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Alcohol and Benzodiazepines: How Do Benzodiazepines Work?

Alcohol is widely available and addictive. Benzodiazepines, also called benzos, are available in short-acting and long acting pills, and are used together to aid in alcohol-related conditions. Long-term alcohol use can change the brain’s function, making it difficult to quit, resulting in cravings, withdrawal symptoms, and moodiness. Some of the most commonly used benzodiazepines are Valium, Ativan, Klonopin, Halcion, Librium, Xanax.

While many benzodiazepines are effective, they have the potential for abuse, which means individuals can experience a dependence as well as withdrawals. Individuals who battle dangerous alcohol related conditions including alcohol withdrawal, which include some challenging symptoms such as hallucinations and depression, may use benzos as an aid. The effectiveness of benzos have led to the 50+ million annual prescriptions written. The use of benzos have increased between 1999 and 2013 from 4.1% to 5.6%.

Alcohol And Benzodiazepines: The Similarities

Benzos are used to treat symptoms of alcohol withdrawal in patients battling alcohol use disorders. Oftentimes when patients take benzos, they are using it to treat seizures, insomnia, anxiety disorders, panic attacks, pain, and alcohol withdrawal.

Those who abuse alcohol may abuse benzos for similar reasons. Both alcohol and benzos affect the central nervous system, and both can create side effects that mirror each other such as:

  • Passing out
  • Poor judgement
  • Blurred vision
  • Changes in mood
  • Withdrawal
  • Cravings

Fatal drug overdoses increase when combined with alcohol.

Alcohol And Benzodiazepines Facts, Figures, And Attitudes

According to a study by Kaiser Perenente, the results revealing trends between alcohol and benzodiazepines were interesting. The results found patients with unhealthy alcohol consumption, “had a 15% higher likelihood” of benzodiazepine use than non-drinkers. Such individuals may believe that benzos are not addictive, or pose little risk when taken.

Alcohol impacted benzo use in these individuals by increasing the risk of poor motor skills, falls, and accidents. Next, the research found long-term benzo and alcohol use contributed to liver and heart injury, as well as kidney and brain injury. Furthermore, those who used benzodiazepines were more likely to develop benzo withdrawals, and encounter withdrawals from both substances.

Signs Of Alcohol And Benzodiazepine Abuse

Alcohol use can contribute to alcohol withdrawal, contributing to benzo use. It is important to recognize the symptoms of alcohol abuse. The symptoms can vary depending on how much the individual has had to drink and how long the individual has last shown symptoms. Common signs of alcohol abuse include, but are not limited to:

  • An inability to control one’s drinking.

  • Drinking in isolation to hide habits.

  • An inability to attend everyday functions or make commitments due to alcohol use.

  • Combining alcohol with other substances.

  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when not drinking.

  • Needing alcohol to feel normal or feel happy.

  • Using alcohol to combat stress and frustration.

  • Increasing one’s alcohol intake.

  • Legal problems because of drinking.

  • Moodiness or aggression when intoxicated.

In addition to the above signs of alcohol abuse, individuals can display health challenges such as jaundice, weight loss, bloated stomach, strained relationships and financial challenges to name a few.

Benzodiazepine addiction can include feeling euphoria that often serves as motivation for continued abuse. As a result of continued use, the individual can develop a habit and can eventually need intervention or medications to help. Signs of benzo addiction or abuse include:

  • Passing out

  • Feelings of drowsiness

  • Doctor shopping

  • Changes in mood

  • Increasing dosage

Benzodiazepine Withdrawal Symptoms

Like alcohol abuse, benzodiazepines can create adverse and serious effects like coma and problems breathing. Because of these challenges, those abusing benzodiazepines may feel compelled to continue use. When combined with other medications like antidepressants or other chemicals, he or she increases the susceptibility of comas, respiratory difficulty, and overdose. Additional withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Insomnia

  • Nausea

  • Anxiety

  • Depression

  • Muscle spasms

  • Tremors of hands

  • Feeling restless

  • Delirium/Hallucinations

  • Seizures

  • Goosebumps and skin crawling sensations

  • Detaching from reality

Factors impacting the symptoms associated with benzodiazepine withdrawal vary based on how much of the drug someone someone has consumed, how long they have been abusing benzos, and if they have combined them with other chemicals. Individuals can decide to taper benzo use to find balance and wean themselves, but professional medical assistance is crucial to ensure there is a program in line for withdrawal management, and to check for underlying conditions that may be the driving factor for the addiction.

Lastly if the individual battles alcohol withdrawal symptoms like Delirium Tremmens, nausea, depression, and anxiety, rehab can help in providing medication and 12-Step groups for growth and recovery.

Get The Help You Deserve Today

Alcohol and benzodiazepines have similar side effects and withdrawal symptoms. If you or a loved one is battling to quit alcohol and benzos, there is help available. Contact a treatment provider to discover nearby treatment centers and options. They can help answer any rehab-related questions like traveling for rehab and financing options.