Why Women Ignore Benzo Addiction and the Stigma Behind It
Put on your thinking cap for this one because I’ll be throwing a lot of information your way that will be disheartening though necessary. As this article unfolds, you’ll find that it’s a logical progression of how, as women, we have come to perceive ourselves as personal expectations and emotional health reach a dangerous impasse. Many females live this today – by accident or on purpose – arriving at an existence immersed in the Superwoman Syndrome. (Not the movie, real life.) Unfortunately, it leads to anxiety and it’s one of many reasons why women ignore benzo addiction and the stigma behind it.
The Rise and Fall of Superwoman
Somewhere along the way between building career, nurturing relationships, caring for children (or aging parents), juggling finances, experiencing successes and failures, panic attacks or insomnia happen. But with everything today’s diva puts on her plate, who wouldn’t feel restless and anxious? The same rationale that spurs the Superwoman Syndrome is also the cause for its ongoing enablement: The belief that there is no other option than to handle everything, without fail. That’s a lot of unhealthy pressure to put on oneself. Where did it come from?
As feminism moves to the forefront of social acceptance (now more than ever) women don’t merely idealize about doing it all and being it all; it’s a cultural expectation, though self-perceived. With it, mothers and daughters, sisters and female coworkers take on more with less time, energy and resources available to achieve the given goals. Something had to give. And it did and does – our mental health.
Panic attacks and insomnia can be the body and mind’s way of expressing an overload alert. Once recognized, it’s what we do about it that exacerbates the problem.
Xanax Addiction in Women Is More Problematic than Prescription Opioids
Current culture dictates that when there’s a problem, any problem, finding a solution is done through the mechanism of instant gratification. And when you’re a Superwoman, who has time to dig deep into your emotional psyche to uncover the root cause of discomfort or distress? Anyone? Anyone?
You might defer to speed dialing your besties to ask for a referral to their doctor or therapist because their anxiety issues seem to go away every time they take a little pill. After that, you’re scheduled for an initial session of 45 minutes and you walk out the door with a prescription for Xanax or Valium. What is meant to be a quick fix to an intermittent condition quickly grows into a dangerous drug addiction. Here’s why.
Psychological and Physical Addiction to Benzos Takes 30 Days or Less
Imagine feeling stressed about something going on in your life, taking a pill, and 15 to 20 minutes later feeling no stress. In fact, you’re feeling peaceful and comfortably numb. That’s how Valium and Xanax deliver. Compared to a slow, emotionally-painstaking process of psychotherapy, pill popping can seem like the path of least resistance.
Benzos are meant to be taken when an anxiety episode happens, no more than 2 to 3 times per week. Instead, many women keep them close at hand to use whenever a stressful situation arises (in the car, at the office, with the kids). It’s an everyday occurrence. The behavior instills a coping mechanism that fuels addiction.
Stronger Reaction to Benzos by Gender
A recent article from Scientific American explains the differences in men and women in how they react to various drugs and alcohol intake. Because women tend to have more body fat than men, Valium and Xanax will remain in their bloodstream longer. In addition, women usually have less acidity in their stomachs compared to men allowing these drugs to take effect sooner and stronger.
Similar to what happened pre-opioid epidemic, medical practitioners are doling out benzodiazepines to patients for relief of anxiety symptoms without properly explaining the risks for addiction, especially to women. Moreover, ongoing face-to-face therapy sessions often aren’t part of the treatment protocol and many primary care doctors are the ones prescribing the pills. Two of every three prescriptions for these drugs are written for women.
Symptoms of Addiction Withdrawals Are Misinterpreted
As the body and the mind become accustomed to the fast-acting relief from benzos, the cause-and-effect response cycles.
anxiety response > benzo intake > drug response > anxiety response…
After the Xanax or Valium wears off, there may not be a personal or environmental trigger to set off an anxiety attack. However, because the body has grown accustomed to the drug, it reacts engaging similar symptoms to an anxiety attack. The response, again, is to take more of the drug. How would you know whether it’s an anxiety attack or a drug withdrawal? You wouldn’t. In a matter of two to four weeks, benzo addiction is evident.
Benzo Addiction Withdrawal Symptoms Include:
- Chest pain
- Racing thoughts
- Increased or rapid heartbeat
- Muscle cramping
Along with the above-referenced withdrawal symptoms, addiction to Valium or Xanax is often accompanied by certain behaviors. If you find yourself or witness someone else keeping go-to stashes of the pills in a purse, wallet, nightstand, desk drawer at work or in the center console of the car, there might be a problem. If there is doctor shopping going on, getting prescriptions for benzos from multiple doctors or going online to get pills in the United States or other countries, addiction is a concern.
Overcoming Benzo Addiction Requires Medical Supervision
If you or someone you know is addicted to Xanax or Valium and wants to remove dependency for the drug, the withdrawal process is all encompassing and should not be done alone. Long term benzo addiction and the detoxification process can be dangerous.
To minimize the discomfort and increase the success rate for recovery, a medically-supervised program is best as treatment must include a gradual weaning off the drug. In addition, psychological counseling and holistic healing methodologies will help to understand what is behind the anxiety while providing life skills and mindfulness practices to learn how to deal with stress, embrace self-love and live in the moment.
Superwoman Yesterday, Addiction Recovery Hero Today
When you’re ready to take the gloves off and remove that self-imposed, Xanax-induced, façade about being okay, help is just a phone call away.
Authored by Melanie Stern, Content Director for Scottsdale Recovery Center, Arizona Addiction Recovery Centers and Cohn Media, LLC. Writer and broadcaster covering the following industries: addiction rehab, health care, entertainment, technology and advocate of clear communication, positivity and humanity at its best.