What Are Benzodiazepines?
Benzodiazepines, or benzos, are manmade prescription medications that slow
the central nervous system. As a result, benzodiazepines have a sedative,
relaxing effect on the brain and body.
Due to the sedative effects of benzodiazepines, many medical professionals
refer to benzodiazepines as tranquilizers. The sedative effects of benzodiazepines
are also the reason why doctors prescribe them to patients to treat disorders such as
anxiety, insomnia, and seizures.
Some doctors even use benzodiazepines to help treat alcohol withdrawal
symptoms. This is because some of the alcohol withdrawal symptoms include
disorders that benzos normally help treat, such as insomnia and seizures.
Examples of well-known benzos are Valium and
Examples of Benzo Misuse & Abuse
Benzodiazepine misuse or abuse occurs any time a person takes benzos in
any way other than prescribed. For example, someone who takes more than
the prescribed amount or takes benzos for longer than recommended by a
doctor is misusing these medications. Someone who takes another person’s
medication, regardless of the reason, is abusing benzodiazepines.
Many people misuse or abuse benzodiazepines in an effort to experience
their effects more quickly or for longer periods of time. For example,
someone who is taking benzodiazepines for insomnia may feel that their
medication is not working fast enough to help them fall asleep. As a result,
they may take more pills at one time, even if this is not what the doctor
has prescribed. Continuing to take more benzos than what is prescribed
can cause someone to develop an increased tolerance for the drug, which
can quickly lead to dependency and addiction.
Another common way of benzo abuse is by taking the prescribed medications
for a longer period of time than they’re supposed to. For example,
someone who suffers from anxiety may continue to take prescription benzos
even after their prescription runs out. An individual may still feel the
effects of anxiety even though their doctor has determined that they are
well enough to proceed without medication. In an effort to cope with these
symptoms, the person may seek out new prescriptions from other doctors
or resort to buying or stealing others’ prescription medications.
Other individuals abuse benzodiazepines because they like the euphoric
and sedative effects. These are the people that intentionally abuse benzos.
Types of Benzodiazepines
Benzodiazepines are classified based on how long their effects last:
Ultra-Short Acting: Versed and Halcion are examples of ultra-short acting benzodiazepines
Short-Acting: Xanax and Ativan are examples of short-acting benzodiazepines
Long-Acting: Librium and Valium are examples of long-acting benzodiazepines
Short-acting benzodiazepines, like Xanax and Valium, are more likely to
be abused, as are those prescribed for anxiety and sleep disorders. Valium,
Ativan, and Xanax are frequently abused or used recreationally, partly
due to their affordability and availability.
What Effects Do Benzos Have on the Brain & Body?
Long-term benzo abuse causes brain damage. People who abuse benzos over
a long period of time may even find themselves losing motor and muscle
control. Chronic benzo abuse also often leads to benzo addiction.
Benzo abuse on its own rarely causes people to overdose. Still, when mixed
with other substances, such as
alcohol, benzos can cause an overdose or even death. Both alcohol and benzodiazepines
are sedative substances; using them together can slow the body’s
system down to the point of death.
Signs of Benzodiazepine Addiction
Someone who is dependent on or addicted to benzodiazepines may experience:
- Blurred vision
- Slurred speech
- Lack of coordination
- Difficulty breathing
If you believe someone else may be abusing or addicted to benzos, look
for the following signs:
- Criminal behavior
- Work and school problems
- Difficulties with relationships at home
- Inability to handle basic responsibilities like paying bills
- Obsession with trying to secure benzos or the money to buy benzos
- Increased secretiveness and lying, especially regarding medication use
What Are the Signs of Benzodiazepine Overdose?
While benzo overdose is very unlikely on its own, when benzodiazepines
are mixed with other substances, overdose is very much possible. For that
reason, it might benefit you to recognize the signs of a benzo overdose.
The signs of benzo overdose include:
- Trouble breathing
- Loss of motor function
- Blurred or double vision
- Lips and fingernails turning blue
- A profoundly altered mental state
Benzo Withdrawal Symptoms
It is not recommended that someone with a benzodiazepine dependency or
addiction suddenly stop taking the drug. Severe withdrawal symptoms can
not only be painful and unpleasant, but they can also be potentially life-threatening.
Some symptoms associated with benzodiazepine withdrawal include:
- Sleeping issues
- Breathing problems
- Inability to concentrate
- Nausea and vomiting
- Abnormal sensations
- Trouble concentrating
- Problems with blood pressure and heart rate
Since benzo withdrawal symptoms can pose problems to an individual’s
overall health, anyone who decides to stop using substances should attend
medical detox. When attending medical detox for benzo addiction, physicians
and medical staff will be there to guide you through the detox process.
Also, if you experience severe withdrawal symptoms while medically detoxing
from benzos, physicians can prescribe medications to help you manage your
Benzodiazepine Addiction Treatment
After completing detox, you must attend benzo addiction treatment. During
benzo addiction treatment, you’ll receive various forms of
group therapy. It’s also during this time that you’ll discover what your
benzo addiction triggers are. You’ll even learn proper coping mechanisms
to deal with your addiction triggers while in rehab.
Forms of therapy that you’ll likely experience during benzo addiction
At Grace Land Recovery, we offer an integrated approach that is focused
on whole-person healing. Our Memphis benzodiazepine addiction treatment
services are designed to help you develop the tools you need to manage
cravings, avoid triggers, and
prevent relapse. We also help individuals with co-occurring mental health disorders learn
how to cope with these conditions in a healthy and meaningful way.