It seems with each passing day, we hear about a new drug that people are using in order to catch their next buzz or high. Whether it is on the evening news, splashed on social media, or the subject of the latest YouTube video, these drugs capture national attention and add to the worries of law enforcement, health professionals, and regular folks.
Over the past few years, drugs like marijuana, alcohol, opioids, and synthetic stimulants such as bath salts and flakka have grabbed national headlines. However, there are drugs that don’t make the front page news that is just as addictive, dangerous, and deadly. A new drug that is starting to make headlines is the drug phenazepam.
What Is Phenazepam?
Phenazepam is a very potent and long-lasting drug that belongs to the benzodiazepine family, which includes more commonly known drugs such as Xanax, Klonopin, and Valium. The drug was first developed in Russia in the 1970s and was developed to help treat anxiety, sleep disorders and epilepsy among other conditions. In Russia and other countries of the former Soviet Union, phenazepam was prescribed to aid in anesthesia for surgical procedures as well as used in the treatment of alcohol withdrawal symptoms.
The drug, also known as bonsai super sleep or bonsai, comes in tablet form and can be taken orally or can be crushed and snorted by users. Phenazepam can also be injected intravenously and can also come in a transdermal patch that can be placed on the skin. Like other benzos, those who use the drug do so because of its’ powerful sedating qualities.
Why Is Phenazepam So Dangerous?
Phenazepam is extremely potent and overdoses can easily occur when used on a recreational basis. The half-life of the drug (or the duration that users feel a drug’s effects) is 60 hours. Users of the drug feel its’ peak effects within 2 to 4 hours and then the drug starts to lose its effects. Since the effects of the drug take some time to kick in, users may be tempted to re-dose and are not aware that the high levels of the drug still remain in the body.
Those who use phenazepam, like other benzos, will mix the drug with other substances which can be extremely dangerous and deadly. Among the common drugs that are used in conjunction with phenazepam can include alcohol, other tranquilizers, and heroin. Recreational users also combine this drug with “club drugs” such as ketamine and PCP as well as with prescription painkillers such as oxycodone.
Another danger of phenazepam concerns the purity of the drug. While medical-grade phenazepam will be pure, the product that users may buy on the street may have impurities or be cut with substances or other agents that can cause damage to the heart and lungs. Additionally, phenazepam has been used to make fake Valium. People have taken what they thought was a normal Valium dose, but is, in fact, a high dose of phenazepam, and have ended up in hospital.
What Are the Side Effects and Withdrawal Symptoms?
When taken as prescribed, phenazepam provides a sedative effect and allows users to experience reduced anxiety and tension. However, if misused the side effects can include hiccups, dizziness, loss of coordination, and drowsiness. The drug can also make users extremely forgetful and they can experience anterograde amnesia especially in high doses. Anterograde amnesia is the inability to store new information in short-term memory.
As with other benzodiazepines, users can experience severe withdrawal symptoms if they abruptly discontinue the use of phenazepam. These withdrawal symptoms can include the following:
- seizures, convulsions, and death
- muscle spasms
- extreme sensitivity to light, smell, and touch
- distorted body image
The Importance of Drug Treatment
As with other benzodiazepines, those who are addicted to phenazepam need to undergo residential drug treatment. Undergoing drug treatment at a specialized facility will give addicts the best chance not only of overcoming their addiction, but will also give them the best chance at long-term recovery. Before treatment can begin, however, users must first undergo medical detoxification where they are slowly weaned away from the effects of the drug while decreasing the severity of the physical and psychological symptoms associated with the withdrawal process.
For many addicts, the detox process can seem overwhelming, but it’s a necessary step in recovery. During this process, medical professionals will medically stabilize patients and work to minimize withdrawals to the point where they are substance-free and symptom-free. Most importantly, detox staff will evaluate each patient for any co-occurring mental disorders which may lie at the root of their phenazepam addiction. Co-occurring disorders such as depression and anxiety are common in those who struggle with addiction. Those that are addicted to phenazepam may also suffer from sleep disorders. In general, the detox process can take a week or more, depending on the severity of the addiction.
Once the detox process is complete, patients transition into formal drug treatment, where they will take part in intensive counseling and therapy in order to uncover the origins of their addiction. Additionally, newly recovering addicts will learn the necessary life and coping skills needed to maintain their recovery while resuming their normal day-to-day activities and obligations. Once drug treatment is completed, it is highly recommended those new in recovery take part in aftercare programs like intensive outpatient counseling as well as continued involvement in 12-step meetings and groups. Continued support and encouragement are needed in order for newly recovering addicts to continue working on their program of recovery.