Benzodiazepines are depressant drugs that induce sedation, relieve anxiety, reduce seizures, and treat panic disorder.
They work by affecting GABA A neurotransmitters in the brain, which slows down the central nervous system.
When people use benzodiazepines over a long period, or when the drug is misused, a substance use disorder may develop, such as physical dependence or addiction.
Benzodiazepine addiction can negatively impact physical and psychological health and may eventually lead to changes in appearance, behavior, and deterioration of relationships.
How Benzodiazepines Are Abused
Benzodiazepine abuse is typically associated with adolescents who either take the drug orally or crush the tablets and snort them to get high.
People who abuse cocaine or opioids such as heroin oftentimes use benzodiazepines in tandem to enhance their euphoric high.
On the street, benzodiazepines are referred to as “benzos”, “blues”, “chill pills”, “downers”, “tranks”, and “zannies”.
Signs Of Benzodiazepine Abuse
When someone is addicted to the use of benzodiazepines, they may exhibit certain behavioral, cognitive, and physical symptoms.
Physical Symptoms Of Abuse
Physical symptoms of benzo abuse include muscle weakness, drowsiness, blurred vision, headaches, and fainting spells.
Behavioral Symptoms Of Abuse
Behavioral symptoms of misuse include:
- social withdrawal and isolation
- failing to meet obligations at work or home
- visiting multiple doctors for prescriptions or “doctor shopping”
- and no longer partaking in previously enjoyable activities
Cognitive Symptoms Of Abuse
Some of the cognitive symptoms of benzodiazepine abuse may include poor concentration, reduced inhibitions, impaired judgment, and memory difficulties.
If you suspect that a loved one is misusing benzodiazepines, you may be able to identify the symptoms of abuse and help them find an addiction treatment program.
Side Effects Of Benzodiazepine Drug Addiction
Long-term use or abuse of benzodiazepines may eventually lead to an array of harmful and potentially life-threatening side effects.
Effects of benzodiazepine addiction may include:
- memory impairment
- estrangement from family and friends
- job loss
- mental health disorders
- self-harming behavior
These side effects may be exacerbated when benzodiazepine abuse is coupled with alcohol use or use of other illicit or prescription substances.
Commonly Abused Benzodiazepines
Listed below are some of the most misused benzodiazepines on the market today.
Some of the benzodiazepines commonly abused include:
- Xanax (alprazolam)
- Ativan (lorazepam)
- Valium (diazepam)
- Klonopin (clonazepam)
- Halcion (triazolam)
- Librium (chlordiazepoxide)
- Restoril (temazepam)
- Serax (oxazepam)
Symptoms Of Benzodiazepine Withdrawal Syndrome
When someone has abused benzodiazepines over a long period of time, their system develops dependency on the presence of the drug in the body.
If the substance is abruptly removed from the system, the body will react by attempting to readjust to the absence of the benzodiazepine. This process is called withdrawal.
Benzodiazepine withdrawal symptoms may include:
- intense cravings
- panic attacks
- hand tremors
- heart palpitations
- profuse sweating
- difficulty focusing or concentrating
- muscle pain or stiffness
The timeline of benzodiazepine withdrawal and the severity of withdrawal symptoms will largely depend on how long the drug has been abused, health status, and other factors.
Other Dangers Of Benzodiazepine Addiction
One of the most serious dangers of benzodiazepine misuse is the development of a tolerance, which can easily lead to overdose.
Tolerance to any substance occurs when a drug is ingested over a long period of time.
Eventually, the body will become acclimated to the effects of the substance and people will have to take high doses to achieve the same effect.
If a person takes too much benzodiazepine over a short period, the body may not be able to process the amount and overdose will occur.
Symptoms of benzodiazepine overdose include:
- slurred speech
- lack of coordination
- depressed respiratory activity
An overdose of benzodiazepines can cause the heart to stop entirely. If you witness someone experiencing any of the above symptoms of overdose, contact emergency services immediately.
Addiction Treatment Options For Benzodiazepine Use
Benzodiazepine dependence is stressful and hard to overcome, but help is available in the form of residential and outpatient rehab services.
Substance abuse treatment programs may include:
- inpatient treatment
- outpatient treatment
- cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
- medication-assisted treatment (MAT)
- medically monitored detoxification
- psychiatry services
- dual diagnosis treatment for co-occurring mental health disorders
- support groups for prescription drug abuse
Evidence-based treatments such as these will help you cope with the symptoms of withdrawal while addressing the underlying causes of the addiction.
Benzodiazepine Addiction FAQs
The frequently asked questions listed below may answer your questions about the risks of benzodiazepine addiction.
What Is The Difference Between Benzodiazepines And Barbiturates?
While both are central nervous system (CNS) depressants and sedative-hypnotics, they differ in their intended use, potency, withdrawal symptoms, and side effects.
Are There Non-Addictive Substitutes For Benzodiazepines?
Yes. Non-addictive substitutes may include drugs like gabapentin, buspirone, Zoloft, Prozac, Paxil, Cymbalta, and others.
Is There An Antidote For Benzodiazepine Overdose?
When someone is overdosing on benzodiazepines, they are usually administered Flumazenil intravenously, which will help reverse the effects on the central nervous system.
Ingestion of other drugs, such as alcohol or opioids, will interfere with flumazenil’s effectiveness.
Is It Safe To Take Benzodiazepines While Pregnant?
Some doctors recommend taking benzodiazepines, but only certain ones with a proven track record for safety.
Find Treatment Services For Benzodiazepine Addiction
Call our helpline today for more information on treatment providers for benzodiazepine addiction. Our team can help you reach long-term addiction recovery.Article Sources
- National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) — Benzodiazepines and Opioids
- U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) — Benzodiazepines
- U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) — Online Resources: Drug Use And Misuse