New Jersey and its energetic, eclectic, and very popular shoreline, is not immune to drug abuse. Drugs come into the shore counties from New York City and the larger cities in the state. Heroin is one of the primarily illicit drugs that affects many people who reside on the Jersey Shore. Benzodiazepines, like Xanax and Valium, are also misused and abused.

Benzodiazepines, sometimes called benzos, are mostly prescribed to treat anxiety or panic-related disorders. They can also be given to treat seizures or insomnia. In different circumstances, benzodiazepines can also be used for general anesthesia, muscle relaxation, depression, alcohol withdrawal, nausea and vomiting, and also for drug-related agitation.

The medicines that fall under this category were thought to be safer than barbiturates. For the most part, they are, unless they are misused or abused for other than medicinal purposes. In fact, more people are admitted to emergency rooms for benzodiazepine overdoses every year. There also have been fatal overdoses related to these drugs.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), relaying data from a national drug use survey, says that among those who misused benzos, 46.3% reported it was to relax or relieve tension, followed by 22.4% to help with sleep, almost 6% said it was for “experimentation,” and nearly 12% said it was to get high or because they were “hooked” on it.

While it may seem like there is no help for those who need addiction treatment, the truth is that benzodiazepine treatment is close and convenient for people struggling with substance use. Summit Behavioral Health has two locations in New Jersey within an easy drive from any shore county.

How Do Benzodiazepines Work?

Benzos work to reduce the activity of the nerves in the brain and spinal cord by enhancing the effects of gamma-Aminobutyric acid (GABA). GABA is a neurotransmitter that suppresses nerve activity.

Some common benzo drugs include:

  • Xanax (alprazolam)
  • Klonopin (clonazepam)
  • Valium (diazepam)
  • Ativan (lorazepam)
  • Versed (midazolam)
  • Librium (chlordiazepoxide)
  • Tranxene (clorazepate)
  • Restoril (temazepam)
  • Halcion (triazolam)
  • Serax (oxazepam)

There are key points to remember about benzos, such as some have a fast onset of action and start working within 30 to 60 minutes, like Valium and Xanax. These two common medications are primarily misused or abused by people due to their quick onset.

People who abuse benzos are likely to feel the drug’s side effects more than those who take these medicines.

Side effects include:

  • Confusion
  • Slurred speech
  • Severe drowsiness or coma
  • Shakiness
  • Seizures or convulsions
  • Slow heartbeat
  • Difficulty breathing

People who take benzodiazepines for an extended time could develop a tolerance to them. This is when your body does not respond to the medicine as it once did. You or someone you may know might feel the need to take more of the drug to feel the same effects as before. If you suddenly stop taking a benzodiazepine, you will probably experience withdrawal symptoms, meaning chemical dependency has occurred.

When you are dependent on benzos, you might experience these withdrawal symptoms:

  • Diarrhea and stomach upset
  • Insomnia
  • Increased heart rate
  • Muscle cramps
  • Headaches
  • Shakiness/tremors
  • Anxiety attacks
  • Lack of concentration
  • Rapid breathing
  • Seizures

If these symptoms are worrisome to you, then benzodiazepine treatment would be beneficial to end the misuse of the drug.

Jersey Shore Benzodiazepine Substance Abuse Statistics

There are four counties in New Jersey that are considered the Jersey shore, starting with Monmouth to the north and then southbound to Ocean, Atlantic, and Cape May counties. Drug abuse affects each one of them, as indicated in this report. In Monmouth County, roughly 4% of people admitted for substance use of other drugs, which would include benzos.

About 14% of people discharged from an addiction treatment program went through a medical detox center or hospital (Page 14). The majority of those released received outpatient care (OP) or intensive outpatient care (IOP).

Benzodiazepine Treatment on the Jersey Shore

Overdose deaths from benzos most often happen when the drugs are abused, as when someone takes a higher dose than prescribed, crushes the pills, snorts the powder, or mixes the powder with water and injects it to achieve quicker effects. Overdose can also occur if benzos are taken with alcohol or other drugs, like an opioid. If you live on or near the Jersey Shore, you should strongly consider benzodiazepine treatment, which is within a short drive from any county shore town.

The first step in benzodiazepine treatment is medical detox, where you spend time in a detox center undergoing withdrawal and being treated for both the physical and psychological symptoms of benzo addiction. Benzodiazepine withdrawal is similar to other depressant types of drugs, meaning that it can be dangerous if not treated. This is why it is vital to have 24-hour medical supervision as you go through withdrawal from benzos.

Even if you were prescribed a benzodiazepine medicine and have taken it on a normal schedule, it can be difficult to know when tolerance occurs, and you feel the need to take more. There is a possibility that you could become addicted to the drug. 

Addiction can happen to anyone, no matter your individual circumstances or background. It is quite challenging to end the use of a substance when addiction sets in. Relapse is a common occurrence for those with a substance use disorder and individuals who regularly take medication and feel they cannot live without it.

Detox is the safest way to rid benzodiazepines and other toxins from the body. Once you are through detox, you will be assessed to determine what your next level of benzodiazepine treatment will be. The severity of your addiction will determine that. You could be placed in an intensive outpatient program (IOP) at Summit Behavioral Health or in our outpatient program (OP).

Here, you will participate in therapy sessions that are aimed at finding the root of your addiction and learning new, positive, and healthy ways to deal with anxiety, stress and work on a relapse prevention plan. You also can engage in holistic therapies and learn about and join 12 step programs nearby that are there to fully support you as you take the brave steps to recovery.

Summit Behavioral Health has several locations in New Jersey that are easily accessible from all of the Jersey Shore counties. What sets us apart from any other substance use detox and treatment center is our services provide individualized treatment, and we have a low client-to-staff ratio. We also treat substance use at multiple levels, not just the physical addiction. Give us a call and ask how we can help you end benzodiazepine addiction.

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