What Addiction To Benzos Feels Like
On the website Mad In America, Melissa Bond wrote an extremely detailed account of her unwitting addiction to benzos, and how it ruined years of her life.
What I’d experienced is known in benzo circles as “jelly legs.”
The impulse that is supposed to tell a particular muscle group to fire simply doesn’t fire. The mind goes, but the legs don’t follow.
And this is just one symptom in a list of potential withdrawal symptoms that can be mind-boggling.
I began having emotional swings that stunned me in their intensity. Despite having been a long-time meditator, I seemed to have lost the ability to watch my emotions and act from a place of center.
There was, it seems, no center. The self that I knew was dissolving into a cloud, a fog of cognitive laxity, physical disability and no way to pin point the exact cause of my impairment.
My teeth ached. My joints and muscles ached as if I’d run fifty miles. I couldn’t eat. My vision became a moving cloud, occasionally clear, but often socked in – a dizzy disorientation.
I remember the end of 2010 and the beginning of 2011 only as a time of despair and utter will to survive.
As Melissa’s experience shows, it is pretty easy to develop a serious physical and psychological dependency on benzodiazepines. This can happen even if pills have been only been taken for a few weeks (although in Melissa’s case it was years).
People with family histories of addiction, personal histories of substance abuse, eating disorders, untreated depression and low self-esteem are, in general, more susceptible to becoming addicted to benzos and other psycho-stimulants.
Physical dependency occurs because the brain gets rewired over time when using benzodiazepines like Xanax, Ativan, Klonopin, Rohypnol or Valium. When drug use is stopped, the brain reacts negatively.
This often brings on a range of withdrawal symptoms, the most obvious sign of an addiction to benzos.
1. Do You Have Withdrawal Symptoms?
There are many withdrawal symptoms that are classic signs of benzo addiction. The list of possible symptoms is very long. The most common include:
- severe sleep disturbance
- increased tension and anxiety
- panic attacks
- hand tremors
- difficulty with concentration
- confusion and cognitive difficulty
- memory problems
- dry retching and nausea
- weight loss
- heart palpitations
- muscular pain and stiffness
- perceptual changes including hallucinations
- thoughts of suicide
For benzos, withdrawal symptoms often wax and wane in severity over time, instead of steadily changing in a straightforward or linear manner.
The symptoms can be particularly severe, even deadly, if the user stops taking Xanax abruptly.
If you notice symptoms like these after quitting or missing a dose of Xanax, then you should seek medical treatment immediately.
2. Are You Psychologically Dependent?
In addition to physical dependence, many users end up relying on Xanax as an emotional crutch. Psychological dependence occurs because the drug provides a range of positive psychological benefits for its users, including:
- reduced levels of anxiety
- control over tremors, shakes and painful muscle spasms
- improved ability to sleep
Some Xanax users fear their lives will be damaged in some way if these effects end. This prevents many people from ending drug use, leading to long-term abuse and consequences.
3. Have You Built Up A Tolerance?
The human body is capable of building up a tolerance to any form of benzodiazepine. Tolerance occurs when a person takes benzos like Xanax for a few weeks or longer, and then needs to increase the dose to feel the same effects.
Over time, you may find yourself increasing your dosage beyond the maximum recommended amount to feel the same. You may also need more than one doctor’s prescription just to fend off withdrawal symptoms.
4. Are You Snorting or Injecting It?
Xanax is delivered in capsule and tablet form for a reason: to release the drug over time. If you’re snorting, parachuting or injecting the drug to speed-up the onset of effects, then you may have an addiction.
5. Do You Lie to Doctors to Get It?
Xanax abusers often lie to their doctor to get a prescription. Faking symptoms to get a diagnosis of anxiety disorder, for example. When you start lying to multiple physicians, you almost certainly have a problem.
6. Are You Buying Pills Online?
If you need so many pills that you can’t rely on a single script, then you may have an addiction that needs professional treatment.
7. Have Your Friends Noticed Changes In Your Personality?
Often, people who are in the later stages of addiction to Xanax and other benzos develop moodiness and irritability as their withdrawal symptoms become more pronounced.
Xanax addicts may become unusually irritable, paranoid, angry and hostile towards people they love. Or, they can withdraw and become emotionally distant to people who were once close to them.
If you hear complaints about your mood or show other signs of Xanax addiction, then you should immediately seek professional treatment.