Prescription opioids are the current face of the drug crisis in America, and while they remain perhaps the largest drug threat in the United States, they are far from the only prescription medication that poses the danger of abuse, addiction, and potentially-fatal overdoses.
Benzodiazepines, also called benzos, are psychoactive drugs that are most commonly used to treat anxiety and insomnia, although they have also been found to be medically useful in the treatment of epilepsy. Librium, as well as benzodiazepines in general, are what’s known as central nervous system depressants, slowing down and inhibiting nerve impulses to produce feelings of calm and sedation.
Currently, benzodiazepines are one of the most widely prescribed medications in the world. In the United States alone, doctors write more than 50 million prescriptions for benzos, including Librium.
Knowing this, it is perhaps unsurprising that benzos are also one of the most over-prescribed drugs in the U.S., with the National Institute on Drug Abuse reporting more than four times as many fatal overdoses due to benzodiazepines in 2015 as compared to just three years prior.
When benzodiazepines were first brought into the drug market, barbiturates were the drugs of choice for treating the symptoms of insomnia and anxiety, but they also had a wide range of extremely adverse effects and a much higher potential for addiction than benzos, and so they have almost completely fallen out of use in the medical industry.
Now, benzodiazepines are largely relied upon instead, despite the fact that they too present significant risks to people who use them.
While they are undoubtedly useful in treating those who require them, benzodiazepines such as Librium have a significant risk for both abuse and addiction, and the withdrawal symptoms are uniquely dangerous to the point where a benzodiazepine detox absolutely requires the intervention and supervision of a professional medical detox facility to be carried out safely.
Librium is no different, and can, in fact, be even more dangerous than other benzodiazepines due to its long half-life, which makes accidental overdoses more likely to occur. Librium is also frequently mixed with other central nervous system depressants, which, when taken together, can lead to organ damage, coma, and even death.
Librium is a central nervous system depressant in the benzodiazepine family and is the brand name of the drug chlordiazepoxide. Like most benzos, some of the Librium uses include treating the symptoms of anxiety disorder, insomnia, and other sleep disorders and in some cases to treat withdrawal symptoms during drug and alcohol detox.
Librium has the distinction of being the first benzodiazepine to be synthesized and was first introduced for medical use in 1959. It was prescribed by more than 2,000 doctors to approximately 20,000 patients in that same year.
While initially met with wide approval and hailed as the safer alternative to barbiturates, it unfortunately quickly became clear that benzodiazepines also had a high potential for both abuse and addiction.
Although it is still available, this drug is not prescribed nearly as much today as it used to be, in part because of the dangers associated with benzodiazepines in general, but also due to Librium side effects such as rashes, fainting, and liver problems that were sometimes serious enough to result in yellowed skin and eyes.
Another issue with Librium is that, also like most benzodiazepines, it only takes a fairly brief period of regular use for someone to develop a tolerance and quickly require more Librium to achieve the same effects as before. Because of this, when Librium is prescribed, it is strictly for short-term treatment, which is typically between two to four weeks. If someone takes Librium outside of the dosage that has been prescribed by their physician, things can quickly escalate from misuse to abuse, psychological dependence, and eventually addiction.
Like the majority of other benzodiazepines, Librium works by entering the brain and binding with a neurotransmitter called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), which is a neurotransmitter that regulates how the body responds to feelings of fear, stress, and anxiety and blocks the body’s nerve impulses to calm you down.
What Librium does is bind to the GABA receptors in the brain and activate them into overproduction, increasing the levels of inhibitory signaling more than the brain could ever do naturally, which depresses the central nervous system and causes feelings of sedation and relaxation that treat the symptoms of anxiety and insomnia.
When someone becomes physically and psychologically dependent on Librium, their brain stops or at least greatly reduces its own production of GABA. This is why when someone who has been engaging in heavy, long-term Librium abuse, tries to stop or even reduce their dosage, the body will experience a shock as their GABA levels crash and their nervous system goes into overdrive, resulting in extremely dangerous withdrawal symptoms like seizures.
Once someone has started engaging in Librium abuse, it does not take long to begin experiencing the consequences of excessive use. In the short-term, common Librium side effects include:
In the long-term, many of the side effects of chronic Librium abuse are mainly psychological in nature, although there are damaging physical effects as well, including:
When someone begins to develop a Librium addiction, there are many different signs and signals that act as red flags that something is wrong. As Librium use becomes someone’s top priority over work, school, friends or family, it becomes increasingly clear that there is a problem as they exhibit behaviors associated with not only Librium addiction but also those connected with substance use disorders in general.
Some of the following signs of Librium addiction include:
If you have experienced these different behaviors and symptoms yourself or have observed them in a loved one or someone you care about, it’s critical that you understand that they are a clear indication of Librium addiction. You should seek out professional addiction treatment as soon as possible to avoid further abuse and put a stop to the physical and psychological damage it may have already done.
Detox is the first step in Librium addiction treatment, as well as the most important and potentially the most difficult one. Librium is a benzodiazepine, and benzodiazepine withdrawal can be an uncomfortable and potentially dangerous process, and Librium is no different.
While it is always better to undergo detoxification at a professional detoxification facility as opposed to on your own, it is especially crucial in order to detox from Librium safely.
Perhaps the most dangerous mistake people make when they attempt a Librium detox on their own is to try and stop using Librium all at once, otherwise known as “going cold turkey.” While this is rarely ever a good idea when it comes to detoxing from drugs or alcohol in general, it should absolutely never be done during a benzo detox.
It not only makes the Librium withdrawal symptoms that much more painful than necessary, it also creates a much higher likelihood of experiencing intense and possible fatal withdrawal symptoms such as hallucinations, psychosis, delirium, suicidal behavior, and Grand mal seizures.
Fortunately, these symptoms can be either greatly lessened or avoided completely through the use of a tapering schedule, which is when, with the help of a doctor, someone is able to slowly reduce their use of Librium in a controlled setting until it becomes safe for them to stop using altogether.
Once detox is complete, the next step in Librium addiction treatment is entering an addiction recovery treatment program. Detox alone is not enough to properly treat a Librium addiction. Even though you will no longer have the drug in your system, detox does nothing to change the addictive behaviors that led to the problem in the first place.
Whether it is done in an inpatient or outpatient setting, addiction recovery treatment programs help address the issues at the heart of someone’s addiction and give them the tools and skills they need to be able to stay sober and successfully manage their addiction in the long-term.
Addiction treatment is not a one-size-fits-all situation, and so typically, someone going into an addiction rehabilitation program will work with their counselor or therapist to create a treatment program that is customized to their needs and what will be most effective for them, although it will most likely include at least some of the following elements:
Part of what makes Librium so dangerous is that it has a significantly longer half-life than many other benzos, taking anywhere between 30 and 60 hours to fully leave someone’s system. This means that someone who is suffering from Librium addiction will most likely constantly have the drug in their system, which is in part why so many people build up a tolerance to it so quickly.
This also greatly increases the odds of accidentally overdosing on Librium, particularly if someone is older and therefore has a slower metabolism, which means it takes even longer for their body to process Librium.
The symptoms of a Librium overdose include:
If someone who has taken Librium is experiencing these symptoms then they are in the process of an overdose, and it vital that emergency medical services be sought out as soon as possible to avoid permanent damage or even death.
Another common danger associated with Librium is how often it is involved in what is referred to as polysubstance use, which is when it is mixed with other drugs. Sometimes this is done to negate the effects of a substance, such as using Librium’s calming effects to come down from stimulants like cocaine. This drug is also often mixed with alcohol, another central nervous system depressant, in an attempt to achieve a stronger Librium high.
Subjecting the nervous system to multiple different depressant substances can subdue it to a potentially-lethal degree, resulting in intense sedation that can easily lead to coma, blackouts, organ damage due to a lack of oxygen in the body, and death.
Ban, T. A. (2006, September). The Role of Serendipity in Drug Discovery. from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3181823/
Chlordiazepoxide Overdose: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia. (n.d.). from https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/002607.htm
Hu, X. (2011, February). Benzodiazepine Withdrawal Seizures and Management. from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21815323
National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2017, September 15). Overdose Death Rates. from https://www.drugabuse.gov/related-topics/trends-statistics/overdose-death-rates