We know that long-term use of benzodiazepines can cause significant mental and physical issues, but what happens if you have been taking benzodiazepines for several years and then detox off them? Can you have permanent damage from chronic benzodiazepine use? Benzodiazepines are psychoactive drugs that are considered tranquilizers or sedatives. They are central nervous system depressants that work by enhancing the effects of GABA, a neurotransmitter in the brain. Benzodiazepines are commonly prescribed for anxiety and insomnia, but can also be used for seizure disorders, as muscle relaxants, for alcohol withdrawal, and preoperatively for surgical procedures.
Adverse Effects of Benzodiazepine Use
Benzodiazepines can cause neurotoxicity and significant mental, physical, and social risks if taken long-term. Impaired cognitive abilities, memory problems, mood swings, and the risk of overdose when combined with certain other medications are also adverse effects of long-term use. One of the biggest effects or risks of long-term benzodiazepine use is dependency or addiction, and benzodiazepines are incredibly difficult and dangerous to detox from.
Can Chronic Benzodiazepine Use Cause Permanent Damage?
Benzodiazepines are highly addictive and should never be taken for longer than a 3 to 4 week period. Long-term use, including detoxing once a dependence or addiction has developed, is extremely difficult and dangerous. Not only that, chronic benzodiazepine use can cause adverse effects on an individual. The National Institute of Health “The effects of benzodiazepines on cognition” says:
Initially thought to be virtually free of negative effects, benzodiazepines are now known to carry risks of dependence, withdrawal, and negative side effects. Among the most controversial of these side effects are cognitive effects. Long-term treatment with benzodiazepines has been described as causing impairment in several cognitive domains, such as visuospatial ability, speed of processing, and verbal learning. Conversely, long-term benzodiazepine use has also been described as causing no chronic cognitive impairment, with any cognitive dysfunction in patients ascribed to sedation or inattention or considered temporary and associated with peak plasma levels. Complicating the issue is whether anxiety disorders themselves are associated with cognitive deficits and how patients are aware of their cognitive problems. In an attempt to settle this debate, meta-analyses of peer-reviewed studies were conducted and found that cognitive dysfunction did occur in patients treated long term with benzodiazepines, and although cognitive dysfunction improved after benzodiazepines were withdrawn, patients did not return to levels of functioning that matched benzodiazepine-free controls. (NIH)
Studies do show that long-term use of benzodiazepines does cause some structural brain damage. A variety of studies have been done and not all experts agree. It has been reported that after discontinuation of these drugs, individuals do have an improvement in cognitive function; however, it can take several months to achieve this, and some people do not return to normal levels of functioning, as stated above by the National Institute of Health.
Benzodiazepine Withdrawal Symptoms
Detoxing from benzodiazepines is very difficult and can be dangerous. Withdrawal should always be done under the care of a physician or in a medically supervised detox facility. Benzodiazepine detox should be done slowly using a tapering process. Abruptly stopping these drugs puts a person at risk of having grand mal seizures, which can be deadly.
Overcome Benzodiazepine Addiction at Evoke Wellness at Miramar
Evoke Wellness at Miramar, located in South Florida, is a premier medical detox and residential treatment facility. We strive to provide the safest and most comfortable detox possible for our clients. We are committed to helping each individual through their whole treatment experience. We offer a safe environment and treat our clients with respect. Our treatment programs in South Florida promote healing and stability in every aspect: physically, mentally, and emotionally. Are you ready to make yourself a priority and get your life back? Let our team of specialists help you. Give us a call today.