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The Long-Term Effects of Benzos on Your Brain

man thinking deep arms on mouth

For those who have been diagnosed with anxiety, panic, seizures, and other conditions, products like Xanax and Klonopin have delivered rapid symptom relief. However, when used in high doses over long periods of time, this class of drug also has a dark side.

What Are Benzos?

Benzo is the short form for benzodiazepine. When a person takes benzodiazepines over the short term, they typically experience a sedative effect. Their muscles may relax, and they may feel sleepy and less anxious.

These effects occur with benzodiazepines because the drug impacts gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA), the chemical responsible for reducing activity in certain parts of the brain; specifically, those connected to emotion, memory, breathing, and reasoning.

The Controlled Substance Act lists benzos as a Schedule IV drug in the United States. This class of drugs has a lower potential for abuse. However, abusing them increases the risk of limited psychological or physical dependence.

Why Are Benzos So Addictive?

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that’s made in the brain. It sends chemical messages between your brain’s neurons.

When you engage in an enjoyable activity, dopamine is released, making you feel good. Dopamine will be released whenever you engage in that same enjoyable activity, reinforcing the connection between it and the good feeling

Benzos cause your brain to release dopamine. However, when taken over the long term, the primary effects of benzodiazepines include changes to how your brain releases dopamine.

Instead of only releasing it in a short burst of a regulated amount, benzos cause an uncontrolled amount of dopamine to be released in the brain.

This means that the high you get from taking benzos can be incredibly intense and pleasurable. Not only that. Each time you take this drug, a higher amount of dopamine is released, which gives you a more pleasurable high. This is what makes benzos so addictive.

Still another reason that benzos can be so addictive is that they are easy to obtain via benzodiazepine prescriptions or online, and they may cost less than other drugs.

How Does Benzo Use Affect the Brain?

Businessman stressed at work

Using this drug for the purpose of treating anxiety disorders and other conditions can be effective. However, long-term benzodiazepine use, which is generally classified as three months or longer, is not suggested  This is due to the drug’s effect on the brain.

Using benzos for a long time can cause cognitive decline in the following ways:

  • Impaired understanding of information
  • Slower processing speed
  • Reduced ability for verbal learning
  • Shorter attention span
  • Memory loss
  • Confusion
  • Depression

As well, a higher dosage of the drug may be needed to achieve the same high. This can quickly lead to overdose and death.

However, despite the cognitive impairment that benzos can cause in the brain, the good news is that once a person has not taken benzos for a long time, many of the damaging effects listed above can be reversed.

Severe Withdrawal Symptoms

After a person with physical dependence stops the long-term use of benzodiazepines, a number of severe withdrawal symptoms can arise within a few days of stopping, and these can last for up to 10 days. Symptoms include:

  • Heart palpitations
  • Increased anxiety
  • Panic attacks
  • Seizures
  • Psychotic reactions
  • Hallucinations

Due to the high intensity of these withdrawal symptoms associated with benzodiazepine dependence, medically assisted detox is strongly recommended before addiction treatment begins. This type of detox allows you to be monitored by a trained medical staff that has the knowledge and equipment necessary to stop serious symptoms before they become dangerous.

Natural Setting, Luxury Accommodations

The Gateway treatment centre—in Peterborough, in Ontario, Canada—is situated on 14 wooded acres. Clients live on-site in luxury accommodations as they participate in psycho-educational counselling, dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT), and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).

If you are a man who struggles with benzodiazepine addiction, Gateway Recovery Centre can provide you with medically assisted detox, addiction treatment, and nutritional treatments that help you reclaim your health and your life. Call 1-705-535-0636 or visit us online to learn more today.

Sources:

  1. https://www.verywellmind.com/why-are-benzodiazepines-controlled-substances-258433

An Important Update About the Omicron Variant

We are open and accepting patients. 

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have been dedicated to keeping our patients safe as they recover from addiction or mental health disorders.

As the situation continues to evolve, as do our protocols and practices at each EHN Canada facility. And recent news of the highly-infectious Omicron Variant is no different. Please know that we continue to implement the highest standards of infection prevention in accordance with our local health authority.

If you have any questions about your or a loved one’s care and the protocols we have in place for staff, patients, and visitors, please contact us at 416-644-6345 or email at [email protected] 

Thank you and stay safe,
The Healthcare Team at EHN Canada