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Benzo Misuse and Addiction in Maine

Although opioids are the first category of drugs that most people think of when considering the drug abuse epidemic, benzodiazepines pose a similar threat to society. This threat exists nationwide, including within Maine’s cities as well as in the countryside.

Also known as “benzos,” these drugs fall under the category of tranquilizers and sedatives. Doctors typically prescribe them as a treatment for anxiety or sleep problems. Although both types are chemically similar, benzos used for anxiety usually metabolize more slowly than those taken for insomnia.

Commonly prescribed tranquilizer benzodiazepines include alprazolam, lorazepam, clonazepam and diazepam. Some of the more common brand names that you’ll see for these drugs include Xanax, Ativan, Klonopin, Valium, and others.
Sedative benzodiazepines include flurazepam, temazepam and triazolam. Doctors typically prescribe them as Dalmane, Restoril, and Halcion. Any of these formulations can be abused, even with a doctor’s prescription. They are also frequently stolen. In addition, illegally acquired medications find their way onto the street market.

As reported by SAMHSA, some intriguing statistics about benzodiazepine misuse in Maine and the rest of the United States include:

• Approximately 1.8% of Americans aged 12 or older, 4.8 million people, abused benzodiazepines in 2019.

• When the national benzo abuse statistic is applied to Maine’s population, this means that approximately 24,138 state residents over the age of 12 abused benzodiazepines in 2019.

• About 11.5% of Maine residents aged 12 to 17 abused illicit drugs in the period from 2017 to 2019, with this abuse including non-prescribed benzodiazepines.

• Among young adults in Maine aged 18 to 25, approximately 10.6% abused illicit drugs such as benzos in the period from 2017 to 2019.

• Also among Maine residents aged 18 to 25, 17.9% had a substance use disorder during the period of 2017 to 2019, with many of these addictions involving ongoing abuse of benzodiazepines.

• Among all Maine residents aged 12 or older, 8.8% suffered a substance use disorder at some time from 2017 to 2019 as compared to the national average of 7.4%.

These statistics prove that benzodiazepines are a big problem in Maine and other parts of the United States. However, treatment in a withdrawal detox program and rehab in Maine puts you or your loved one with this substance use disorder on the road to a healthy recovery. At Liberty Bay Recovery Center in Portland, Maine, we offer a full spectrum of care, from detox to rehab and aftercare.

Risks Associated With Benzo Misuse

The Maine Benzodiazepine Study Group works with healthcare providers and other residents of the state to inform the public of the dangers of benzodiazepine use, even when the medication is prescribed by doctors. Some of the risks they associate with benzo use include:

• People using these medications can become physically and psychologically dependent upon the drugs.

• Use of benzos presents a higher risk of ill health and death, such as from cognitive problems, motor vehicle accidents, and elderly falls.

• Abusing benzodiazepines often leads to addiction and criminal activity to keep acquiring the drugs.

• Too few care providers are aware of how to aid people going through benzo withdrawal, making treatment in a licensed benzo withdrawal detox program particularly important.

Along with these broad societal risks of benzo use are other risks, such as health risks to the person taking the medications. Some of the individual health risks associated with benzos include:

• Drowsiness, unsteadiness, dizziness, and light-headedness
• Memory problems and confusion
• Headaches, double vision, and blurred vision
• Nausea, digestive problems, and constipation
• Incontinence or urinary problems
• Low blood pressure
• Blood disorders
• Jaundice
• Gynecomastia

Abusing benzos increases the risk for these side effects and others. The risks of benzodiazepine abuse include:

• Increased anxiety
• Insomnia
• Anorexia
• Weakness
• Breathing problems
• Coma
• Fatal overdose

When someone overdoses on benzos, immediate medical attention is critical. Emergency doctors often must use gastric lavage, activated charcoal, or flumazenil to counter the effects of these powerful drugs. Some individuals also require resuscitation or other extreme measures.

Benzo Withdrawal

Upon finding out their loved one has an addiction to benzos, many families want to provide their own care for benzo withdrawal. But this is dangerous. At-home benzo withdrawal is not recommended because of the medical dangers associated with doing so. In fact, benzodiazepines are among the most dangerous drugs from which to detoxify.

Also, according to the National Library of Medicine, prolonged withdrawal from benzos typically takes 10 to 14 days. This is a time period most families are not equipped to personally handle, particularly since 24/7 care and supervision are critical.

The home environment is also not secure enough to ensure that relapse does not occur. After starting the withdrawal process, drug overdose occurs more easily than before. This is why so many people going through home detox suffer a fatal overdose. That is a needless and tragic end when a licensed detox facility provides real hope for starting a long-term, healthy recovery.

Benzo withdrawal symptoms include:

• Physical aches, pains, muscle spasms, and sometimes the sensation of bugs crawling on the skin
• Anxiety attacks, panic attacks, and hyperventilation
• Depression, delusions, hallucinations, and detachment from reality
• Insomnia and nightmares
• Sweating
• Anorexia and weight loss
• Cognitive problems
• Nausea and vomiting
• Grand mal seizures

In a quality benzo withdrawal detox program in Maine, such as at Liberty Bay Recovery Center in Portland, you or your loved one can safely and comfortably detox. Our staff provides 24/7 supervision and care, including nutritious meals, hydration, and helpful medications for common symptoms. If you experience an emergency during this care, you are in a safe environment for receiving the professional and experienced support you need. The detox center is also secure, preventing the potential for dangerous relapse.

Benzo Recovery

Benzo withdrawal detox is just the first step in a recovery treatment plan. True recovery begins in rehab, where you learn how to avoid using benzos or other substances again. You also learn why you started abusing drugs and work through those issues in therapy for a happier, healthier, and more fulfilling future.

Types of Therapy in Rehab

Types of therapy commonly offered in a rehab center include:

• Individual counseling
• Group therapy
• Trauma therapy
• Behavioral therapies like CBT and DBT
• Dual diagnosis treatment
• Medication-assisted treatment (MAT)
• Family therapy or couples’ counseling
• Addiction education
• Relapse prevention

Together, your therapies and other programs of detox and rehab make up a significant part of your treatment plan. They help you better understand your addiction and how to move forward as part of a better life in recovery.

Detox and Rehab Treatment Programs

Rehab treatment is not a one-size-fits-all approach. Instead, clients receive an initial medical evaluation and addiction assessment that helps counselors and addiction treatment professionals understand the addiction history, individual needs, and appropriate levels of care. From these evaluations, they develop a treatment plan for you.

This treatment plan for benzo addiction treatment typically starts with medically supervised detox. It then continues through rehab treatment where you receive therapies for an extended period of time. Upon completing rehab, you have multiple options for aftercare as well. Together, these programs provide you with the key support and guidance you need to get through benzo withdrawal and start your recovery. You are never alone in the treatment or in recovery after you finish rehab.

Maine offers many options for a full spectrum of detox, rehab and aftercare treatment. This means you can stay close to home while getting the help you need. There are several different levels of care in benzo recovery treatment.

Detox

Detox is where you go to rid your body of all drugs after stopping your substance abuse. In a medically supervised detox program, you are provided with the comforts of home and experienced medical supervision to help you stay comfortable and healthy. This is the first step toward recovery, where your body cleanses itself of the substances you abused. In a detox center, you are provided with healthy meals, hydration, helpful medications, medical care, and counseling. At the end of detox, you learn about rehab and which programs are recommended as part of your individualized treatment plan.

Short-term Inpatient Rehab

Short-term inpatient rehab is a treatment that you receive, typically lasting for one month or less, in a hospital or medical setting with 24/7 medical supervision. These programs offer a higher level of care, such as for people with co-occurring health problems or those with a long history of drug addiction. In most cases, after completing a 30-day program in inpatient rehab, it is advised that you go through step-down treatment. This may include a residential program, outpatient rehab, or aftercare, according to your specific needs.

Long-term Residential Rehab

Long-term residential rehab is considered the most comprehensive and highly focused level of care for lasting recovery. These programs involve clients living at the facility or in rehab-managed apartments. Because you live at the facility, you are able to receive a multitude of therapies and educational sessions throughout each day. You also form bonds with others in your program, working together through group therapy for education, mutual understanding, and accountability. Long-term residential rehab programs typically last anywhere from 60 days to one year, with the average being 60 to 90 days.

Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP)

Intensive outpatient programs are the most comprehensive level of rehab treatment that you can receive while still living at your home. In these programs, clients attend several therapies throughout each day or multiple days of the week. Then, at night, they return home. This rehab treatment works well for individuals with a good support system at home. It is also well-suited for those who need to maintain work, schooling, or family responsibilities while attending rehab.

Outpatient Program (OP)

Outpatient programs are the most flexible options for those able to continue living at home while undergoing treatment. Like IOP, these programs enable clients to keep working, attending school, or caring for family while getting the help they need. OP programs are often part of a step-down treatment approach, serving as the second level of care to those coming from inpatient or residential rehab. For others with a short history of addiction, OP is sometimes sufficient as a standalone treatment.

Sober Living and Transitional Living

Sober living homes and transitional living are common options offered to clients finishing rehab treatment who are not yet ready to return to their home environment. In these programs, a small group of clients live together and share the expenses and responsibilities of maintaining their sober home. At the same time, they attend 12-step programs, group therapy, or individual counseling, according to house rules. They also seek and maintain employment and work to start their new lives in recovery.

Aftercare

Aftercare programs are an important but often overlooked aspect of rehab treatment and recovery. These programs take place after rehab and while clients live in their own home environment. Rehabs typically discuss aftercare programs and plans with clients before facility treatment ends to connect the individuals with resources in their home area. It is an important responsibility of each individual to maintain healthy recovery through aftercare support as they need it. In Maine, there are unlimited 12-step programs, structured aftercare programs, and other options for this continuing support in every community.

Seek the Maine Benzo Detox and Rehab Treatment You Need Today

As you can see through these levels of care, the therapies offered and the other aspects of benzo detox and rehab programs, rehab treatment is a highly individualized process. The treatment available to you will suit your own unique needs for lasting benzo recovery in Maine.