The teenage years are a time of great physical, mental, and social change. Teens will experience enormous changes in their bodies and brains, and they will face increasing family expectations, academic demands, and peer pressure. The stresses felt with these changes can feel overwhelming, but for some teens, these pressures may feel too great to handle. In order to cope with the stresses that comes with teenage life, some may turn to drugs and alcohol. One of the most popular drugs teens use is a class of medications called benzodiazepines.
Benzodiazepines—commonly known as benzos—are widely prescribed by doctors nationwide for anxiety, mood disorders, insomnia, and as an aid in alcohol withdrawal. While teens may be prescribed these powerful medications as part of a comprehensive treatment plan, they are highly addictive. Frequently, the question “are benzos dangerous for teens?” gets asked, and the simple answer is yes. This article will explore how benzos are addictive to teens, the dangers of benzos, and the symptoms associated with benzo withdrawal. Importantly, you will learn where you can find benzo treatment for teens.
What are Benzos?
Benzodiazepines are psychoactive drugs that produce sedative and anti-anxiety effects. Benzos are most commonly prescribed for people who suffer from anxiety and mood disorders. Other conditions that benzos are prescribed include insomnia, seizures, and alcohol withdrawal—this class of prescription drug works by enhancing the effects of the neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). GABA’s primary function is to reduce the activity of the neurons that cause stress and anxiety.
Benzos fall under two distinct categories: short-acting and long-acting. Short-acting benzos are processed more quickly when they enter the bloodstream and also leave the body relatively quickly. In general, the effects of short-acting benzos can last 3 to 8 hours. Short-acting benzos also have a greater risk of withdrawal symptoms because the body has less time to adapt to working without the drug in its system. Examples of short-acting benzos include the following:
Long-acting benzos have a longer half-life which means your body processes them at a much slower rate. Additionally, they will take longer to leave the body. The effects of long-acting benzos usually last 1 to 3 days. People who take long-acting benzos are more likely to feel like they are “hungover” but are less likely to experience withdrawal symptoms once the effect of the drug wears off. Common examples of these medications include the following:
- Diazepam (Valium)
Can Benzos Be Addictive?
Like most substances, benzos boost dopamine levels in the brain. They affect inhibitory cells called inhibitory interneurons. When these are affected, dopamine is released at dramatically increased levels. These neurons will continue to flood the brain with dopamine, even though the brain itself is already feeling calm and relaxed. As usage continues and increases, the brain will produce less dopamine and eventually will stop producing the neurotransmitter altogether. Once this occurs, people who take benzos are not taking them so much for the effects they produce; they are taking them in order to feel and function on a daily basis. At this point, people are dealing with benzo addiction.
Are Benzos Dangerous to Teens?
Benzos have the potential to be dangerous and even life-threatening to teens. Some benzos have an extremely long half-life. Half-life refers to the time it takes for the amount of a drug’s active ingredient in the body to be reduced to half. Some benzos have half-lives ranging from 50 to 80 hours. This makes benzos dangerous because people will assume they resume dosage or increase their dosage when the effects wear off. Thinking the drug has left their system, people will take more or increase the dosage, not realizing there are still significant amounts still in their system. This dramatically increases the risk of overdose.
Secondly, users who abuse benzos often combine them with other drugs to amplify or negate its effects. For teens, a common combination are benzos and alcohol. Since alcohol is a powerful central nervous system depressant, it will help amplify the effects of benzos. However, the profound depressant effects will severely impact coordination and speech and will slow down breathing to the point where breathing may cease. In some cases, teens who combine these two drugs may fall into a coma or even die.
Symptoms of Benzo Withdrawal
If a teen is dealing with a benzo addiction, they may try to stop the usage of benzos altogether. This can result in physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms that are uncomfortable, painful, and unnerving. Benzo abuse signs include:
- Blurred or double vision
- Lack of coordination
- Extreme drowsiness
- Slurred speech
- Slowed respiration
- Low blood pressure
- Suicidal thoughts
If any of these benzo abuse symptoms occur, you need to seek treatment for your teen right away.
How to Find Benzo Addiction Treatment for Teens
If you are looking for a benzo addiction treatment program for your teen, you must find a rehab with staff that has proven experience working with young people. They must offer evidence-based programs that can be tailored to meet your teen’s needs. If you need teen benzo addiction treatment, call Multi Concept Recovery toll-free today. Our innovative and integrated treatment approach will give your teen the tools and support they need to overcome benzo addiction. No matter the severity of their addiction, we can help! Call MCR right now.