Drug addiction is not just a big city problem. It affects everyone no matter where they live, from the west side of town to the shoreline. South Florida is a large area covering many counties, cities, and towns. The region’s closeness to major ports means that drugs from around the globe can be imported and distributed through the area. While opioids are still a major drug of abuse, benzodiazepines have become another prescription drug problem.
The State Medical Examiners report for 2019 has released data for deaths caused by drugs and by county.
It is shocking how many deaths are caused by two widely known and popular benzodiazepines, alprazolam and diazepam. Deaths caused by:
- Alprazolam (Xanax) alone – 33
- Alprazolam with other drugs – 211
- Diazepam caused more deaths when used with other drugs than it did alone, with a total of 25 overdoses.
Fortunately, there is help for people who desire to stop abusing benzodiazepines right here in South Florida.
What Are Benzodiazepines?
Benzodiazepines are commonly prescribed to treat anxiety, stress, muscle tension, seizures, and in some circumstances, insomnia. They are in the drug classification of central nervous system (CNS) depressants. Medications that fall in this category slow down the CNS when it is overactive and produce a calming effect. This helps you relax, and if needed, fall asleep. These medicines interact with the naturally produced chemicals in the brain called gamma-Aminobutyric acid (GABA). GABA enables the body to relax or fall asleep.
People with anxiety or sleep disorders may have less GABA that prevents them from keeping calm when distressed or falling asleep. This can happen when their bodies do not produce enough GABA. Benzodiazepines will bind to the GABA receptors, which increases GABA after the medication is taken. The medicine creates a more intense effect on the body so that the individual feels calm or relaxed enough to fall asleep. It can also cause a sense of euphoria, which can lead to abuse of the drug.
Benzodiazepines can make you feel like you have no problems, stress, or anxiety. If taken for an extended time, you might become chemically dependent on the drug. Later on, you might not know that you’ve become addicted to it and have a substance use disorder.
Due to the possibility of dependency, benzodiazepines are not typically prescribed for more than two weeks. Your body can adapt to the drug, and tolerance of it will develop. You may feel like the medication is not working anymore when tolerance occurs. Chemical dependence is indicated when you stop using the medicine suddenly and start experiencing withdrawal symptoms.
What Is Benzodiazepine Withdrawal?
Benzodiazepine withdrawal can be very uncomfortable and sometimes dangerous. They are known to cause serious withdrawal symptoms, especially if you stop using them suddenly without tapering off use. If you have been taking benzodiazepines for an extended time or have been using them recreationally and abruptly stop using them, you will most likely feel withdrawal symptoms. They are:
- Feeling jittery
- Heart palpitations
- Irregular heartbeat
- Chest pains
- Heart failure
It is possible you could also feel “rebound symptoms,” which is a severe return of anxiety or insomnia if that is the reason you took the drug.
Depressant drugs can cause intense withdrawal symptoms, which medical or addiction professionals are trained to handle. Benzodiazepine withdrawal is not pleasant and can be dangerous with the risks of heart-related problems or seizures. Addiction withdrawal treatment can make it more comfortable, less distressing, and safe.
South Florida Benzodiazepine Misuse Statistics
As the County Health Rankings notes, South Florida has seen drug overdose rates rise, and White and Hispanic men led the way in the area north of Miami.
Palm Beach County drug overdose deaths were mostly white men, followed by Hispanic men.
Broward County drug overdose deaths were mostly white men.
Miami-Dade County drug overdose deaths were mostly Black men.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that Florida had 5,268 overdose deaths from drugs in 2019.
A September 2019 South Florida Sun-Sentinel report states that, “In Palm Beach County, overdose deaths are already 49% higher from January to August of this year than they were for the same period last year,” and that “Miami Dade Fire Rescue has seen a 3% rise in overdose-related calls compared to the same time last year.”
Most of this could be attributed to people feeling isolated during the lockdowns and self-quarantining days of the coronavirus pandemic.
Benzodiazepine Treatment in South Florida
South Florida has many addiction treatment centers in which to consider. The Palm Beach Institute has been operating for 50 years and has a 4.5-star rating on Google. It is an accredited substance use disorder facility that has helped people from around the country end their substance use.
People with addiction should seek professional help and care to overcome substance abuse and learn how to live drug-free.
If you have been taking benzodiazepines for a long time or have misused them in high doses, it is best to seek advice from your physician, who can assess your situation and provide guidance. Medical detox will be the safest way to withdraw from the benzos you’ve been taking.
The detox process will remove all of the benzodiazepines and other toxins from your body. During this time, medical and addiction professionals will monitor your health 24-7. There are other medications that can ease the withdrawal symptoms and make detox less painful. If you do it alone and try a smaller dose, it may cause severe withdrawal symptoms like seizures.
Benzodiazepines taken in high doses and individuals who have become severely dependent on the drugs will most likely need residential treatment, sometimes called inpatient treatment. Here, you will stay in the substance treatment center while participating in intensive therapy sessions. You will learn how to cope with triggers and cravings and spend time finding the root cause of your addiction. You will also be able to create your own relapse prevention plan to bolster you as you make your way in life drug-free.
If you reside in South Florida, The Palm Beach Institute is near and readily available to help you start a new life without drugs. The care team is experienced, dedicated, and committed addiction professionals who will not leave your side. The facility offers family programs and a specialized veterans program.
If paying for addiction treatment seems insurmountable, representatives from the center can help you find a way to pay. From insurance to payment plans, there is no need to delay substance use treatment due to finances. There is always a way to pay without breaking the bank.
Addiction can not only ruin your life but the lives of those who love you. It takes strength, resolve, and a steadfast commitment to admit you have a substance use problem and need help. Fortunately, there are people within an easy drive in South Florida who understand this and will walk with you on your road to recovery. Take that first hard step today.