The most recent National Survey on Drug Use and Health reported that nearly 2.2 million adolescents (ages 12 to 17), or nearly 9 percent of adolescents in the U.S., were currently misusing illicit drugs. Of these 2.2 million, about 500,000 adolescents, nearly one in every 50 across the country, were misusing prescription psychotherapeutic drugs like Xanax, Valium or other benzodiazepines.

Benzodiazepines, or “benzos,” are psychoactive drugs that have been used since the 1960s to treat anxiety disorders, panic attacks, seizures and alcohol withdrawal symptoms. Xanax is one of the most commonly prescribed, alongside Ativan, Klonopin and Valium. With anxiety disorders currently ranking as the number one mental illness in the U.S., it’s no wonder that these drugs are becoming a common sight in medicine cabinets. One survey found that between 1996 and 2013, prescription rates for benzodiazepines jumped from 8.1 million to 13.5 million, a 67% increase, and dosages had increased by about 1.4 times. This combination of easy access and increasing prescription strength makes benzodiazepines a prime target for abuse among young people.


Xanax/Benzodiazepine Addiction

Benzodiazepines like Xanax are considered a type of sedative drug. They work by boosting the effects of a chemical in the brain called GABA which has known inhibitory properties; some chemicals in the brain excite your brain cells, but GABA calms them down. While increasing the soothing effects of GABA can be a great relief from the brain’s overactivity which causes anxiety, it can result in a sleepy and zoned-out “high” when benzos are used recreationally.

Many of the dangers of Xanax and benzos lie in the ease with which a user can build up a tolerance and then the problems that arise with withdrawal. Repeated use of a benzodiazepine drug causes the brain and body to become accustomed to the higher amount of GABA activity, so when the effects wear off, the brain will feel as if it has been overworked. Mood swings, anxiety, difficulty sleeping and headaches are common signs of withdrawal when the adolescent stops taking the benzodiazepine drug.


Signs of Xanax/Benzodiazepine Addiction

An adolescent who abuses benzodiazepines typically exhibits noticeably changed behavior while high, and long-term abuse will result in personality changes, particularly when a high wears off. Some of the signs of a benzodiazepine high include:

  • Confusion or appearing “lost in thought”
  • Drowsiness
  • Slurred or slowed speech
  • Uncoordinated movements
  • Poor judgment
  • Lowered social filters

Signs of benzodiazepine addiction or withdrawal include:

  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia/disturbed sleep
  • Vivid dreams
  • Amnesia/forgetfulness

Those addicted to benzos may also exhibit drug-seeking behavior in an attempt to get a prescription for Xanax or a different drug. Sudden unfounded complaints of anxiety-associated symptoms, requests to see multiple physicians about these symptoms or running through prescriptions very quickly are all signs that point towards benzodiazepine abuse.


Treating Xanax/Benzodiazepine Addiction

If your teen has been behaving erratically or differently than his/her usual self, make a note of the changes and talk to a physician right away. A doctor or other medical professional can help you learn about your options for determining whether your teen is addicted to benzodiazepines. Teen addiction to prescription medications like benzodiazepines can be harmful both physically and mentally and should be treated by addiction professionals as soon as possible.

Because it is dangerously easy to develop a physical dependency on benzodiazepines, treatment for benzodiazepine addiction can often require a medical detox period in which the addicted adolescent is safely weaned off the drug. This allows him/her to gradually become re-acclimated to daily life with normal levels of GABA and other brain functioning. At Stonewater, our Withdrawal Management program is supervised by a trained physician and highly qualified nursing staff. Withdrawal Management is a 24/7, monitored in-house treatment program for patients who require a supervised detoxification period. We are equipped to provide this service for adolescents before they transition to our primary Residential program.

Following medical treatment, the next step is to treat the underlying mental and emotional health concerns associated with addiction and substance use. At Stonewater, we aim to uncover the causes of adolescent substance use through a variety of therapies, including one-on-one and group talk therapy, art therapy, music therapy, equine therapy, adventure therapy and many others. We help teens in our program learn healthy ways to cope with inner turmoil and spend their free time in recovery. Our programs are available in 30, 60 and 90 day periods – the length of your adolescent’s stay will depend on his/her individual needs.

Our Treatment Goals

At our recovery campus in Oxford, Mississippi, we aim to give your child the tools he/she needs to return to a normal, drug-free lifestyle that allows them to reach their full potential. Your adolescent can safely recover from a benzodiazepine addiction under our care, and we can teach them the healthy habits they need to stay away from drugs and other addictive substances going forward. If you suspect your child is struggling with an addiction to Xanax or a different benzodiazepine, you can contact Stonewater right away to learn more about our programs. The earlier you seek treatment, the sooner your teen can recover and find meaning and purpose in a substance-free life. Call us today at 662-259-8474.