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Librium Addiction: What Side Effects Do You Need to Know About?

Librium, also sold under the generic name chlordiazepoxide, is a benzodiazepine drug used to treat symptoms of anxiety disorders as well as ease withdrawal symptoms from alcohol. It was first approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1960 and has been widely used ever since.

Precautions While Taking Librium

As a benzodiazepine, Librium is a central nervous system depressant. This means it works by calming brain activity that can be overly heightened in people with anxiety disorders.

Like most prescription medications, Librium comes with warnings for people who plan to take it consistently over an extended period. In fact, the FDA placed a black box warning, the strongest warning possible, on benzodiazepine use. Librium can be habit-forming and lead to physical and psychological dependence if taken in high enough doses for a significant time.

Likewise, if you attempt to suddenly stop taking Librium after you have been on it for a while, you are likely to experience difficult withdrawal symptoms. If you wish to stop taking Librium, the best thing to do is to consult your doctor first. They will most likely want to help you taper off the drug — that is, gradually reduce your dosage over days or weeks until it is completely out of your system. This technique will greatly reduce your chances of experiencing unpleasant withdrawal symptoms.

Additional precautions should be taken for certain populations who are considering the use of Librium. Children, older people, and pregnant women should all use Librium with extreme caution, if at all. The effects on children have yet to be studied, and there are safer alternative medications for people over age 65 to take. For pregnant women, Librium has been known to cause harm to unborn babies. If you are pregnant, it is best to find alternative methods for managing anxiety.

How Is Librium Misused?

Librium can be misused both intentionally and unintentionally. Due to its high likelihood of addiction following extended use, people may not be aware of their misuse of the drug until they have already become dependent on it. Even when used as directed by your doctor, it is possible to develop tolerance, dependence, and even addiction to Librium.

Tolerance to Librium can begin to develop relatively quickly, within just two to three days after you first start taking it. It is usually well-developed after two to three weeks of daily use.

GABA (gamma-Aminobutyric acid) receptors in your brain, which are responsible for the uptake of benzodiazepines like Librium, become less sensitive to the effects of the drug over time.

As a result, you no longer feel the sedating or calming effects of Librium that you initially experienced.

Once tolerance has developed, your options are to increase your dosage or switch to a different drug. Increasing your dosage can be a risky way to address your tolerance to a drug, however, as your body will eventually build a tolerance to that amount of the drug in your system as well. The more of the drug you become accustomed to using, the greater your chances are for developing dependence and possibly addiction.

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Tolerance and addiction to benzodiazepines are often observed in people who use Librium without a doctor’s prescription. They may enjoy the calming effects and overall sense of well-being that can be felt when taking Librium in high enough doses. This quickly triggers continued and often escalating use.

Common Side Effects

Whether you are using Librium medically or for recreational purposes, there are many common side effects. Some side effects are relatively mild, while others certainly are cause for concern and may require medical attention. In most cases, making minor adjustments to your Librium dosage will likely reduce your experience of unwanted side effects.

Common side effects of Librium use are:

  • Drowsiness
  • Poor coordination
  • Reduced muscle strength
  • Confusion
  • Reduced cognitive function
  • Nausea
  • Constipation
  • Skin rashes
  • Increased sex drive
  • Swelling of the legs or feet

The above side effects are expected to be more severe in people who are using Librium recreationally. Recreational users are more likely to use unsafe doses of the drug in their search for an intoxicating high.

The effects of Librium are often compounded when people use them in conjunction with alcohol or other drugs, which is a common behavior observed in recreational users. When combining Librium with other central nervous system depressants, such as alcohol, opioids, or other benzodiazepines, the risk of experiencing serious side effects increases greatly.

Serious Side Effects to Watch Out For

When taken in high doses, benzodiazepines can cause serious side effects. Recreational drug users are more likely to experiment with high doses than people who are taking drugs like Librium for medical reasons. Therefore, it is important for anyone who experiments with Librium to be aware of the possibility of serious side effects, which include:

  • Fainting
  • Confusion
  • Memory problems
  • Lack of muscle coordination
  • Reduction of blood flow to the brain
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Liver damage
  • Coma
  • Overdose
  • Death

Overdose is one of the most serious side effects, as it can be fatal. As soon as you observe signs of a Librium overdose, you must seek emergency medical care right away. Antidotes can be given to reverse the depressing effects of benzodiazepines and potentially save the victim’s life.

Flumazenil is a benzodiazepine antagonist that has been approved by the FDA for the use of treating a benzodiazepine overdose. It inhibits proper functioning of benzodiazepines in the brain and reduces their sedative effects. Flumazenil must be used with caution, however, as it can cause withdrawal symptoms and seizures in people with an extensive history of benzodiazepine abuse.

Emergency medical care for benzodiazepine overdoses may also include stomach pumping or administering a dose of activated charcoal. Pumping the victim’s stomach removes any remaining benzodiazepines from the stomach that have not yet been processed into the bloodstream. Activated charcoal can be administered to help stop the absorption of any remaining benzodiazepines into the system.

Medical interventions are available to treat overdoses from benzodiazepines, but they are not pleasant, and each come with their side effects and period of recovery. If you are struggling with a Librium addiction, it is best to consult your doctor about treatment options before you are faced with a serious health crisis, such as an overdose.

Librium Addiction

Studies have found there are generally two groups of people who become dependent on benzodiazepines. The first group includes people who were prescribed benzodiazepines as a medication, like Librium for anxiety. These people experienced positive benefits from taking Librium, but like anyone, they developed tolerance with continued use of the drug and needed their dosages increased over time. As dosages increased and regular use continued, dependence and addiction set in.

The second group of people who are at high risk of developing Librium addiction is those who practice polysubstance abuse, the practice of misusing multiple substances at once. Specifically, people who have developed opioid addiction often test positive for concurrent benzodiazepine use. Such behaviors are likely to lead to addiction over time.

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Studies estimate that people who use Librium for less than three months are not likely to become addicted to it. Tolerance may develop, but addiction to the drug is unlikely. For people who use Librium consistently for three to 12 months, 10 percent to 20 percent will become dependent on the drug. Consistent Librium use that occurs for more than a year causes 20 percent to 45 percent of people to become dependent. Experts suggest limiting Librium use to less than one month to reduce the risks of developing a dependence on an addiction to the drug.

Specific signs of an addiction to Librium to watch out for are:

  • Physical weakness
  • Drowsiness
  • Impaired vision
  • Reduced cognition
  • Seeking prescriptions from multiple doctors at once
  • Seeking out pills from wherever possible
  • A desire to stop taking the pills, but an inability to do so
  • Irritability and mood swings
  • An increase in risk-taking behaviors
  • Continued use of Librium despite suffering negative personal, social, and professional consequences
  • Combining Librium use with other substances

Managing Withdrawal

Treatment for Librium addiction will begin with addressing any present withdrawal symptoms. Withdrawal symptoms can be both psychologically and physically challenging, and they often create a barrier for some people to seek proper treatment. Through a doctor’s care or by enrolling in a formal treatment program, you can get medical and emotional support to get you through this challenging period.

Typical withdrawal symptoms from benzodiazepines include:

  • Agitation
  • Depression
  • Mood changes
  • Insomnia
  • Tremors
  • Sweating
  • Chills
  • Muscles aches
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Dysphoria
  • Insomnia

Withdrawal from benzodiazepines usually begins about two to three days after your last use. The worst withdrawal symptoms are typically felt around a week to 10 days after the last use. You should start to feel much better after two to three weeks. Librium has a relatively long half-life when compared to other drugs, so it takes longer than other drugs to be eliminated from your system.

The exact timeline of the detoxification process varies from person to person, depending on many personal factors. Your health and history of substance use are two significant influencing factors. The good news, though, is that withdrawal will not last forever. It is a time-limited process that will end at some point.

Additional factors that influence the withdrawal process are:

  • Age
  • Body mass index
  • Genetics
  • Liver function
  • How much Librium you have been taking
  • How long you have been taking it
  • Any other drugs present in your system

There are medicines available to manage difficult withdrawal symptoms. Doctors can prescribe longer-acting benzodiazepines than Librium that will help to make the withdrawal process slower and less uncomfortable. These medicines act on the GABA neurotransmitter in the brain the same way Librium does, but they do not produce the same high or cravings that someone addicted to Librium experiences. By replacing Librium with these alternative benzodiazepines, the individual can be gradually tapered off the drugs altogether without experiencing such challenging withdrawal symptoms.

Addiction Treatment Options

Following proper support and management of withdrawal symptoms, the psychological components of addiction must be addressed. Going through the medical detox and withdrawal period is an important step in the addiction treatment process, but it is not sufficient on its own to promote long-term recovery. Medically assisted detox followed with psychological support in the form of individual and group therapy gives you the best chances for staying sober after treatment ends.

Psychological interventions that have been proven to support addiction recovery include:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy
  • Family therapy
  • Group therapy
  • Development of self-help skills
  • Peer support meetings
  • Use of relaxation techniques
  • Promotion of healthy eating and exercise habits

Through these various forms of care, you will explore your history of substance use, identify patterns that led to drug abuse, recognize alternative and healthier coping skills, and create a plan for how to maintain sobriety after treatment and promote relapse prevention. Participating in the addiction treatment process will challenge you in many ways, but it will be far less challenging than leading a life of substance misuse.

If you are struggling with a substance use problem, a wide variety of treatment programs are available to help you get on a path to recovery. Then, you can lead the life you deserve, free from addiction.