Sedative drug addiction is fast becoming an epidemic in the USA. With approximately 60 million people being prescribed sedatives each year, the potential for misuse is high. It is possible to develop a dependence on sedatives in as little as two weeks. With such high numbers of people taking sedatives, it is extremely important that we understand the signs and risks of sedative abuse.
What are sedatives?
Sedatives are central nervous system depressants that slow down the body’s functions. They are sometimes prescribed to ease anxiety, promote sleep, relieve panic attacks and reduce irritability and excitement.
When sedatives are taken in excess, slurred speech, impaired motor skills and altered perception may result. Because sedatives reduce heart and breathing rates, heavy doses can lead to respiratory failure, coma or death, especially when taken with alcohol or other depressants.
Which drugs are considered sedatives?
- Barbiturates (Amytal, Luminal)
- Benzodiazepines (Valium, Xanax, Ativan)
- Non-Benzodiazepines (Lunesta, Ambien)
Most drugs classified as sedatives are legally prescribed to treat ailments ranging from insomnia to depression. While many people take sedatives for their calming effects, some people can have a paradoxical reaction, experiencing severe agitation, aggression and violent or suicidal tendencies.
People using sedatives can quickly develop a tolerance and require higher doses for the same effect. All sedatives are have the potential to become physically addictive and cause withdrawal symptoms if use is reduced or stopped.
What are the symptoms of sedative addiction?
Broadly speaking, there are three symptoms to look for to determine whether an addiction is present:
- Craving the drug or being unable to stop using
- Physical dependence that causes withdrawal symptoms when drug is reduced or stopped
- Continued use despite negative impact on physical, psychological and interpersonal life
Sedative addiction symptoms are different for each person. Addicts may appear to be drowsy, confused or unfocused. They may have slurred speech, uncoordinated movements, tics or trembling hands. Sedative abuse may make users so unfocused that they are unable to care for their children or fulfill work and school obligations. They may also suffer from depression or suicidal thoughts.
The signs of sedative addiction are not always easy to recognize, but there are some behavior patterns to look out for, including:
- Frequently losing prescriptions and requesting refills
- Crushing or breaking pills
- Stealing prescription medications from friends or family
- Visiting multiple doctors for similar conditions
What is the treatment for sedative drug addiction?
The first step in treating sedative drug addiction is to detox. This may be possible in an outpatient setting if the user has a mild dependence. In these cases, sedatives are gradually reduced to avoid uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms. Success is far more likely when this is done in conjunction with addiction support groups and behavioral therapy.
For chronic sedative abusers, hospitalization may be the only option for safe detox. In these cases small doses of the sedative may be administered and gradually reduced to avoid dangerous complications like seizures or heart failure.
Physical withdrawal from sedatives can be extremely dangerous and may need to be supervised by a medical professional. Symptoms of sedative withdrawal can include:
- Heart failure
- Respiratory distress
- Abnormal blood pressure
- Night terrors
- High body temperature
- Loss of appetite
Since sedatives may be readily available at home or through friends, inpatient rehab may be the best choice for recovery. By temporarily cutting ties with a life connected to addiction, it can be easier to focus on rehabilitation and recovery
An inpatient sedative rehab center will be able to provide the medical care necessary to safely monitor withdrawal and address any underlying psychological issues that accompany sedative addiction. Dual diagnosis therapy can help addicts through physical recovery while simultaneously helping them learn to develop coping mechanisms to better deal with life’s challenges.
After inpatient treatment, recovering addicts often require a longer term recovery plan that includes 12 step programs and support groups to help ease the transition into sober living and to avoid relapse.
If you or someone you know has an addiction to sedatives, an addiction treatment specialist can help you decide the best steps for recovery. The experienced professionals at Luxury Beach Rehab can help you better understand potential risks of sedative addiction and can guide your long term recovery.