Symptoms of Benzodiazepine Addiction

Understanding Benzodiazepine Abuse

Learn About Benzodiazepine Addiction

Benzodiazepines, commonly referred to as benzos, are a class of medications that are used in the treatment of insomnia, anxiety, and muscle pain. These drugs, which work on the central nervous system, produce a state of mild to extreme sedation, relax muscles, and lower levels of anxiety. When used as directed by the prescribed physician, benzodiazepines bring about a great deal of comfort to many individuals. Unfortunately, most likely due to their widespread availability and the effects that they produce, benzos are frequently abused.

No matter how benzo abuse began, the adverse consequences associated with abuse of this substance can leave behind a wide path of destruction. If you or a loved one has become trapped in the cycle of benzo addiction, reach out to mental health professionals for help. There are many treatment options available that can help you put an end to benzo abuse.

Co-Occurring Disorders

Benzodiazepine Abuse and Co-Occurring Disorders

Many people who abuse benzodiazepines are trying to simultaneously manage the symptoms of an additional mental health disorders. Some of the most common disorders that have been known to occur alongside benzo abuse include:

  • Additional substance use disorders
  • Antisocial personality disorder
  • Depressive disorders
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Bipolar disorder


Benzodiazepine Abuse Statistics

The National Survey for Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), reports that approximately 12.4 million Americans have abused benzodiazepines at least once in their lives. Additionally, The Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN) reports that over 300,000 emergency room visits each year can be attributed to the abuse of benzos.

Causes and Risk Factors

Causes and Risk Factors for Benzodiazepine Abuse

The abuse of benzodiazepines can be related to individual, family, peer, social, as well as a number of environmental factors. Some of the most commonly cited causes and risk factors for a benzo addiction include:

Genetic: As is the case with many other substances of abuse, genetic factors play a role in the onset of benzodiazepine addiction later on in a person’s life. Much research has supported the hypothesis that substance abuse and addiction runs in families and those who have a first-degree relative who is addicted to drugs and/or alcohol are more likely to become addicts themselves.

Environmental: Benzodiazepines are medications that required the prescription of a physician and so one of the greatest risks for benzo abuse is the availability of this drug. Those who have benzos more readily available are at an increased risk for developing an addiction. Additionally, those who grew up in household where medications were heavily relied on may also be at an increased risk for benzo abuse and addiction.

Risk Factors:

  • Family history of substance abuse and addiction
  • Personal history of substance abuse and addiction
  • Being female
  • Family history of mental illness
  • Personal history of mental illness
  • Certain temperaments (such as impulsivity and novelty seeking)
  • Peer pressure
  • Substance abuse

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and Symptoms of Benzodiazepine Abuse

The signs and symptoms associated with benzodiazepines abuse can vary greatly among individuals and often include changes in appearance and behavior that will come to affect interpersonal relationships and personal responsibilities. While no one sign or symptoms is absolute proof that an individual is a benzodiazepine addict, the presence of multiple symptoms listed below may indicate that a problem with benzos may exist:

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Has given up important social, occupational, or recreational activities
  • Uses increasingly larger amounts of this medication
  • Spends a significant of time obtaining benzos
  • Increased amount of time spent alone
  • Withdrawals from family or friends
  • Sees multiple doctors in an attempt to get more pills
  • Borrows or steals benzos from family or friends
  • Forges prescriptions
  • Engages in risky behaviors
  • Unexplained need for money
  • Decline in work performance
  • Interpersonal problems, including fights with loved ones

Physical symptoms:

  • Drowsiness
  • Dizziness
  • Double vision
  • Lack of coordination
  • Problems with motor skills
  • Excessive sleepiness
  • Slurred speech
  • Slow reflexes
  • Slowed heartbeat and breathing

Cognitive symptoms:

  • Slowed thinking
  • Trouble making decisions
  • Poor judgment
  • Short-term memory problems
  • Auditory and visual hallucinations
  • Paranoia

Psychosocial symptoms:

  • Irritability or agitation
  • Unprovoked anger or aggression
  • Anxiety
  • Depression


Effects of Benzodiazepine Abuse

The long-term abuse of benzodiazepines can, in general, lead to a deterioration of an individual’s physical and mental health. Furthermore, the development of these adverse effects can ultimately penetrate all areas of a person’s life and cause a significant amount of malfunction. Some of the negative effects associated with benzo abuse include:

  • Cognitive impairments
  • Interference with work performance
  • Interpersonal difficulties
  • Neglect of children or household
  • Development of certain medical complications
  • Social withdrawal and isolation
  • Development of anxiety or depression
  • No longer engaging in hobbies or activities used to enjoy
  • Suicidal thoughts and behaviors

Withdrawal and Overdose

Effects of Benzodiazepine Withdrawal and Overdose

Effects of benzodiazepine withdrawal: Cessation of benzodiazepines after a prolonged period of abuse can bring about a number of withdrawal symptoms that are often extremely uncomfortable. The following are among the more commonly experienced symptoms of withdrawal:

  • Sweating
  • Fast heart beat
  • Hand tremors
  • Insomnia
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Hallucinations or illusions
  • Psychomotor agitation
  • Anxiety
  • Seizures

Effects of benzodiazepine overdose: When an individual ingests more benzodiazepines than is recommended an individual places themselves at an increased risk for experiencing the symptoms of an overdose. If any of the following symptoms are present, it may indicate that an individual has overdosed on benzos:

  • Agitation
  • Slurred speech
  • Unsteady gait
  • Sleepiness or sluggishness
  • Confusion
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Double vision
  • Low blood pressure
  • Slowed heart rate
  • Breathing problems
  • Muscle control problems
  • Short-term memory failure

My son had many negative influences in his social group. I knew he hit rock bottom when I found out that he was hoarding benzos from people he stole from. We discovered Starlite Recovery Center and admitted him for treatment as soon as we could. After going through treatment, he has more control over his life and is looking into employment again!

– Carolyn C.