Coronavirus Consequences
How COVID-19 Has Affected Benzo Abuse

The COVID-19 pandemic has been difficult for everyone. For those who struggle with substance abuse, however, these trying times have been particularly challenging. According to numerous sources, rates of substance abuse and dependence have escalated significantly over the course of the past year throughout the U.S. Members of every demographic are being afflicted. A combination of social isolation, constant uncertainty and financial insecurity has led to increased mental health challenges, and one of the most commonly employed coping mechanisms (unfortunately) is reaching for a bottle of booze or a handful of pills.

Rates of substance use have increased across the board; people are drinking more, smoking more and overdosing at higher rates than ever before. Rates of benzodiazepine abuse and addiction have been a growing concern. According to an article published in the Journal of Mental Health and Clinical Psychology, rates of benzodiazepine prescription have been exceptionally high during the pandemic because so many people are struggling with mental health concerns like insomnia and anxiety.

At CuraWest we understand how trying these times have been, and we know how easy it can be to reach for a prescription medication when you lack the coping mechanisms necessary to work through COVID-19-related challenges in other ways. We offer effective medical detox services while laying a solid foundation for lasting benzo addiction recovery. To learn more, contact us today.

About Benzodiazepine Abuse & Addiction

Benzodiazepines are a type of prescription medication most commonly used for the treatment of anxiety disorders and sleep disorders like insomnia. This type of medication has been around since the 1960s, and was initially prescribed as a “safer” alternative to barbiturates (a classification of drug which performs similar functions). Common brand name benzodiazepines include Xanax, Klonopin, Ativan, Valium and Librium. More commonly referred to as benzos, these medications have been linked to a rising concern of overdose deaths, addiction and permanently impaired cognitive function. The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that roughly 12.5 percent of American adults use benzos regularly, which equates to about 30.5 million people throughout the country. Of these adults an estimated 2.1 percent have abused their prescription at least once. However, many people who abuse benzos regularly obtain them by other means. They might raid the medicine cabinet of a friend or family member looking for unused or expired prescriptions; they might purchase medication from a drug dealer or simply be given the pills by a friend or acquaintance who has a written prescription. Data shows that only 20 percent of people who abuse benzos initially receive them from a medical professional. Because these medications are so frequently prescribed, many mistakenly believe that they are safe to use even without doctor approval. In truth, benzos are responsible for a great deal of emergency room visits, addiction cases and overdose-related deaths. NIDA reports in 2019, roughly 16 percent of all opioid-related overdose deaths also directly involved a benzo like Xanax or Valium. Combining opioids with benzos is extremely unsafe, seeing as both drugs suppress breathing and can easily lead to respiratory depression.

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Benzo Prescription Rates

Because accidental overdose death rates related to benzos have been on the rise over the course of the past several years, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has been urging doctors and psychiatric professionals to consider alternative options before prescribing these medications. However, research shows that benzo prescription rates have been on the rise since the COVID pandemic began.

COVID and benzo addiction rates

An article published by the U.S. National Library of Medicine titled “Benzodiazepine Misuse: An Epidemic Within a Pandemic” states:

COVID-19 had deleterious effects on patients with mental health problems and several studies have shown a spike in the rates of depression, insomnia, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Anxiety and insomnia rates have also increased among both the general public and health care professionals. Benzodiazepines are some of the most commonly used drugs in the treatment of anxiety and insomnia. However, benzodiazepines are also misused, abused alone, or abused in combination with other drugs. Lockdowns and social distancing have also had negative consequences on patients with mental health problems.”

Increased rates of benzo addiction during the COVID-19 pandemic can be largely attributed to this perfect storm of related issues. People are developing anxiety disorders and sleep disorders as a result of COVID-19-related stressors, and medical professionals are prescribing benzos to help combat these issues. However, because people have limited access to additional mental health resources like intensive behavioral therapy, support groups and a range of stress-reducing activities, they are beginning to abuse their medications at higher rates. Additionally, people who have struggled with a substance abuse disorder in the past and who have entered into a program of recovery might be having a more difficult time staying on track. Many in-person recovery meetings have been moved to virtual platforms, for example, and peer support is an important component of most recovery programs. If you or someone you love has recently started abusing benzos or has experienced a relapse after a period of sobriety, CuraWest is available to help.

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The Importance of Medical Detox

When it comes to benzo abuse and dependence, medical detox is a suggested first step on the road to recovery. This is because the physical and psychological symptoms associated with benzo withdrawal can be severe when left untreated. At CuraWest we combine evidence-based detox methods with behavioral therapies and holistic approaches to healing. We utilize medication assisted treatment options whenever necessary, providing each of our clients with a safe and pain-free benzo withdrawal. As soon as a symptom develops our team of experienced professionals treats it at the source. In addition to extensively trained medical practitioners who monitor clients around the clock, we have psychiatric professionals on staff for those who require dual diagnosis treatment options. Upon admission to our detox program each client is assigned a case manager, who serves as an advocate and helps develop an individualized treatment plan. Case managers also serve as the main point of contact between the treatment team and the loved ones of the client, keeping them updated on progress. For many, medical detox is only the first step on a multi-phased program of addiction treatment, and once physical stabilization has been achieved they immediately transition into a higher level of care. At CuraWest we provide thorough aftercare planning services geared towards making this transition as seamless as possible. Contact us today to determine whether or not medically monitored detox is right for you or your loved one.

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At CuraWest we have developed an admissions process that is simple, straightforward and can be completed in as little as 15 minutes. The moment you or your loved one reaches out, either by phone or directly through our website, you are put in touch with one of our knowledgeable and compassionate Treatment Advisors who will walk you through the remainder of the process. We begin by conducting a brief pre-assessment over the phone, which includes a series of simple questions geared towards helping our clinical team determine which detox methods are going to be the most effective for your unique case. We then go over coverage options, which might include health insurance coverage, self-pay or private pay options. Our main priority is ensuring that our services remain as accessible as possible.

We then arrange transportation to our Denver, Colorado facility and answer any additional questions. While medical detox is a recommended first step for anyone struggling with benzodiazepine addiction, we suggest following detox with an immediate transition into a higher level of clinical care. As part of the Guardian Recovery Network we work closely with treatment centers throughout the country which provide a variety of treatment services, including residential inpatient treatment, partial hospitalization, intensive outpatient treatment and aftercare planning. At CuraWest our case managers work alongside the clinical team to develop a highly individualized aftercare plan — one that takes all of your personal needs and clinical requirements into careful account. To begin your personal recovery journey or help your loved one get started on theirs, contact us today.

Reviewed for accuracy by: our Clinical Director:

Jasmine has worked in the mental health field for over 18 years. She earned her B.A. in Psychology with a Minor in Child and Family Relations from North Carolina Central University, and her M.A. in Mental Health Counseling from Argosy University. Jasmine is a Licensed Professional Counselor Supervisor and has specialized in addiction for over 10 years.