Benzodiazepine Addiction

What are Benzodiazepines?

Benzodiazepines are a widely prescribed medication used to treat anxiety, depression and insomnia disorders. They typically come in a pill or tablet form, but can sometimes be administered intravenously. An illegal black market exists for buying these drugs because the only way to obtain them legally is with a physician’s prescription.

  • Xanax: is typically used to treat generalized anxiety disorder and insomnia. Xanax is considered the most powerful of the psychiatric medications commonly prescribed by doctors. Addiction to Xanax can be easy to develop because of the increased potency and the body’s tendency to develop tolerance.
  • Klonopin: is a benzodiazepine prescribed as an antianxiety and anticonvulsant drug. It is highly addictive and is typically only prescribed for short-term use. When using Klonopin, users feel the depressant effects for between 6 and 24 hours. Symptoms of Klonopin abuse are a euphoric feeling, slowed thoughts, agitation and drowsiness.
  • Valium: is a long-lasting benzodiazepine that is prescribed to relieve anxiety, muscle spasms and seizures. Sometimes is it prescribed to treat symptoms of withdrawal. In 2011, doctors wrote 14.7 million prescriptions for Valium, proving it is a popular medication. Valium relieves stress and anxiety by diminishing hyperactive brain function. It can stay in the system for 20-70 hours. People tend to abuse the drug because it makes them feel relaxed and helps them sleep.

Benzodiazepines are prescribed for short-term or “as needed” use because the symptoms are immediate and effective. Benzodiazepines are abused when people take the wrong doses or when people without a diagnosed condition take the medications. People who abuse the medications are susceptible to developing tolerance, dependence and addiction.

What are the symptoms of Benzodiazepine use?

Benzodiazepines are some of the most widely prescribed drugs because they are successful at treating certain conditions.

Some of these conditions include:

  • Anxiety (panic disorders, phobias, PTSD, OCD)
  • Insomnia
  • Muscle spasticity
  • Convulsive disorders
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Presurgical sedation
  • Involuntary movement disorders
  • Detoxification

Benzodiazepine Abuse

Benzodiazepine abuse most commonly happens when somebody takes a higher dose of the medication than they are prescribed. The body then builds up a tolerance to the drug and more is needed to achieve the same results. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental health Services Administration (SAMHSA), 32 percent of hospital emergency department visits involving benzodiazepines resulted in serious medical outcomes such as hospitalization or death. Some Benzodiazepine cause a euphoric state or high when a large dose is taken. This high can include things like hallucinations or an intense calming sensation. people who are not prescribed Benzodiazepines will taken them to achieve these same sensations.
Some signs of Benzodiazepine abuse are:

  • Slurred speech
  • Reduced attention span
  • Memory impairment
  • Unsteady coordination
  • Drowsiness

When most people try to stop abusing Benzodiazepine, they will experience withdrawal symptoms. Dependence occurs because of a change in brain chemistry after taking the drugs. Addiction can occur with or without a prescription because Benzodiazepine are accessible. Signs of abuse can often be overlooked as symptoms of correct use.

Health Risks

Benzodiazepines have a high abuse potential and shouldn’t be prescribed to people who have a history or predisposition for addiction. Benzodiazepines do not pose a high overdose risk alone, but are extremely dangerous when used in congruence with other drugs or alcohol. 44 percent of emergency department visits associated with the use of benzodiazepines and alcohol resulted in serious medical outcomes. Fatal overdoses most often occur when benzodiazepines are taken with other hypnotics, antidepressants, opiates and alcohol.

Treatment Approaches

To successfully treat a prescription drug addiction, treatment options must address every aspect of the addiction. A combination of behavioral and pharmacological treatments that can combat both the negative physical symptoms and the mental cravings that come with quitting.

Need more guidance?

If you feel you are starting to abuse heroin or have already become addicted, there are many programs and facilities that are dedicated to help you at any time, day or night.

Here is a compiled list of National Addiction Helplines.
For more help and information, visit Treatment for Benzodiazepine Addiction.

View Sources Last Edited: September 24, 2021

Sources and Citations