There are several reasons people abuse drugs, for example, they want to feel good or to feel better. People who wish to feel good want the euphoria of recreational drug use. Those who want to feel better take drugs to escape current life situations. People who feel stressed, anxious or depressed, or suffer from chronic pain turn to illicit drugs without even realizing they are self-medicating. Even individuals who seek professional medical help may ultimately abuse the drugs legally prescribed for them.
Rivotril (clonazepam), a member of the benzodiazepine drug family, treats anxiety, sleep disorders, panic, and even seizures. When taken according to a physician’s directions, it’s generally considered safe. But what are the directions for taking benzodiazepines, and can those directions actually be dangerous when it comes to addiction?
Because of their potential for dependence and addiction, people should take benzodiazepines on an as-needed basis. Use them with a prescription for a diagnosed condition, such as generalized anxiety. A legally prescribed drug like Rivotril treats intermittent panic and anxiety. Patients take a measured dose only as needed. It is fast-acting and allows patients to carry on with their lives. When people take benzodiazepines regularly for longer than several weeks, however, they develop tolerance, dependence, and potential for withdrawal symptoms. People who take Rivotril on a long-term basis experience emotional symptoms when stopping the drug, such as depression and anxiety.
Rivotril and Other Benzodiazepines Affect the Release of Dopamine
When someone abuses drugs, she does it because she likes it. This often changes over the course of time. Some find they abuse drugs because they have to in order to feel normal. To understand how this happens to so many people, it’s important to understand mechanisms in the brain.
Many drugs of abuse, including Rivotril and other benzodiazepines, create feelings of euphoria and elation because of neurotransmitters related to emotions, such as dopamine. Dopamine is naturally produced in the brain to send messages of pleasure, joy, and reward to brain cells, called neurons. When someone sees something beautiful that makes her happy, for example, her brain releases dopamine and she feels a surge of happiness. After the initial euphoria of a beautiful sunset or a great meal, dopamine levels taper off. The neurons that released the dopamine absorb them and brain function returns to normal.
Dangers of Prescription Drug Abuse
Addiction occurs when a drug like Rivotril floods the brain with dopamine, giving someone an intense feeling of euphoria. Since the dopamine production is not natural, the brain re-absorbs too much dopamine, upsetting the balance of neurotransmitters. Dopamine also affects learning, so the brain learns Rivotril brings extreme happiness and craves it. The cycle of taking the drug and feeling euphoria brings on addiction, but it also brings on tolerance as previously flooded neurons require more and more of the drug to produce the same effect.
Potentially addictive drugs like Rivotril require a prescription because a doctor needs to complete a thorough examination, including questions about medical and family history, before clearing someone to take the drugs.
Tolerance Is the First Step Toward Addiction
Drug tolerance develops as a person’s body becomes used to a drug. Ongoing exposure to certain chemicals lessens a person’s response to them. When it’s necessary to take drugs to feel normal, a person is addicted to drugs.
Addiction is a diagnosable medical condition with the following symptoms:
- Inability to stop using a drug even if one wants to
- Inability to control how much of a drug one takes
- Drug use that overpowers a desire to work, go to school, parent children, or appreciate and love one’s partner or spouse
- Drug use that promotes careless or reckless activities, such as driving under the influence of the drug or other dangerous behaviors
- Spending on drugs even when the money is needed to meet living expenses, such as food or rent
People with addictions need effective treatment. Just like treatment for other chronic diseases, addiction treatment takes time, but it is rewarding. Getting help puts someone in control of her disease, rather than allowing the disease to control her. To find out more about the most effective treatments for Rivotril addiction, please call Michael’s House today at 760-548-4032.
 National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2016). Understanding Drug Use and Addiction. Retrieved May 1, 2017 from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/understanding-drug-use-addiction
 Longo, L.P. & Johnson, B. (2000). Addiction: Part I. Benzodiazepines–side effects, abuse risk and alternatives. American Family Physician. Retrieved May 1, 2017 from http://www.aafp.org/afp/2000/0401/p2121.html
 JPS Health Network. (2014). Prescribing and Tapering Benzodiazepines. Retrieved May 1, 2017 from https://www.jpshealthnet.org/sites/default/files/prescribing_and_tapering_benzodiapines.pdf
 Newton, Phil. (2009). What is dopamine? Psychology Today. Retrieved May 1, 2017
 NIDA (2016). Understanding Drug Use and Addiction. Retrieved May 1, 2017, from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/understanding-drug-use-addiction