soon triggers strong, uncontrollable biological and psychological responses. Similarly to other forms of addiction, people who develop compulsive gambling behaviors tend to be those who feel disconnected in personal relationships, disconnected from a higher purpose, depressed, isolated and/or anxious. As a matter of fact, most pathological gamblers—68 percent, according to the Journal of Clinical Psychology—also have more than one addiction, often to alcohol and drugs. Another study found that people who struggle with both problem gambling and substance abuse were also more likely to have issues with sexual compulsivity and to have attempted suicide.
This suggests that gambling addiction can be a sign of a very complex set of intermingling behavioral health issues. If you or someone you know seems to be struggling with a gambling addiction, it’s important to seek out a high-quality, comprehensive treatment program right away.
The DSM-5 lists nine criteria for determining whether someone has a gambling disorder:
Since gambling addiction so often coincides with one or more additional addictions—drugs, alcohol, sex, etc.—it’s important to seek a treatment program that can address multiple conditions at the same time. Our staff spends time with each patient to develop a highly-individualized treatment program based on a thorough assessment of his or her primary and secondary conditions, and on releasing the hidden trauma at the heart of them all. Call our intake coordinators today at 800-244-4949 or contact us online to find out if one of our Meadows Behavioral Healthcare programs is right for you.
The New Year symbolizes a time for fresh starts. Everyone is making resolutions to better themselves in the coming year, so it’s no surprise that many people decide to pursue sobriety. Starting a new year with the decision to find sobriety and heal lifelong wounds is a very courageous decision. Usually, though, simply making a resolution is not enough. This is true even with non-addicts. But the good news is, there are steps to take that can significantly aid in reaching and maintaining sobriety.
If you decide an inpatient program is the right decision for you, make sure that the program is designed to meet your individual needs and the needs of your family. Consider what will nurture your well-being. If being in a warm, peaceful environment and having sunshine is an important part of nurturing yourself, then consider The Meadows programs in Wickenburg, Arizona. We are nestled in the serene Sonoran desert, where many people feel that the clear, dry air has healing powers.
As the nation’s premier program for treating alcohol, drug and other addictive disorders for 40 years, our Meadows Model is the most clinically comprehensive and nurturing program available today.
There is no better time to begin your journey to sobriety than right now. Make this year your year of recovery. The treatment program at The Meadows can help you create an entire lifetime of peace and healing. To learn more about our programs, call us at 800-244-4949 or contact us here.
Here at The Meadows, we know our Director of Outpatient Services, Jim Corrington, to be the kind of guy who goes above and beyond as a therapist and sponsor for those in recovery. So, we were exceptionally proud to see him recognized for these same qualities at the Sierra Tucson “Gratitude for Giving” celebration.
Jim received the Gratitude Recognition, which honors a medical or clinical professional for lifetime achievement.
Jim has served the recovery community for more than 30 years. “I have never seen someone so passionate and driven to help people recover from their addictions, “says Sean Walsh, CEO of The Meadows. “He is constantly advocating and fighting to get patients plugged into the recovery community and goes above and beyond to make sure patients and their families get the support that they need.”
Congratulations, Jim, on your well-earned recognition. We’re glad to have you as part of our team!