Signs & Symptoms of Benzo Addiction

Bayside Marin is a premier rehabilitation center dedicated to the treatment of benzo addiction in California. Bayside Marin blends evidence-based treatments with alternative, holistic modalities to comprehensively treat all aspects of our client’s life.

Understanding Benzodiazepines

Learn about benzos and substance abuse

Benzodiazepines, which are commonly referred to as benzos, are central nervous system depressants that produce mild to extreme sedation. Common prescription medications that contain benzos include Valium (diazepam), Ativan (lorazepam), Klonopin (clonazepam), Xanax (alprazolam), and Restoril (temazepam).  The effects of most benzos last from 6 to 24 hours.

Bezos are most commonly prescribed for people who are struggling with insomnia, muscle pain, and anxiety. They are also used in conjunction with anesthesia prior to some surgeries. In the United States, about 128 million prescriptions for benzodiazepines are filled every year. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) considers benzos to have low risk for tolerance or addiction (they are classified as Schedule IV controlled substances), but the abuse of drugs in this category can lead to both tolerance and addiction.

The prevalence of benzos and the perceived safety of prescription drugs have made benzo abuse unfortunately common. In some cases, benzo dependence occurs after a person has been taking them for medically approved purposes, while in other cases dependence is the result of recreational abuse of the drugs. Some recreational users abuse benzos for the effects they produce alone, while others do so to offset the negative effects of other substances. For example, cocaine addicts may take benzos to counteract the irritability and agitation that often accompanies cocaine use.

When benzos are abused in conjunction with other drugs, the risk of overdose and resultant physical or mental harm rises dramatically.  If you are someone you know is struggling with an addiction to benzos, it’s imperative to seek benzodiazepine abuse treatment immediately.


Benzo addiction statistics

The National Survey for Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), an annual nationwide and state-by-state assessment sponsored by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Agency (SAMHSA),  reports that about 12.4 million Americans have abused a benzo at least once in their lives.

The Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN) reports that more than 300,000 emergency room visits each year can be attributed to the misuse of benzos. In recent years, the benzo that has been associated with the greatest number of ER visits is Xanax, which accounted for almost 125,000 trips to the ER in 2010 alone.

Causes and Risk Factors

Causes and risk factors for benzo addiction

The abuse of benzodiazepines and other drugs is thought to be a factor of both genetic/biological and environmental/external influences. In some cases, one type of influence is clearly the cause, while in other cases the reasons for the abuse can be attributed to several factors.

Genetic: Significant research has strongly suggested that substance abuse and addiction can be attributed in some degree to genetics. For example, people who have a first-degree relative (a parent or a sibling) who had a chemical dependency problem are more likely to become addicted than are individuals who have no family history of drug abuse or addiction.

Environmental: Of course, the presence of substance abuse and addiction within a family can be an environmental influence as well as a genetic one. In the case of benzos and other prescription medications, children of parents who are quick to self-medicate, or to seek pharmaceutical solutions to issues such as stress, pressure, or frustration, may be more likely to adapt this behavior themselves. Also, people who are subjected to stresses and pressures that exceed their coping skills may also seek chemical assistance, which can lead to benzo abuse and dependence.

Risk Factors:

  • Family history of substance abuse and addiction
  • Personal history of substance abuse and addiction
  • Family history of mental illness
  • Personal history of mental illness
  • Personal physical, emotional, or sexual abuse
  • Chronic pain or similar condition requiring extended use of prescription medication
  • Poor coping skills

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of benzo addiction

The abuse of benzodiazepines may not be readily observable, as many drug addicts become quite skilled at concealing their behaviors from even close friends and family members. However, while no one sign or symptom is absolute proof that a person has been abusing benzos or any other forms of prescription medications, the following signs could indicate that a problem exists:

Behavioral symptoms:

  • “Doctor shopping” or other attempts to get prescriptions for benzodiazepines
  • Asking to borrow medications that have been prescribed to someone else
  • Tendency to use pills to deal with everyday stresses or pressures
  • Using medications contrary to the manner indicated by the prescribing physician
  • Withdrawal from family and friends
  • Using increasingly larger amounts of the medication

Physical symptoms:

  • Problems with motor skills and coordination
  • Drowsiness
  • Excessive sleepiness
  • Slurred speech
  • Slow reflexes
  • Problems with vision
  • Slowed heartbeat and breathing
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness

Cognitive symptoms:

  • Trouble making decisions
  • Using poor judgment
  • Problems with short-term memory
  • Auditory and visual hallucinations

Psychosocial symptoms:

  • Irritability or agitation when unable to use or acquire benzos
  • Becoming deceptive and prone to secrecy
  • Inability to keep up with conversations
  • Expressions of unprovoked anger or aggression
  • Demonstrations of paranoia
  • Anxious feelings
  • Depressed mood


Effects of benzo addiction

Benzodiazepine abuse has been associated with several short- and long-term health effects, including the following:

  • Insomnia
  • Severe headaches
  • Malnutrition
  • Muscle weakness
  • Muscle spasms
  • Anxiety
  • Panic
  • Confusion and disorientation
  • Breathing problems
  • Memory loss

Co-Occurring Disorders

Benzo addiction and co-occurring disorders

Many people who abuse benzodiazepines are also dealing with another mental or behavioral disorder. The following are among the more common co-occurring disorders

  • Depressive disorders
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Personality disorders
  • Other substance use disorders

Withdrawal & Overdose

Effects of benzo withdrawal and overdose

Effects of benzodiazepine withdrawal: Attempting to stop using benzodiazepines after an extended use can be painful and frustrating. The following are among the more common benzo withdrawal symptoms:

  • Powerful drug cravings
  • Pain
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Panic
  • Thoughts of suicide

Effects of benzodiazepine overdose: People who abuse benzos in combination with other drugs are at risk for experiencing the following symptoms of overdose:

  • Low blood pressure
  • Slowed heart rate
  • Breathing problems
  • Muscle control problems
  • Short-term memory failure
  • Double vision

I came to Bayside with hesitations, but I am so glad I gave it a chance. I have my Benzo addiction completely under control now.

– Anonymous Client
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