By Cheryl Steinberg
The thing about drug addiction is that it affects all people, across gender, socio-economic, age, and ethnic lines. And that’s becoming more and more apparent as a heroin scourge spreads the nation. First, we wrote about how heroin has become the drug of choice among white, middle-class, suburbia.
But, you might be shocked to find out that the next population being most affected by the heroin epidemic is the Baby Boomers generation, who are now around 45 – 64 years of age.
After all, these are our parents and grandparents. It’s kind of hard to picture ol’ grandma shooting up in the bathroom, don’t you agree?
U.S. Heroin Epidemic Now Rampant Among Baby Boomers
However, this is the reality. In fact, the cases of heroin-related deaths among Baby Boomers have nearly quintupled from 516 in 2000 to 2,459 in 2013, the Times Union reports.
Bottom line: Older Americans are a growing sector in the heroin-addicted population in the U.S.
There are a few theories behind the “emerging epidemic,” or the trend among Baby Boomers who have turned to heroin.
First off, it’s important to know that seniors are prescribed more drugs than any other segment of the total population, and of these prescribed drugs, we’re not just talking heart and cholesterol pills. Of these prescription drugs, the majority are opioid pain relievers and anti-anxiety drugs – mostly benzos, like Xanax and Valium.
And, in this pill-popping society where everyone’s just looking for that magic bullet to solve their problems, the medical community reflects this in their overall mentality of ‘medicate-first,’ which only serves to make matters worse.
“What initially becomes a way of managing that pain can, over time, lead them to needing more of the painkiller,” Nicole MacFarland, executive director of Senior Hope, a nonprofit outpatient clinic in Albany for people 50 years and older, told the Times Union. “Their body develops a tolerance and, lo and behold, they wind up becoming very addicted.”
The rise in heroin use can also be attributed to the pill mill crackdowns and other strategies governments have been enacting in order to address the painkiller abuse sweeping the land. In an unfortunate twist (although foreseeable in this writer’s eyes), the tighter regulation on narcotic painkillers led to a revival of heroin use. We’ve seen it among the affluent, suburbia, and now the elderly.
The problem is that there was this nationwide crackdown on painkillers yet there was no plan in place as to how to deal with all the people who had become dependent on and even addicted to painkillers.
And just as we have seen with other “surprising populations” that have turned to heroin, older adults are also turning to heroin when the painkillers they are getting just aren’t enough to treat their pain. For example, the number of patients at Senior Hope whose main addiction was heroin increased from six patients in 2012 to 17 in 2014, out of 155 patients.
An issue specific to the Baby Boomer population when it comes to drug abuse is that weaning older adults from an opiate addiction can be complicated, since they need often need pain medication for other ailments such as chronic pain.
Again, substance abuse, misuse, and addiction are non-discriminating medical situations, meaning that anyone can be affected at any time. So, although it might be hard to picture certain people using heroin or other drugs, it’s just as likely as for anybody else to be using. Please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135.
By Cheryl Steinberg
Benzodiazepines, or more commonly “benzos” are part of a class of drugs known as anxiolytics (also antipanic or antianxiety agent), which are medications that inhibit or ease anxiety. You know them as Valium, Xanax, Librium, Ativan, and Klonopin.
Benzos have been around for quite a while but, it wasn’t until the 1970s when vast numbers of people began taking them for stress and anxiety, leading to concerns about the adverse effects of this group of drugs.
Benzos continue to be popular. For example, between 2002 and 2007, the number of U.S. prescriptions for them grew from 69 million to 83 million. Their popularity waned in the 1980s and ’90s, when SSRI antidepressants like Prozac, Zoloft, Paxil and others outsold them. But benzo use and popularity is back on the rise, mainly due to Big Pharma practices and tactics such as the highly successful marketing strategy used to boost Xanax sales, which was done by marketing it for more than just Panic Disorder.
This is Your Brain on Drugs: Benzos
As with most other drugs, benzos can lead to dependence, both physical and psychological, as well as to addiction for some. There are significant risks to physical and mental health associated with the long-term use of benzodiazepines.
The cognitive effects of long-term benzodiazepine use include impaired concentration and memory, and disinhibition, which is the inability to restrain yourself and shows up as a disregard for social conventions, impulsivity, and poor risk assessment. Users may also experience a generalized impairment of cognition, meaning difficulty with paying attention, struggles with verbal learning and memory. Benzos are the most common cause of drug induced dementia, which affects over 10% of patients who are often misdiagnosed as having Alzheimer’s disease.
A benzo user’s mood is also deeply affected by long-term use, even undergoing noticeable personality changes and showing signs of aggression. Users experience what’s called emotional clouding, which can best be described as being overly sensitive and not being able to think rationally because their emotions cloud their judgment. Also, continued use of benzos can cause depression as well as the other mental health conditions, and benzo use can actually make those conditions worse. This includes anxiety, which is what this class of drugs is supposed to treat.
When someone uses benzos for an extended period of time, they develop benzodiazepine dependence. This condition is associated with possible adverse effects on sleep, including the causing and/or worsening of sleep disordered breathing.
People who become benzo dependent also experience physical symptoms such as nausea, headaches, dizziness, irritability, lethargy, and sexual dysfunction.
Studies have shown that chronic use of benzodiazepines appears to cause significant immunological disorders, as seen in a sample of outpatient clients. Diazepam and clonazepam have been found to have long-lasting, but not permanent, immunotoxic effects in the fetus of pregnant rats.
Suicide and Self-Harm
Teenagers who already displayed signs of depression who were taking benzodiazepines were found to have a drastically increased risk of self-harm or suicide.
Sadly, suicide is common among chronic benzodiazepine users. Misuse or abuse of benzos, like with other medications that suppress the Central Nervous System (CNS depressants) increase the risk of suicide with 11% of males and 23% of females who abuse a sedative hypnotic, like Xanax or Valium, committing suicide.
Benzodiazepine dependence often leads to an increasingly worsening quality of life for the user, which includes social deterioration leading to co-occurring issues such as alcoholism and other drug abuse. Benzo addiction goes beyond physical dependence; when someone who has been taking benzos over a long period of time starts to experience issues such as the deterioration of relationships, employment problems, and financial issues, then it is pretty safe to say that they have crossed over into addiction.
The American Psychiatric Association Task Force devised a table that lists the withdrawal symptoms associated with benzos and categorizes them as such: “Very Frequent, Common but Less Frequent, and Uncommon.”
Very Frequent withdrawal symptoms included anxiety, agitation, and irritability.
Common but Less Frequent withdrawal symptoms include depression.
Uncommon withdrawal reactions included psychosis, confusion, paranoid delusions, and hallucinations. The APA task force also found that these withdrawal symptoms “may persist up to several weeks (occasionally for months).”
But withdrawal from benzos doesn’t end there. Benzodiazepine withdrawal syndrome is very similar to alcohol withdrawal syndrome in that it requires medical treatment because it isn’t safe to quit cold turkey. In some cases, benzo withdrawal (like alcohol withdrawal) results in death.
The good news is that anywhere from 3 to 6 months of abstaining from taking benzos (with proper detox and tapering), there are noticeable improvements in the mental and physical wellbeing of the user. Although long-term use of benzos can actually create or exacerbate physical and mental health conditions, these issues usually improve after 6 or more months of abstinence. So, if you or someone you love is dependent on or addicted to benzos, recovery is possible. Please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135.
By Cheryl Steinberg
In case you didn’t know, the legalization of certain drugs and the prohibition of others rarely has to do with actual science. So, for example alcohol, tobacco, and prescription drugs are all legal. They are also the deadliest drugs in America, contributing to more health risks and deaths than illicit drugs are associated with.
One major contributing factor of total tobacco and alcohol deaths is that both substances are legal and easily available. As a result, they are also socially-acceptable to use.
What about marijuana? Up until recently, it was illegal.
Marijuana: A Brief History Lesson
The country is polarized when it comes to the legalization of marijuana, whether it be for medical purposes only or for recreational use. Marijuana has long been vilified in the media by newspaper men such as William Randolph Hearst, whose wild and sensational ‘old wives tales’ of the “Devil’s Weed” were spread via main news sources of the time (newspapers) in a large-scale smear campaign.
You see, Hearst was ‘in bed’ – as it were – with the Dupont Brothers who had recently patented the wood-pulping machine. This meant that paper was to become the go-to for printing newspapers. At that time, though, hemp was being considered – by the American government’s Agriculture Department – as the “Billion Dollar Crop of the Future.” If hemp, instead of trees, was to be grown and cultivated, that would make the Duponts’ invention obsolete.
Hemp vs. Marijuana
If you didn’t know, marijuana and hemp go hand-in-hand. Hemp and marijuana both come from the same plant, Cannabis Sativa L. Hemp is the cannabis stalk and seeds that are used for textiles, foods, papers, body care products, detergents, plastics and building materials; it doesn’t contain the psychoactive drug THC that marijuana does. Thus, ‘marijuana’ refers to the cannabis flowers, or buds, that are used for medicinal and recreational purposes.
The Three Deadliest Drugs Just So Happen to Be Legal
As the US debates drug policy and marijuana legalization, there’s one aspect of the war on drugs that remains perplexingly contradictory: some of the most dangerous drugs in the US are perfectly legal.
If you don’t believe me, just take a gander at this chart, compiled with available data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):
Alcohol: One of the three deadliest – and legal – drugs
The rates of direct death and overdose leave out other factors such as health and socioeconomic issues. Alcohol, in particular, is widely associated with several issues, such as a higher rate of crime and traffic accidents that cause harm both to users and to society as a whole. What makes alcohol so dangerous is most obvious when looking at health effects and drunk driving. But there are other major issues when it comes to alcohol, like aggression, erratic behavior, injuries, drop in economic productivity, family problems, and even crime. Alcohol is a factor in 40% of violent crimes, according to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence.
- Alcohol increases the risk of a traffic accident 13 times over, whereas other drugs double to triple the risk.
- It takes less relative doses to die from alcohol than it does to die from marijuana and even cocaine
- Alcohol causes more fatal traffic accidents than other drugs – in 2010 alcohol caused more than 10,000 traffic fatalities
Tobacco is a known killer
Smoking cigarettes used to be chic and very commonplace. I mean, you could smoke on airplanes and even hospitals! Just watch an older movie, like The Exorcist (the original) in which a doctor is seen smoking in a hospital, and you can see remnants of a by-gone era.
Once the evidence of just how detrimental cigarette smoking and tobacco was uncovered, all hell broke loose. Do you remember all the lawsuits Big Tobacco was fighting? Yet, tobacco remains a legal substance – a heavily-taxed substance, but legal nonetheless.
Prescription drugs like narcotic painkillers and benzos (Xanax and Valium) are super popular in a pill-popping society like ours. Back pain? Take a pill. Headache? There’s a pill for that. Social anxiety? Here, swallow this. With all these meds floating around, doctors, parents, and even grandparents have become unwitting drug dealers.
Although there are conditions for which medication might be a necessary intervention, there are non-narcotic alternatives as well as lifestyle changes that can improve quality of life. If you are struggling with alcohol, prescription pills, or any other substance, help is available. Please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135. Addiction Specialists are available around the clock to answer your questions. You are not alone.
There are significant risks associated with the long-term effects of Benzo abuse. Benzo (Benzodiazepine) abuse can create serious health issues including drug dependence, as well as the possibility of adverse effects on cognitive function, physical health, and mental health. There are a number of harmful long term effects of Benzo abuse such as depression and flu-like symptoms especially during withdrawal. Due to these increasing physical and mental issues that are long-term effects benzo abuse, slowly weaning off the medication is recommended for long term users.
Common Symptoms of Physical Dependence
Some of the more common symptoms that could occur as long-term effects of Benzo abuse include:
- Emotional clouding
- Sleep problems
- Memory impairment
- Personality changes
- Social deterioration
- Employment difficulties
Long term effects of Benzo abuse also create an increased risk of impulsive, aggressive, and violent behavior patterns. According to a few recent studies:
- 53% of long-term Benzo users showed violent and aggressive characteristics.
- Daily users of benzodiazepines are also at a higher risk of experiencing psychotic symptoms such as delusions and hallucinations.
- Out of 42 patients treated with Xanax– up to 1/3 of long-term users develop depression.
An even more frightening factor in long-term effects of Benzo abuse is the increasing risk of death. Some speculate there is even a link between some forms of brain damage and immune system deficiencies as a result of long term effects of Benzo abuse.
Long Term Effects of Benzo Abuse: Withdrawal and Recovery
The long term effects of Benzo abuse frequently create a severe physical dependency. So like any other chemical or medicine, one should never abruptly stop using this medication and probably seek out a medical detox facility, to lower dose under doctor supervision until they are completely off the chemical, or to receive alternative treatment while being removed from that medication. Other long-term effects of Benzo abuse can include overdoses when combined with other drugs. In addition, Benzo’s have reinforcing properties which make them a very addictive drug, and physical dependency can be developed in a matter of weeks of continued use.
The withdrawal process in regards to long term effects of Benzo abuse creates a wide range of psychological and physiological disorders. It was found that, after several years of chronic benzodiazepine use, a large portion of patients developed problems through withdrawal that were not pre-existing conditions such as:
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Increasing anxiety
- Panic attacks
Approximately half of patients attending mental health services for conditions including anxiety disorders are estimated to be the result of alcohol or benzodiazepine dependence. Sometimes anxiety disorders pre-date the alcohol or benzodiazepine dependence but these often act to keep the anxiety disorders going and even cause them to get progressively worse.
A person who is suffering the long term effects of Benzo abuse must treat the root issue of their drug dependency or they will not benefit from other therapies or medications. Recovery from long term effects of Benzo abuse tends to take a lot longer than recovery from alcohol abuse, but people can regain a healthy life-style. There are many great facilities and treatment programs with recovery plans specifically designed around the long term effects of Benzo abuse to help ease the weaning off the drugs and combating health issues.
If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135
What are Benzodiazepines?
Benzodiazepines are a class of prescription drugs that are mainly prescribed for the treatment of anxiety and panic disorder. Examples of benzodiazepines include Valium, Xanax, and Ativan. These are powerful drugs that are also highly addictive. And, in fact, there are much better and safer ways to manage anxiety than to use these medications.
Benzodiazepine detox and detox from benzodiazepines
If you have become physically dependent on benzodiazepines, which are called “benzos” for short, that is, when you try to stop you will experience withdrawal symptoms as a result of your benzo detox. Basically, when you quit cold turkey, or stop abruptly, you are forcing your body and brain – your whole system, to detox from benzos, with potentially dire consequences. Benzodiazepine withdrawal syndrome can range from uncomfortable physical and psychological symptoms to more severe symptoms that can lead to a possibly life-threatening situation.
Length of Benzos Detox and Withdrawal Symptoms
When you detox from benzos, benzo withdrawal symptoms usually develop at 3-4 days from last use, although they can appear earlier, depending on which one you were abusing – some stay in the system longer than others. Also, you will begin to experience anxiety almost immediately after stopping. The level of anxiety might be even higher than you’re used to, as a sort of back-lash from stopping cold turkey.
There’s no real way to say how long your benzos detox will last; it depends on the individual’s body chemistry, such as metabolism, as well as other factors such as how long the benzos abuse has gone on and to what degree of severity.
Benzos Detox Symptoms: Benzos Withdrawal Syndrome
Symptoms of benzos detox range from mild anxiety and shakiness to extremely severe complications. Depression, suicidal behavior, psychosis, seizures, and delirium tremens such as seizures and delirium tremens – called “the DTs.” Symptoms from the DTs are characterized by confusion, rapid heartbeat, and fever, the death rate from which is estimated to range from 1% to 5%.
Other severe benzos withdrawal symptoms that result from sudden detox from benzos include anxiety, deep depression, seizure, fall risk, and coma. Death can result from the symptoms, alone, and commonly is due to head injury sustained from a fall.
Importance of Going to a Facility for Benzos Detox
Benzodiazepine withdrawal symptoms can get worse – and quickly, at that. It’s of utmost importance to seek medical attention even if your symptoms seeming rather mild. There is available treatment that has been specifically developed to treat benzos withdrawal syndrome, which can reduce the risk of developing the more severe benzos detox symptoms, such as withdrawal seizures. An benzos detox is designed to safely detox you from benzos in a controlled and comfortable setting to assure your health and safety.
Severe benzos withdrawal symptoms are a medical emergency. If seizures, fever, severe confusion, hallucinations, or irregular heartbeats occur, either take the patient to an emergency room or call 911.
If you or someone you know is struggling with substance abuse, addiction, or benzosism please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135.