benzodiazepine addiction

What Are Benzodiazepines?

Dr. Norris Von Curl, II, MD

Dr. Norris Von Curl, II, MD

Today’s opioid crisis is the center of much attention in the addiction treatment world, even of the media and political space. It’s for good reason: 91 Americans die per day from opioid overdose (according to the CDC). However, there are other prescription medications that are addictive and can do just as much damage to a person’s life. Benzodiazepines fall in this category.

Alleviation of anxiety symptoms is the primary purpose of Benzodiazepines. However, they can be prescribed for such ranging symptoms as seizures, insomnia, and even alcohol withdrawals. Commonly referred to as benzos, benzodiazepines are highly addictive. The most common include Xanax, Klonopin, Valium, Ativan, and Ambien.

Addictive Nature of Benzos

Benzos are addictive because they are very effective at what they do. In the class of drugs known as sedatives or anxiolytics, they are very successful at creating a calming effect. The technical term for a benzo addiction is “hypnotic, sedative, or anxiolytic use disorder.” When used in accordance with a doctors instructions, these prescribed meds can alleviate a great deal of suffering for people with anxiety and panic issues. However, the ability to sedate and calm a person makes them highly sought after. Of course, when they are overused or even overprescribed, the tolerance level will rise in the patient, and this is where the disorder develops.

Quitting Benzodiazepines

How is it dangerous to quit using benzodiazepines? Once the brain is dependent on anxiolytic medication, it will start to need it to function properly. Take out the benzos from the equation too swiftly and a person’s body will go into overdrive with anxiety. It can even lead to seizures. This is one of the hardest drugs to recover from because of the need for a slow taper in order to avoid the negative side effects.

This is the reason it is absolutely crucial to get treatment at a qualified detox center when looking to finally get freedom from a benzo addiction.

Signs of Addiction

The first sign of a Benzodiazepines addiction is tolerance and consumption of more. As stated above, with tolerance the calming effects require a higher dose. So a person with an addiction will find more reasons to go to the doctor or even visit multiple doctors to get the amount necessary to keep pace with the addiction. Though it is important to note, this drug is also available on the street, so it is possible to feed the addiction without hospital visits.

Some of the physical signs of Benzodiazepine addiction include:

  • Blurred vision
  • Coma
  • Confusion
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Glassy eyes
  • Inability to defend oneself
  • Poor coordination
  • Physical weakness
  • Poor judgment
  • Slurred speech

Taking large amounts of benzos can also cause blackouts where the person has loss of memory—presenting a possible situation of physical harm. But one of the biggest dangers of benzo addiction is when they are mixed with other depressants, such as alcohol. This is the most common reason for blackout and overdose death. As the body becomes so relaxed, even automatic systems such as breathing will begin to drop off.

If you are abusing benzodiazepines or know someone that is, it’s time to think about getting help. At First Steps Recovery we have experience with providing a safe and comfortable detox from benzos. Then we walk with residents through the most effective treatment program for each individual.

If you need help, please call one of our addiction specialists today: 844-489-0836.

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