When Benzos Go from Anxiety Aid to Addiction

In the United States the motto ‘bigger, better, faster’ is the driving force for most people. There is unparalleled pressure to have the most money, the biggest house, the nicest car, be the smartest, the best athlete and just in general the best of everything. All of this chasing the American dream causes stress, anxiety and panic attacks in many. In fact, anxiety is the most common mental illness in the U.S. with over 40 million adults diagnosed with it. Doctors prescribe benzodiazepines, i.e. benzos, to help people deal with their anxiety, stress, phobias, insomnia and panic attacks. Benzos bring instant relief for their prescribed symptoms but they also create an addiction that is harder to break than opioids.

The Rise in Benzo Addiction

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) the number of prescriptions writhed for benzos has increased 67% between 1996 and 2013. Panic attacks and anxiety can be debilitating and there is no one profile of a sufferer. Many celebrities have started talking about their struggles with acute anxiety and many of them turn to benzos to treat it. Benzos, more commonly known as Xanax, Valium, Ativan and Klonopin, are glorified in rap songs and in movies and TV. Taking a Xanax bar can quickly alleviate all your problems, but it doesn’t take long for it to become an addiction. They are in the drug class of tranquilizers and they calm the brain down while flooding it with dopamine producing a feel-good effect. Users say that it takes away all the feelings and emotions that are bothering you helps escape the everyday stressors of life.

Benzos Drug Addiction

How Addiction Happens

A prescription for benzos is meant to be for the short-term and not to be taken everyday. The feeling produced by the drug makes it highly addictive and it is extremely hard to stop which creates a dangerous cycle of abuse. The withdrawal from benzos is severe and worse than detoxing off of opioids or heroin. In fact, stopping cold turkey causes such severe withdrawal symptoms that doctors advise patients to wean themselves off slowly. In most instances, detox from a drug takes about a week, not so with benzos. Withdrawal symptoms ca last anywhere from a few months to a year. As the high wears off users feel like they are in a constant state of detox so they take another to stop the extreme feelings of anguish.

Withdrawal Symptoms of Benzos

Withdrawing from any drug is hard and takes resilience and determination. Stopping benzos is twice as hard and symptoms hit hard. The severe withdrawal symptoms from benzos include: extreme shaking, seizures, nausea, headaches, sweating, muscular pain, irritability, insomnia, panic attacks and increased stress and anxiety. Even when use is slowly tapered off, symptoms still appear. This is what makes it so difficult to stop, the withdrawal is so intense that users take another bar or pill to end the pain. Health care officials and emergency rooms across the country report patients being admitted to the hospital for overdoses or withdrawal because of the dangerous seizures often experienced.

Multiple Drug Use

Drugs like Xanax and Valium are usually not taken on their own but taken in conjunction with other drugs or alcohol. Several celebrities have recently overdosed by mixing Xanax with other drugs like fentanyl or heroin. Benzos are just as deadly as opioids and even more so when taken with other drugs. Overdoses involving benzos quadrupled between 2002 and 2015. In 2015 there were 8,791 deaths involving benzos, up from 1,135 in 1999.

Xanax, in particular, has been celebrated by artists in the genre of SoundCloud rap with many rapping about Xan, getting tattoos of Xan bars and even one naming himself Lil’ Xan for his love of the drug. Lil’ Peep, a well-known SoundCloud rapper OD’d last November on Xanax laced with fentanyl. Hoirse before his death he uploaded videos of himself on Instagram dropping Xanax bars into his mouth. His death has acted like a wake-up call to others in that genre but it is still an epidemic that’s gaining speed like a freight train.

Long-Lasting Effects

Long-term use of benzos has been shown to cause cognitive impairment and emotional stunting. Users forget things they once knew or forget how to perform day-to-day tasks. Other side effects include: lack of coordination, confusion, blurred vision, tremors, headaches, diminished reaction time, lack of focus and slowed thinking. While not everyone who is prescribed benzos becomes addicted, it is still a highly addictive drug and should be taken with caution. Even those taking for therapeutic reasons without addictive personalities can easily find themselves addicted to them.

If you think someone you know is abusing drugs or alcohol, contact National Screening Centers in Houston, they provide drug analysis to give you results that are 100% accurate. They are performed at our convenient locations and results are delivered quickly. For more information visit National Screening Centers for our location and hours.

Making a Plan to Stay Sober During the Holidays

Stay Sober

The holiday season is full of joy and happiness but also comes with stress, anxiety and parties, lots of parties. For someone in recovery, whether ten years in or ten days in, the holidays are a challenging time to stay committed to being sober. With a plan in place you can stay sober all while still enjoying all the holidays have to offer. We offer some tips to help get you through this most tempting season and remain on your road to recovery.

Know Your Triggers and Avoid Them

The holidays are not the time to test your resolve or your sobriety. If you know a certain party or gathering is going to include heavy drinking or drug use decline the invitation. If there are certain people or relatives who are not supportive of your recovery, avoid them. Avoid events that will have a lot of temptations or leave when the temptation gets too strong. People will understand if you can’t make an event, your sobriety is more important than any party.

Have a Strategy for Holiday Events

Before attending a party or event have plans in place to deal with stressful situations. Bring your own non-alcoholic drink and keep one in your hand so people aren’t always offering you a drink. Have answers ready in case someone asks why you aren’t drinking. If you’re comfortable with sharing then you can tell them you are in recovery. If you’re not ready to announce it, tell them you’re taking medication, are the designated driver, have to get up early or whatever is most comfortable for you. People are not going to be upset if you’re drinking water instead of wine! It’s also key to have an exit strategy. If you go with someone else ensure you can leave when you need to and aren’t dependent on someone else for a ride. If things get stressful or people start getting intoxicated, remove yourself.

Enroll a Sober Buddy

Anything can be easier if you have someone supporting you. Enroll your sponsor or a sober friend to attend events with you. If they are unavailable see if you can call or text them before, during and after the event for support. When cravings get to be too much, send them a text to help get your mind off of it. Talking to someone who understands can help put you at ease. These people will also be more than happy to do things with you that don’t involve drugs or alcohol. It’s also important to let friends and family know you are sober and ask for their help. You don’t want to be around people that don’t support you or will try and tempt you.

Stay Active and Give Back

Keeping busy during the holidays will keep your mind off drinking and partying. It’s a great time to give back too. There are plenty of volunteer opportunities this time of year and helping others will not only help you stay sober but will give you purpose and make you feel good.

Exercise is also very effective. When you exercise it releases endorphins that help you feel good and provide energy. It also improves mood, sleep and helps clear your mind.

Take Care of Yourself

Take care of yourself during this time by eating well, exercising and getting good sleep. Remember that a lot of people are going through stressful times whether it’s with drugs and alcohol, food, depression, stress, financial worries or family drama. You are not alone in your struggles.

Remember why you got sober and all the hard work you’ve put into your recovery. You need to be proud of yourself and take one day at a time. Don’t worry about what you did in the past or your future, just live for each moment and enjoy them.

Seek Help When Needed

This time of year it is especially important to keep up with meetings, group sessions or therapy. These are other people going through the exact same thing as you and you are all there to support one another. If you will be traveling, look for meetings to attend where you are going, you can always find support groups. Having fun doesn’t have to mean getting drunk or high. A few hours of partying are not worth losing all you have worked for to be a better you.

If you think someone you know is abusing drugs or alcohol, contact National Screening Centers in Houston, they provide drug analysis to give you results that are 100% accurate. They are performed at our convenient locations and results are delivered quickly. For more information visit National Screening Centers for our location and hours.

Fentanyl-Laced Cocaine May Be Next Drug Crisis

Heroin and opioids have been the drugs given the most attention and press coverage in the last couple of years. The death of Prince in 2016 turned attention to fentanyl and its dangers. Soon fentanyl became the number one synthetic opioid drug killer not only in the US but all over the world. It is the most dangerous drug to emerge in decades. Now in states all over the country, particularly the northeast, fentanyl-laced cocaine has become the number one cause of overdoses.


Fentanyl was introduced in the 1960’s and has been prescribed to help people suffering from cancer or extreme pain. Under a doctor’s supervision and in a controlled environment it has brought relief to many patients. However, in the last few years fentanyl has hit the streets and it is a powerful and dangerous drug. It is 80 to 100 times more potent than heroin and morphine and even a two-milligram dose can be fatal. With the rise of opioid abuse, came an increase in heroin abuse. As drug addicts became more tolerant to heroin, dealers began cutting it with fentanyl to deliver an even more potent high. Fentanyl is highly addictive and much cheaper to produce so it became a huge money maker for dealers. Now dealers get their fentanyl from China, Mexico and South America. It is made in lab in these countries and then sent to dealers and cartels in the United States.

Combining Fentanyl with Other Drugs

As abuse of opioids and heroin began to skyrocket fentanyl soon became the drug of choice amongst opioid-addicted users. With its potent high and low cost it has become the drug of choice for many users. It can be mixed with heroin to intensify the high, sometimes without the user even knowing they are taking it. Fentanyl is a white powder that can easily be cut into other drugs and go undetected. Most drug addicts take more than one type of drug and it is common to find more than one drug in the system of someone who overdoses. Fentanyl has been found in more overdose deaths than heroin. In Massachusetts, where fentanyl is the state’s biggest drug problem, 90% of overdose deaths involved fentanyl.

Fentanyl-Laced Cocaine

Law enforcement, hospitals and the DEA have found fentanyl increasingly showing up cocaine and methamphetamine. Users are unsuspecting of fentanyl in cocaine as they are two different types of drugs. Cocaine is a stimulant that increases alertness and energy, often used as a party drug. Fentanyl is a depressant that relaxes the nervous system. Combining a stimulant and a depressant is not a new concept. For decades people have been mixing cocaine with heroin creating what is called a ‘speedball.’ Its intent is that each drug cancels out the negative of the other and only the positive highs of each are achieved. Speedballing is dangerous enough when done with heroin but my adding fentanyl it is a recipe for disaster.

Many users of cocaine are recreational users and may only use it on special occasions. These users likely have no idea that the cocaine they are snorting, or smoking is laced with fentanyl. For the regular opioid addict fentanyl is dangerous but for someone who is unaccustomed to opioid they are much more likely to overdose. Fentanyl-laced cocaine is in essence merging two different types of drug communities. Heroin addicted users are more likely to carry naloxone to counteract an overdose where a cocaine user, especially one who does it recreationally, wouldn’t even think to have that with them. Naloxone is not used for a cocaine overdose, it’s designed as an antidote to reverse the effects of opioids. Now anyone who does cocaine is encouraged to have the antidote with them as more and more cocaine in laced with fentanyl and can cause instant overdose or death.

Why Add Fentanyl to Cocaine

Health officials, law enforcement and researchers aren’t positive as to why fentanyl is showing up in cocaine. There are two schools of thought on it.

dangerous drugs

The first reason is that dealers are doing it intentionally because fentanyl is so much cheaper to manufacture, and they can sell it for more money while giving it more kick. This also leads to the theory that since fentanyl is more addictive than cocaine that a typical cocaine user may increase their usage and create an addiction where they didn’t have one without the fentanyl.

The second theory is that it is done non-intentionally by drug dealers in cross-contamination. They may mix fentanyl and then mix cocaine in the same area with the same tools without cleaning up more carefully. This leads to the drugs being mixed together without knowledge by either party.

The Next Deadly Epidemic

Regardless of whether fentanyl is put into cocaine on purpose or not, the fact remains that it is happening and becoming the next deadly epidemic. Health officials are working with bars and restaurants to train employees on how to administer Naloxone in case of overdose while also alerting the public to the dangers of fentanyl and its presence in cocaine and other drugs. This new presence of fentanyl in non-opioids can quickly become the next deadly epidemic.

If you think someone you know is abusing drugs or alcohol, contact National Screening Centers in Houston, they provide drug analysis to give you results that are 100% accurate. They are performed at our convenient locations and results are delivered quickly. For more information visit National Screening Centers for our location and hours.

Synthetic Marijuana Responsible for Overdoses in US

Synthetic Marijuana Responsible for Overdoses in US

In August 2018, 71 people in New Haven, CT overdosed from synthetic marijuana. Over a two-week period in July more than 300 people overdosed from it in Washington, DC. In Chicago, there were 56 overdoses in April. Brooklyn has seen hundreds of zombie-like synthetic overdoses over the last couple of months. Synthetic marijuana, also called fake weed, K2, Spice, Kronic and many other names is what is causing overdoses across the country. It is also the second most popular drug among high school kids.

synthetic marijuana

Synthetic Marijuana Defined

Synthetic marijuana is not marijuana at all but is manufactured to mimic its effects. It is plant materials sprayed with psychoactive chemicals that are manufactured to to be like THC found naturally in marijuana. Due to the mixture of chemicals used, spice is unpredictable and can vary widely from batch-to-batch. It’s the chemicals that make spice such a dangerous drug. There are no standards for making synthetic chemicals so there is no way of knowing what are how much has been sprayed on the plant material, making it so no two packets are exactly the same. The effects of synthetics are 100 times more powerful than marijuana and remain in the body for much longer. It is most commonly smoked or vaped but can also be added to food and eaten.

Manufacturing and Distribution

Spice, K2 and other brands of synthetics are packaged in colorful wrappers, often with cartoon characters to appeal to teens and younger users. They are typically found in convenience stores, smoke shops, gas stations or vape stores. Synthetics have been banned by the DEA but new variations are constantly being made and as fast as the DEA identifies the chemicals, new ones are introduced. The chemicals used to make the drug mostly come from China, India and Mexico. The largest production labs are in Miami, Dallas and New York City.

The Effects of Synthetics

Because the chemicals found on synthetics varies so much the effects are unpredictable and just as varied. They are a psychoactive drug so they cause an altered mind state. The most common side effects are: agitation, lethargy, anxiety, paranoia, hallucinations, rapid heartbeat, nausea, vomiting, confusion, panic attacks and zombie-like states. Depending on the chemicals many users experience extreme aggression, self-harming, suicidal thoughts and behaviors and violence towards others. It is very easy to overdose on synthetics because the drug is so random. It is highly addictive and regular users experience intense withdrawal symptoms.

The Recent Boost in Overdoses Linked to Laced Spice

Over the last 4 months there has been a huge uptick in the number of overdoses from spice. If EMTs get called out to treat an overdose it is not uncommon for there to be multiple people in one location that have overdosed. What the DEA and other health officials have found is that in these cases the spice was laced with brodifacoum, a long-lasting anti-coagulant found in rat poison. Rat poison is frequently mixed with street drugs to make the effects last longer. However, it interferes with the body’s ability in blood clotting and causes life-threatening bleeding. The effects last a long time are extremely difficult to reverse. Symptoms of someone who has taken spice laced with brodifacoum include: easy bruising, blood in urine, bloody nose, bleeding gums, coughing up blood and blood coming from ears and eyes. Blood can come from any part of the body and death is the result from internal bleeding that can not be stopped. The overdoses seen in Chicago, Washington DC and New York all had signs of being sprayed with rat poison.

Our Hyper-Competitive Society

Synthetics are sold as natural, safe and legal alternatives to marijuana but they are extremely dangerous. They are made with varying and unsafe chemicals and effects can be widely unpredictable. There is literally no way to know what will happen when they are smoked, and each packet can be different even ones with the same label.

If you think someone you know is abusing drugs or alcohol, contact National Screening Centers in Houston, they provide drug analysis to give you results that are 100% accurate. They are performed at our convenient locations and results are delivered quickly. For more information visit National Screening Centers for our location and hours.

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