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November 19, 2018

How Do Benzodiazepines Work on the Brain

Can Benzodiazepines’ Effects on the Brain Lead to Alzheimer’s or Dementia?

Living with Alzheimer’s can be unbelievably frustrating and depressing. In the early stages, you’re aware of the short-term memory loss. You know you’re forgetting details or even complete conversations with loved ones.

As the disease progressively destroys more and more nerve cells in the brain, your ability to plan and make judgment calls atrophies. Then, the things that make you “you” start to change as your personality transforms. Eventually, you may have trouble walking and even talking.

This diagnosis awaits 1 in 5 people over the age of 80 and half of those 90 and older, but if you’re abusing benzodiazepines (often called benzos for short), your chance of developing Alzheimer’s jumps between 80-90%.

How Do Benzodiazepines Work on the Brain?

People struggling with paranoia, anxiety or sleep disorders might be suffering due to nerve overactivity within the brain. When you take benzodiazepines like Xanax, Valium, Klonopin and others as prescribed by your doctor, the drugs stimulate areas of the brain that suppress nerve activity, which may calm the unease associated with your condition.

Unfortunately, benzodiazepines lead to other changes in the brain, as well. When you take benzos, a rush of dopamine is released and the areas responsible for this feel-good chemical are altered.

This makes these areas of your brain less able to naturally release dopamine on their own, and these larger feel-good surges caused by the drug put you at risk for developing addiction.

Benzodiazepine Abuse Damages the Brain

When you abuse benzos or combine them with other substances like alcohol or painkillers, your brain may shrink or become damaged. Some of the long-term effects may include:

  • Impaired ability to judge spaces or distances
  • Reduced ability to learn through written or spoken word
  • Impairment to thinking and memory
  • Disorientation or confusion

Even more alarming, studies have shown that those who take benzodiazepines for more than six months are 84% more likely to develop Alzheimer’s and 50% more likely to develop dementia.

You Can Quit Taking Benzos Whenever You Want, Right?

Addiction affects everyone differently. Some people might be able to stop taking a drug like benzodiazepines whenever they want without assistance. However, it’s advisable that you slowly wean yourself off the drug by gradually reducing your dosage first.

Unfortunately, most people who are addicted to benzos will experience relapse when trying to do so alone. This is largely due to the unpleasant withdrawal symptoms associated with the drug like:

  • Dry heaving and vomiting
  • Heart palpitations
  • Increased anxiety or panic attacks
  • Psychosis
  • Seizures

That’s why it’s best to try to seek medical help or addiction treatment if you or a loved one is struggling to stop taking benzos.

Treatment for Benzodiazepine Abuse at Cycles of Change in Palmdale, CA

If you’re worried that you might be addicted to benzodiazepines, you don’t have to face this challenge alone. At Cycles of Change Recovery Services, we help clients recover from addiction every day with treatment programs that are tailored to meet each person’s individual needs.

We know that benzodiazepines can take a toll on your body, and our programs seek to heal your body, mind and soul. Here, you’ll learn relapse prevention skills and participate in therapy that can begin repairing the damage addiction has caused in your home.

Don’t let addiction maintain a foothold in your life any longer. Reach out to one of our admissions specialists to break the destructive cycle of addiction and to begin your recovery journey today.

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