Benzo Addiction

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What are benzodiazepines (benzos)?

Benzodiazepines, many times referred to as “benzos,” are a class of drug that work as a sedative on a person’s body and brain. The drug works by enhancing the amount of GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) the brain produces. A benzo will also limit the normal interaction of chemicals from the brain and a person’s nerves. Benzodiazepines are prescribed for people to treat several conditions including; seizure, anxiety disorders, panic attacks, depression, and sleep disorders. Unfortunately, many times benzos are prescribed incorrectly or a patient is kept on them for too long a period and becomes dependent and or addicted. For many people, the effect of benzodiazepines is very similar to alcohol. This is why it is many times referred to as “alcohol in a pill.” Benzodiazepines are a powerful sedative and someone trying to stop using them should seek medical attention to avoid serious injury or death.

benzodiazepines neurotransmitters with or without benzos - effect on neurotransmitters

What drugs are considered benzos?

There are a number of drugs that are classed as benzodiazepines. Depending on the type of benzo used, the strength and time of release of the drug will differ. The following is a list of some commonly prescribed benzodiazepines;

  • Diazapam (Valium)
  • Oxazepam (Serax)
  • Lorazepam (Ativan)
  • Alprazolam (Xanax)
  • Clonazepam (Klonopin)
  • Chlordiazepoxide (Librium)
  • Temazepam (Restoril)
Chemical properties of diazepam

What are the negative short-term and long-term effects of abusing benzos?

There are many short-term side effects that an individual can experience soon after taking a benzo, whether they take the drug one time or begin using the drug routinely. One of these negative side effects is loss of memory. People who use benzos, especially those who abuse the drug, are prone to lapses in memory. Many times they have difficulty having short term memories transfer to long term memories. In extreme cases, an individual abusing benzos can find it impossible to remember events that took place over the course of days, weeks, or even months. Another possible side effect of the drug is extreme drowsiness and fatigue. In rare cases benzo abuse can cause a person to be irritable and aggressive. Someone can die from the use of benzodiazepines through overdose or by combining the benzos with alcohol or other drugs that produce sedation.

One of the most detrimental negative long-term effects of benzodiazepine abuse is physical dependence. In fact, a person does not necessarily have to be “abusing” benzos in order to experience issues from long-term use of the drug. Long-term benzo use can have an adverse effect on cognitive and mental function.

What are the warning signs of someone abusing benzos?

Some common warning signs that someone is abusing benzos are;

  • Forgetting periods of time (blacking out).
  • Lack of interest in positive things.
  • Always feeling tired and never seeming to get enough sleep.
  • General lack of interest in things that used to be enjoyed.
  • An inability to control the amount of benzos taken.
  • Having to refill prescriptions before it is time.

What are some signs and symptoms of benzo withdrawal?

Someone who discontinues the use of benzodiazepines after a period of use can experience both physical and mental withdrawal symptoms.

Some examples of physical benzo withdrawal are;

  • Tremors
  • Muscle cramping
  • Fatigue
  • Sweating
  • Vomiting
  • Seizures and death (in extreme cases)

Some mental signs and symptoms of benzo withdrawal are;

  • Confusion
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Panic Attacks
  • Increased aggravation
  • Insomnia

How long does benzo withdrawal last?

The length of time that someone will experience benzo withdrawal depends on the type of benzo, amount of time using the benzo, and the amount of benzos used. Other drugs that may have been used along with the benzodiazepines can also affect the amount of time it takes someone to recover from benzo withdrawal. Generally speaking, someone who is detoxing from benzos will have a longer detox process then someone detoxing from other drugs. Usually the detox process lasts 7-10 days but can last longer for someone who is experiencing using benzos for a long period of time.

Can someone recover from benzo addiction?

Anyone can experience recovery from benzodiazepine addiction if they receive the correct treatment. Someone who is experiencing benzodiazepine addiction needs to seek medical attention. A combination of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and an intensive 12-step experience is the best known way for someone with benzodiazepine addiction to achieve long-term abstinence from the drug. As with any addiction, many of the issues the patient experiences occur when the drug is no longer being used and the individual needs to live their life sober.

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DO YOU KNOW SOMEONE STRUGGLING WITH BENZODIAZEPINE ADDICTION?

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KNOW A BENZO ABUSER?

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REFERENCES


  1. “BENZODIAZEPINES.” rxlist.com/benzodiazepines/drugs-condition.. Accessed 9 Dec 2018.
  2. “Psychiatric News.” pschnews.psychiatryonline.org. Accessed 9 Dec 2018.
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