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Sedatives, hypnotics, and anxiolytic drugs are medications prescribed by doctors for sleep and anxiety disorders. While they can be very effective for both, they are highly addictive. Common examples of these medications include Xanax, Klonopin, Valium, Ativan, and Ambien.  

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Here are some signs you might be struggling with sedative medication use: 

  • Taking pills in a higher quantity or more often than prescribed 
  • Feeling like you “need” more pills to achieve the same effect (tolerance)  
  • Using the medication outside its prescribed purpose (sleep medication when you already feel tired enough to sleep, anxiety medication when you already feel calm, etc.)  
  • Using the medication to make yourself feel better or different  
  • Feeling irritable or ill when you don’t take your medication  
  • Continuing to take the medication despite the threat of or actual serious consequences   
  • Engaging in high-risk behaviors such as mixing medication with alcohol 
  • Taking so much medication that it becomes a medical emergency (overdose)  
  • Hiding medications or using them in private so that loved ones don’t see  
  • Stashing medication in several places so you never find yourself without  
  • Obtaining medication illicitly (online, from friends, from drug dealers) 
  • Getting prescriptions from multiple doctors simultaneously (doctor shopping) 
  • Ingesting medication in a non-prescribed way (e.g. crushing and snorting)

Behavior Effects of Sedatives

Abusing sedative medications can deplete your emotional health and exacerbate mental health disorders you might already have. Depression, anxiety, mood swings, suicidality, psychosis, insomnia, anxiety, shame, and traumatic experiences are common. When we struggle with sedative abuse, we might not always act like ourselves. Over the progression of our addiction, we start to damage our most important relationships, create financial insecurity, and endanger others (think driving under the influence) and ourselves (think withdrawal symptoms when trying to quit cold-turkey), among other things. The wreckage piles up over time and feels unmanageable, so we self-medicate.

Physical Effects of Sedatives

Sedatives are central nervous system depressants, slowing both your mind and your body down. Prescription sedatives, in particular, are highly addictive and very difficult to quit. When you abuse sedatives, reaction times are slower, inhibitions are lowered, and, at high doses or when mixed with alcohol, memories may fade or disappear altogether. You are more likely to act in ways that run afoul of your values. 

Sedative abuse can make emotional instability worse and exacerbate mental health disorders you might already have. Depression, suicidality, psychosis, insomnia, anxiety, guilt, shame, and traumatic experiences are common. Your cognitive functioning (memory, word recognition, response time, ability to concentrate, clarity of speech) can also take a major hit. 

Your health is vulnerable at any age and any stage of sedative addiction. If you go into sedative withdrawal without medical support around you, you are at risk of seizure, tremors, confusion, hallucination, and memory loss, among other things. That’s why it’s so important to detox under the care of a medical team.  Feeling enslaved to a pill is a miserable experience that can leech joy, hope, and purpose from your life. But breaking the addiction cycle is possible – with support. 

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What we can do for you?

We at HCBTS are available 24/7 to take your call and are committed to helping you get the help you need when you need it.

Read more about the levels of care we offer on our substance abuse treatment page.

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