Signs, Symptoms, & Treatment Options

Benzodiazepine Addiction



Commonly considered mild and fairly harmless, benzos can
be very addictive and can be dangerous if combined with
alcohol or other drugs. Although they are available legally
by prescription, they are also sold on the street and used
as club drugs.

What is Benzodiazepine Addiction

Benzodiazepine Addiction happens when benzos are taken in larger than normal doses over a long period of time or taken for recreational purposes or both. Like many other addictions, benzodiazepine creates changes in the brain of susceptible individuals that make them crave the drug when its effects wear off.

Benzodiazepines work by strengthening the effects of GABA-A, a neurotransmitter in the brain, resulting in a feeling of mild euphoria or a hypnotic sedative response. Since many people are prescribed benzos for anxiety or panic, as the effects wear off the anxiety returns and craving sets in.

This craving is both psychological and physical since the drug does cause actual changes in brain chemistry that escalate as abuse progresses. In the end, addiction to benzodiazepines can result in increasing the very symptoms of anxiety and distress they were initially prescribed to relieve. Permanent damage to the brain and nervous system can result.

Benzodiazepine Abuse is marked by taking larger than normal doses and wanting more over time, taking the drugs illegally for recreation, or taking them with alcohol or other drugs that suppress the central nervous system. When taken in very large doses or combined with alcohol, Benzodiazepine Abuse can result in serious life-threatening consequences and even death.

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Benzos Addiction: Signs + Symptoms

Because benzos are so potent, normal use can escalate to abuse in just a matter of months. If benzodiazepines are purchased on the street, addiction can set in even faster. Some of the symptoms that benzodiazepine use has crossed over into Benzodiazepine Addiction include:

  • Dizziness
  • Sweating
  • Slurred speech
  • Shallow breathing
  • Loss of coordination
  • Nausea and vomiting

Because benzos change brain function, they are among the most difficult drugs to quit. Yet long-term use can be very damaging. Some of the negative symptoms of long-term Benzodiazepine Addiction are:

  • Loss of inhibition
  • Impaired memory and impaired cognition
  • Increased reaction time
  • Amnesia
  • Permanent cognitive defects
  • Depression
  • Muscle stiffness
  • Loss of muscle control
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Dementia

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Benzo Withdrawal: Signs + Symptoms

When a benzodiazepine is abused, withdrawal symptoms set in as the drug wears off. These symptoms become more severe as addiction progresses. They include:

  • Confusion
  • Anxiety
  • Blurred vision
  • Forgetfulness
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Irritability

Over time, Benzodiazepine abuse creates a situation in which the addict’s brain cannot function normally without the drug, yet continuing to take the drug leads to increasing levels of permanent damage and loss of function. This is why recognizing the symptoms of the addiction and getting the person help as early as possible are so vital.

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Treatment for addiction to benzos starts with removing the drug from the individual’s system in a safe, medically supervised environment. This withdrawal period has to be carefully monitored and may include other medications or tapering doses of benzodiazepine down to zero. Benzo withdrawal is not pleasant, but going through it in a competent, professionally staffed rehab center greatly increases the likelihood of success and minimizes discomfort as much as possible.

Once the detox period is over, recovering benzo addicts receive psychotherapy, group therapy, education in self-care, and social services. Because the addiction so often develops in an attempt to tamp down feelings of anxiety, treatment of any underlying anxiety disorders, depression, or other co-occurring mental illness is vital.

A plan for recovery after release from rehab is an important part of treatment. Similar to in-house treatment, outpatient treatment consists of some combination of psychotherapy, non-benzo anxiety medications, support groups, and social services that help the recovering person make healthier connections and learn to live in a way that increases feelings of security and well-being.

Spending the first part of the recovery process in a rehab facility that offers comprehensive services is especially recommended for people dependent on benzos. Rehab takes the person out of the situation in which the drugs were abused. From a safe space in rehab, a review of how the addiction started and what changes can be made can greatly increase the likelihood of a successful journey out of addiction.

Recovery is a process that lasts a lifetime. It can be a joyous process because it moves the recovering person toward more life and happiness and decreased dependence on substances to dull pain. If you are suffering the effects of dependence on benzodiazepine medications, reach out now. A comprehensive rehab facility can ensure you get your recovery off to a strong start and continue on to a full, happy life. Recovery is possible. All you have to do is make the call.

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