Benzodiazepine Addiction and Abuse

Benzodiazepines, also known as “Benzos” are a group of chemically similar drugs classified as tranquilizers, usually prescribed for patients that suffer from:

  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Panic attacks
  • Muscle tension and/or pain
  • Mental disorders
  • Alcohol withdrawal
  • Amnesias
  • Seizures

Benzodiazepines can be legally prescribed but are widely abused by some patients. Abuse and addiction of benzodiazepines occur when patients take more than their prescribed dosage, or when users cannot function “normally” without taking a benzo. Drugs like Klonopin, for example, are highly addictive. Benzos have additionally been used as date rape drugs.

It is common for people who use benzos to combine them with opioids and/or alcohol. An estimated 41 percent of alcoholics have abused benzodiazepines; a common reason being the prevention of withdrawal effects. Often times, addicts find combining benzos with other drugs produces an intense high. An estimated 80 percent of benzodiazepine abuse is connected with polydrug abuse (combining multiple drugs in one sitting), especially heroin and methadone, thus creating a fatal drug combination.

The number of annual deaths related to benzodiazepine addiction is increasing. In 2015, 4,000 female deaths and 5,000 male deaths were attributed to benzodiazepine addiction.  In 2003, 23 percent of people who died by an opioid overdose also tested positive for benzodiazepines.

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Benzo Abuse & Addiction

After some time passes, the mind and body adapt to the presence of a benzodiazepine, making it less effective. This is known as tolerance. As a person’s tolerance increases, they need to take increasing amounts of the drug to experience the same effect. Eventually, the individual develops a dependence and experiences cravings for the benzodiazepine. Eventually, dependency leads to a full-blown addiction. Addiction to a benzodiazepine is typified by a deep need for the drug and significant changes to the chemical composition of the brain.

What Benzodiazepines Are Abused

Benzodiazepines are available via pill (oral consumption), and rarely, intravenously. Abusers also often crush and snort them, despite this being especially dangerous. Popular benzodiazepines, all of which may be abused, include:

  • Xanax
  • Ativan
  • Valium
  • Librium
  • Halcion
  • Klonopin

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A Prescription for Anxiety Disorder Can Lead To A Benzodiazepine Addiction

The Effects of Benzos

In general, benzos produce a feeling of calmness almost immediately, with few immediate adverse effects in most users. Benzos alter the neurochemistry in the brain, and the user can develop a fast dependency on the drugs. Side effects of benzodiazepine use include:

  • Antisocial behaviors
  • Loss of interest in daily activities and self care
  • Spending large amounts of money on drug use
  • Increased aggression
  • Slurred speech
  • Intense euphoria
  • Confusion
  • Coma
  • Psychotic episodes
  • Weight loss
  • Red eyes
  • Respiratory arrest
  • Slow heart rate
  • Slow breathing
  • Persistent cravings
  • Central nervous system depression
  • Drowsiness
  • Muscle weakness
  • Withdrawal symptoms
  • Cognitive dysfunction
  • Poor memory
  • Depression
  • Overdose

Who Benzodiazepine Addiction Affects

Those who are most at risk of benzo addiction are those with co-occurring mental disorders, those with a family history, those who abuse opioids, and alcohol abusers. Factors such as peer pressure, unemployment, and a low-socio economic status increase the likelihood of benzodiazepine addiction as well.

Drugs like Valium, Ativan, and other benzos are popularly used across all age groups, from teenagers to senior citizens. Xanax use in particular is on the rise, as modern-day culture promotes relaxation through a variety of media outlets. Teenagers are often open to experimenting with Xanax and other benzodiazepines, and family members are often frustrated and concerned in seeing their children’s drug use.

Women who are pregnant can take benzos as prescribed by their doctor as needed. Benzo abuse in pregnant women, however, can produce a host of recognizable traits in the unborn baby, including a cleft lip, lower muscle tone, and withdrawal symptoms.

Benzos are frequently prescribed to people 65 and older, as the elderly community has a higher susceptibility to many mental health conditions such as depression. Doctors are increasingly prescribing benzos to senior citizens, and dependencies are increasingly reported in turn.

Alcoholics often consume benzos with alcohol in order to increase the intensity of the endorphins released during drug use, many not knowing the dangerous risks of the mix.

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Find Benzodiazepine Addiction Treatment

Users experiencing harsh side-effects are encouraged to seek professional treatment in a rehab facility. Both inpatient and outpatient facilities enable addicts to restore their mind, body, and spirit to wellness with therapists, medication, and support. Inpatient rehab facilities provide additional monitoring of withdrawal symptoms, where outpatient facilities assist addicts while they remain ingrained in their daily lives. Contact a treatment professional to discuss the best option available for you.

Last Edited: April 2, 2018

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