When a doctor prescribes a medicine, as the saying goes, they believe it will be more helpful than harmful to the person taking it. However, some anxiety medications operate similarly to other addictive drugs like opiates, and long-term use can lead to painful withdrawal. A person may not feel like an addict, especially when they’re taking something to treat a mental health condition, but they can feel stuck with a medication because weaning off it is too uncomfortable to endure.
Are Some Anxiety Meds More Addictive Than Others?
Some people struggle to successfully medicate their anxiety. They try multiple drugs, like SSRIs or SNRIs, without landing on one formulation that truly eases their symptoms. They may try non-addictive anxiety meds like buspirone. But if none help ease the anxiety, at that point, their doctor may turn to the heavy-hitters, known as benzodiazepines or benzos. Drugs like Xanax, Klonopin, Ativan, Valium, and Rohypnol are used for severe anxiety and panic attacks.
With careful supervision, a patient can thrive on one of these medications and keep their anxiety at bay, even stop panic attacks in their tracks with these fast-acting drugs. They can live a productive, normal life without interruption from anxiety when a benzo is taken as prescribed.
But medications like these can become physically addictive. If a benzodiazepine isn’t taken as prescribed, and if a patient isn’t getting the same results they were getting, there can be a temptation to take more of the drug until they get the feeling they crave.
Potential Side Effects of Anxiety Medication
Anxiety meds are designed to depress the nervous system, since that is the part of the body that fights your anxiety and can make you feel like you’re dying. Anxiety can present as a racing heart, dizziness, chest pains, sweating, numbness, tingling, breathing difficulties, and more.
Unfortunately, many people who suffer from anxiety also have depression, and benzodiazepines can make depression worse. The emotional numbness these medications produce keep anxiety and panic at bay, but they also hide the feelings and emotions a person is having – the source of their anxiety to begin with.
Physical tolerance to a drug like Xanax or Klonopin can happen quickly, and users typically need more of the drug after a few months to achieve the same effects they got from a smaller dose at the start.
Anyone who wants to stop one of these medications is likely to suffer withdrawal symptoms when they stop abruptly, including increased anxiety, depression, confusion, restlessness, and physical symptoms like insomnia, sweating, pounding heart, shaking, and more.
Is Your Loved One Addicted to an Anxiety Medication?
Because long-term use of anxiety medications changes the brain’s structure, this leads to increased tolerance and, ultimately, addiction. Some signs of addiction to an anxiety med include the following:
- Taking more than the amount prescribed
- Getting more medication through unsanctioned methods like multiple prescriptions or from a dealer
- Suffering withdrawal symptoms when the med is not taken
- Feeling “off” until the med is taken
- Unable to control how many are taken
- Job, life, and activities are negatively affected by taking the med
Can Withdrawal Happen at Home, or Do You Need Holistic Rehab?
It is dangerous to try to detox from benzodiazepines on your own. You may want to attempt to detox at home, you may even try to, but the withdrawal from such strong drugs will be severe and uncomfortable, and can often lead to relapse. Monitored detox in holistic therapy is a healthy, safe way to rid these medications from your system, followed by therapy and recovery techniques.
If you are given a dual diagnosis – which is likely since you are suffering from addiction to a medication needed because of a mental health condition – the goal is to treat both your addiction and anxiety in treatment. The anxiety is the underlying cause of the addiction, and getting it under control will help maintain sobriety. Putting a bandage on the symptoms and feelings and concealing them is not the route to recovery from addiction. Uncovering the source of the anxiety and mastering coping skills are the keys to managing anxiety.
The program at Beachside Rehab is customized for immediate care and to ensure long-lasting recovery. Holistic rehab is especially ideal for people who suffer from a dual diagnosis and can benefit from targeted treatment for their addiction and mental health, including individual and group therapy, yoga, meditation, equine therapy, art therapy, and more.
Learn more about holistic rehab and get the recovery support you need from the therapeutic team at Beachside Rehab. Contact our trained admissions counselors at 866-349-1770 to discuss your individual needs and how luxury rehab can work for you.