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Anxiolytic Dependence: Signs, Symptoms, & Treatment

Anxiolytic Dependence: Signs, Symptoms, & Treatment

The concept of substance abuse and dependence tend to overlap.

Although the terms “addiction” and “dependence” are often used interchangeably, the former refers to a disease characterized by urges to use drugs despite the harm they cause, while the latter is marked by withdrawal symptoms when drug use is reduced or stopped. Today we’re looking into anxiolytic dependence and withdrawal symptoms to determine the possible risks of long-term anti-anxiety medication or benzodiazepine use.

Understanding Sedative-Hypnotic or Anxiolytic Use Disorder

Barbiturates used to be the most prescribed drugs for anxiety in the United States until alternative medications called benzodiazepines were created, which produced milder side effects. Both substances fall into the drug class or sedative-hypnotic or anxiolytic medications, which are prescription drugs used to treat anxiety.

Sedative-hypnotic or anxiolytic medications of all types can lead to dependence and addiction, especially when used for long periods. A sedative, hypnotic, or anxiolytic use disorder, is a substance use disorder characterized by the repeated use of drugs like benzodiazepines, carbamates, barbiturates, and hypnotics, despite the significant physical and psychological problems associated with their abuse.

People with substance use disorders are usually unable to control their urges to use the substances in question, leading to long-term health, mental, and social problems. An anxiolytic use disorder usually occurs in those who begin to abuse sedatives, hypnotics, or anxiolytics by taking higher doses or mixing them with other substances.

Many patients who have taken benzos or barbiturates for long periods may develop a tolerance to a particular dose, which could slightly decrease the overall efficacy of the drug. To compensate, the person may take higher doses without consulting their doctor, so they experience the same relief or effects as before. This pattern of behavior is usually what gives way to addiction.

Anxiolytic Dependence & Withdrawal Symptoms

Anxiolytic dependence is marked by withdrawal symptoms, which occur when the person reduces or stops drug use. Anxiolytic withdrawal or detox can be extremely uncomfortable and challenging without the aid of a medical team or guidance of a detox schedule.

Common sedative, hypnotic, or anxiolytic withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Tremors
  • Insomnia
  • Agitation
  • Anxiety
  • Paranoia
  • Hallucinations
  • Convulsions
  • Lack of coordination
  • Restlessness
  • Nausea and/or vomiting

Withdrawing from anti-anxiety medication can also lead to rebound symptoms of insomnia or anxiety symptoms that the medication is being taken to treat in the first place. These withdrawals can occur days to weeks after cessation. The reappearance of a mood or anxiety disorder may also occur during anxiolytic withdrawal and may not subside over time.

The severity of withdrawals depends on the dose the person was used to taking and the duration of use. While anxiolytic withdrawal may not occur in someone who took low doses of benzodiazepines for less than four months, higher doses taken for longer periods could produce more severe and longer-lasting side effects.

Usually, physical dependence is most common among patients who use their medications for long periods and among those who use them in non-medical settings, such as, to self-medicate psychotic symptoms, enhance the euphoria, or manage the withdrawals of other drugs.

Patients who are prescribed high doses of anxiolytic medications for more than a month are at higher risk of dependence, especially if they have a personal history of alcohol or prescription drug abuse, or a family history of alcoholism or benzodiazepine use disorder.

Help for Sedative-Hypnotic or Anxiolytic Dependence

Long-term sedative-hypnotic or anxiolytic abuse can lead to tolerance, dependence, and addiction. Addiction is the escalated outcome of untreated dependence, in which an individual is no longer able to control their drug use.

Addiction can happen to anyone, regardless of whether the drug in question is illicit or prescribed. With that said, because there are so many forms of substance use disorders, our Boston rehab provides outpatient and partial hospitalization treatment, flexible enough to help patients of all backgrounds and needs.

Our Massachusetts addiction treatment programs utilize different therapy methods that help patients face their disorders head-on, promoting responsibility, accountability, and self-awareness. We also aid patients through their recovery from any co-occurring mental health disorders through individual and group counseling.

We’re aware that the loved ones of our patients are also affected by addiction in these cases, so we provide family support for spouses, parents, and close friends to aid in their personal healing and help both parties make amends. No matter what kind of drug addiction you’re going through, our Massachusetts drug rehab can help.

Call Banyan Treatment Centers today at 888-280-4763 to get started.

Related Reading: Benzodiazepine Withdrawal Psychosis: Symptoms & Timeline How Long Benzos Stay in Your System
Alyssa, Director of Digital Marketing
Alyssa, Director of Digital Marketing
Alyssa is the National Director of Digital Marketing and is responsible for a multitude of integrated campaigns and events in the behavioral health and addictions field. All articles have been written by Alyssa and medically reviewed by our Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Darrin Mangiacarne.
Anxiolytic Dependence: Signs, Symptoms, & Treatment
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