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Benzodiazepine Abuse & Addiction | List, Side Effects, Withdrawal, & Treatment Options

benzos xanax alprazolam

Benzodiazepines are commonly used for managing anxiety or insomnia, but benzodiazepine misuse can lead to addiction. 

These depressant medications can have serious side effects and increase the risk of an overdose when they’re abused. Professional substance abuse rehab programs can provide effective ways to overcome benzodiazepine addiction.

What Are Benzodiazepines?

Benzodiazepines are central nervous system depressant medications that are often used for treating or managing anxiety disorders or insomnia. These medications have a sedative effect that can help people sleep better and feel less anxious.

Here are some important things you should know about benzodiazepines:

  • Different types of benzodiazepines are available, such as alprazolam (Xanax), diazepam (Valium), lorazepam (Ativan), and clonazepam (Klonopin).
  • Benzodiazepines come in different forms, including pills, syrups, and injections.
  • Uses of benzodiazepines include treating anxiety disorders, insomnia, seizure disorders, alcohol withdrawal, and muscle relaxation.
  • Benzodiazepines are also known as benzos or downers.
  • Benzodiazepines can produce a euphoric feeling, vivid dreams, hostility, and amnesia.
  • Some people combine benzodiazepines with opioids, or other depressants like alcohol, in order to produce a stronger or more intense euphoric feeling.

List Of Benzodiazepines

There are several types of benzodiazepines available for prescription use. The abuse of benzodiazepines includes taking a higher dose than prescribed, using them without a prescription, or combining them with other substances.

Xanax (Alprazolam)

Xanax is a prescription drug that’s designed to address panic and anxiety disorders. This sedative is common and comes with warnings about addiction and abuse potential, as well as the risks of mixing it with other substances like alcohol.

Learn more about Xanax Abuse & Addiction 

Ativan (Lorazepam)

Ativan is prescribed to reduce anxiety. Like many benzos, this medication works by slowing down brain activity and increasing relaxation. Because of its effects of sedation, there is a significant potential for drug abuse.

Learn more about Ativan Abuse & Addiction

Valium (Diazepam)

Valium has a variety of approved uses, including treating anxiety, seizures, and alcohol withdrawal. Long-term Valium use can lead to dependence, tolerance, and dangerous withdrawal symptoms if you abruptly stop use.

Learn more about Valium Abuse & Addiction

Klonopin (Clonazepam)

Klonopin is a prescription drug specifically designed for controlling and preventing seizures. This medication has a strong potential for abuse, and can be especially dangerous when combined with other central nervous system depressants like alcohol or opioids.

Learn more about Klonopin Abuse & Addiction

Halcion (Triazolam)

Halcion is a benzodiazepine that’s used to treat severe sleeping problems like insomnia. This effective tranquilizer is one of the most commonly prescribed prescription drugs in the United States, and long-term use increases the risk for addiction.

Learn more about Halcion Abuse & Addiction 

Librium (Chlordiazepoxide)

Librium, and other brand names containing chlordiazepoxide, is a sedative-hypnotic medication that has approved uses for alcohol withdrawal, anxiety, and sleep problems.

Learn more about Librium Abuse & Addiction

Restoril (Temazepam)

Due to its sedative effects, Restoril is not recommended for long-term use. This medication treats sleeping problems, and can cause withdrawal symptoms when the dose is rapidly decreased or discontinued altogether.

Learn more about Restoril Abuse & Addiction

Serax (Oxazepam)

Oxazepam, including brand names like Serax , is a short-acting benzodiazepine that has approved usage for treating withdrawal symptoms from alcohol abuse, insomnia, and anxiety. Abuse can occur if you take high doses of Serax for long periods of time.

Learn more about Serax Abuse & Addiction

Effects Of Benzodiazepine Addiction

Having an addiction to benzodiazepines can raise the risk of drug overdose or severe physical and psychological symptoms, such as seizures or psychosis. 

Knowing how to identify signs of addiction can help you understand when to seek treatment for yourself or a loved one or family member. 

Side effects of benzodiazepine misuse may include:

  • irritability
  • fatigue
  • anxiety
  • headaches
  • muscle aches
  • memory impairment
  • loss of coordination
  • depression

Signs of benzodiazepine addiction may include:

  • experiencing ongoing problems at work, home, or school due to benzodiazepine abuse
  • finding ways to obtain benzodiazepines that are illegal or unethical, such as stealing
  • taking larger or more frequent doses of benzodiazepines
  • going to multiple doctors to get benzodiazepine prescriptions

Benzodiazepine Overdose

Being familiar with possible signs of benzodiazepine overdose is important. If you or a loved one exhibit any of these signs, you’ll need to seek care at an emergency department to prevent potentially life-threatening reactions from occurring. 

Some of the signs of benzodiazepine overdose include:

  • lightheadedness
  • bluish lips or fingernails
  • breathing difficulties
  • anxiety
  • drowsiness
  • blurry vision
  • tremors
  • restlessness
  • coordination problems
  • confusion
  • weakness
  • loss of consciousness
  • slurred speech
  • mood swings
  • erratic or unusual behavior, such as sudden aggressiveness

Benzodiazepine Withdrawal Symptoms & Detox

When you stop taking benzodiazepines, your body experiences a period of withdrawal while adjusting. This usually starts within a few days with rebound symptoms and can last for a week or more. 

The severity of withdrawal symptoms depends on the type of benzodiazepine you’ve been using, how often you take it, and how much you take.

 Symptoms of benzodiazepine withdrawal may include:

  • cravings
  • headaches
  • anxiety
  • stiff or sore muscles
  • tremors in the hands
  • sleep problems, such as insomnia
  • trouble focusing or concentrating
  • heart palpitations
  • sweating more than usual
  • seizures
  • hallucinations
  • psychosis 

Since benzodiazepine withdrawal symptoms can be serious, such as seizures, you should go through a detoxification program. 

A professional benzodiazepine detox program can provide you with medical monitoring and support for severe symptoms. Although detox programs don’t treat benzodiazepine addiction, they help you prepare to enter a rehab program at an addiction treatment center.

Benzodiazepine Treatment Programs

When you struggle with benzodiazepine addiction, you don’t have to try to recover by yourself. In fact, seeking professional help is an important part of being able to successfully overcome substance use disorder and other mental health issues. 

Professional rehab programs for this kind of addiction are available in different forms.

Inpatient Treatment

Inpatient rehab has you stay in a rehab facility while you receive treatment from a team of professionals. This helps ensure that you have help and support available at all times, so you can focus on recovery.

You may also receive treatment for co-occurring mental health disorders, which are often viewed as an underlying condition that contributes to drug use. 

Outpatient Treatment

Outpatient rehab programs are usually for milder cases of benzodiazepine addiction or for those who have finished inpatient care. When you’re in this kind of program, you’ll come in for treatment during the week, but you won’t be required to stay in a rehab facility.

Behavioral Therapy

Behavioral therapy has been used as part of effective addiction treatment for many years. This kind of therapy can help you identify why you developed an addiction and how you can change the way you think and feel in order to overcome it.

If you’re suffering from benzodiazepine addiction, please contact Ark Behavioral Health for information on our treatment programs.

Written by Ark Behavioral Health Editorial Team
This page does not provide medical advice.

Drug Enforcement Administration - Benzodiazepines
Drug Enforcement Administration - Drug Fact Sheet: Benzodiazepines
Harvard Health Publishing - Benzodiazepines and the Alternatives
National Institute on Drug Abuse - Benzodiazepines and Opioids
National Institute on Drug Abuse - Overdose Death Rates

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