Risks Associated with Self-Medication with Benzodiazepines
Most mental health disorders, such as depression, anxiety, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and others are treated with therapy, medication, or a combination of both. When a person does not seek help from a trained medical professional, they are at increased risk of symptoms worsening. Someone may turn to using substances, such as benzodiazepines, to ease their symptoms. Self-medication is never recommended and poses significant health risks, such as developing a substance use disorder (SUD).
What Are Benzodiazepines?
People who suffer from mental health disorders are sometimes prescribed benzodiazepines (benzos) to reduce symptoms. Benzos are a class of medication used to treat anxiety, panic attacks, and insomnia. They work to calm or sedate a person by raising the level of the inhibitory neurotransmitter, GABA, in the brain. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, common benzos include diazepam (Valium), alprazolam (Xanax), and clonazepam (Klonopin), among others.
Medication should always be taken exactly as prescribed. When people self-medicate, they get temporary relief rather than a long-term solution to managing mental health problems. People self-medicate as an immediate fix to cope with mental health issues but increase the risk of developing an addiction to benzos.
Effects of Self-Medicating with Benzos
Benzos provide an immediate, calming effect. If a person self-medicates with benzos, they risk developing a dependence on them, leading to serious health complications, overdose, and death. The combination of tolerance and dependence makes it hard to quit without medical treatment.
Just like alcohol, benzos can cause blackouts. A person does not need to be addicted to benzos to experience a blackout. A blackout is anterograde amnesia and prevents the brain from forming new memories. When a person has a blackout, its risk of occurring again increases.
Benzos are very effective and work quickly but can also be addictive. When people get medication without a prescription, they often do not know how much to take or what other substances may be added to the drug. In an article for the METRO (2017), Katie Baillie and Caroline Westbrook wrote that Lil Peep, a rapper, died from taking six Xanax laced with fentanyl. CBS NEWS reported in 2016 that Prince died with extremely high levels of fentanyl in his system, which is a cheap synthetic opioid that is about 100 times more potent than morphine. Fentanyl is commonly found in fake Xanax bars.
A fake Xanax bar is a tablet that looks like Xanax but is a deadly combination of Xanax and fentanyl. To avoid the possibility of an overdose or early death, people who are addicted to benzos must get treatment for addiction and any underlying mental health disorders as a dual diagnosis.
Healthy Ways to Cope with Mental Health Disorders
Some mental health disorders can affect everyday responsibilities and activities. They can also interfere with relationships with loved ones, cause extreme fatigue, and lead to a lack of nutrition. When struggling with mental illness, it can become difficult for you to participate in activities you once enjoyed and cause social isolation. Using drugs or alcohol to self-medicate is not recommended and can have deadly consequences.
There are healthy ways to cope with symptoms of mental health challenges. Exercise is a great physical activity that releases endorphins that can relieve stress and anxiety, improve self-esteem, and enhance overall well-being. If possible, exercise outdoors when the weather is nice. Being outside and in the sunshine can improve mood and mental health.
Meditation is a deep breathing exercise that promotes mindfulness and allows more oxygen into the bloodstream, which increases brain health. Maintaining a healthy diet will also balance physical and mental health.
Overcoming Mental Health Challenges
Mental health challenges can make you feel helpless, hopeless, and alone. Most are treatable with a combination of therapy and prescription medication. Mental health and SUDs often co-occur and must be treated simultaneously as a dual diagnosis. Do not be afraid or ashamed to ask for help.
At Achieve Concierge, we take a holistic approach to treatment that focuses on healing your mind, body, and spirit for complete wellness in a healthy lifestyle. Each person can react differently to treatment, so our expert clinicians will perform a comprehensive health assessment to develop a treatment plan that works best for you. We will help you restore mental and physical wellness by exploring healthy ways to balance your mental health symptoms.
Our professional team will monitor your progress in your individualized mental health treatment program and can adjust treatment as needed. We want to help you feel stable and improve your quality of life. We will ensure you have the tools to effectively manage mental health symptoms to enjoy a fulfilling, healthy, rejuvenated lifestyle.
Self-medication for a mental health disorder is not safe and is never recommended. When you use substances to cope with mental health symptoms, you run the risk of developing substance use disorder (SUD), health complications, overdose, and even death. At Achieve Concierge, we offer a comprehensive health plan for youth and adults to tailor to your needs. Our members experience a continuum of care that addresses healing for the mind, body, and spirit. We work closely with our patients to develop the best options to manage mental health symptoms. We offer mental health services that can help ease symptoms of anxiety, depression, and other mental health disorders. We do not want you to wait for help, so we offer same-day, in-person appointments. We can also provide appointments via telemedicine. Achieve Concierge wants to help you by determining the best course of action to restore your total health. To learn more about our treatment plans, contact us today at (858) 221-0344.
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