What Are Benzodiazepines?

If you’re worried that you or someone you love may be addicted to benzodiazepines, you’ve come to the right place to learn more. Benzodiazepines or “benzos” are a type of prescription tranquilizer that are also sometimes referred to as hypnotics, sedatives, or anxiolytics. They have a depressant effect on the central nervous system and do have many legitimate medical uses, such as to treat anxiety, insomnia, alcohol withdrawal, seizures, or muscle spasms. 

However, they are also highly addictive and often recreationally abused, with dependence sometimes developing even in people who initially intend only to take them as prescribed and sometimes within as few as two or three weeks. 

The most commonly abused benzodiazepines inlcude Xanax (Alprazolam), Ativan (Lorazepam), Valium (Diazepam), and Klonopin (Clonazepam). Read on to learn more about five major signs that you or someone you love has developed an addiction to benzodiazepines.

1. Exhibiting These Signs Of Intoxication

Since benzodiazepines are a depressant, someone who is high on them may appear to be calmer and more relaxed than usual, possibly to the extent of lethargy. They may exhibit memory problems, slower thought processes, impaired judgement, and drowsiness, appearing disengaged and disinterested in their everyday activities and avoiding any tasks that require extended concentration. 

They also may appear confused, disoriented, depressed, anxious, hostile, or irritable, showing an unusual lability of mood. Since benzodiazepines can reduce inhibitions, abuse may also result in an increased willingness to take risks or in euphoria and manic-type behavior. 

2. Exhibiting These Physical Side Effects

The depressant effects of benzodiazepines can also result in a plethora of physical symptoms, such as muscle weakness, slurred speech, blurred vision, unsteadiness, fainting, tremors, and vertigo. Someone who is abusing benzodiazepines may also experience or complain of headaches, dizziness, fatigue, or light-headedness. 

Benzodiazepines can also cause gastrointestinal symptoms like constipation, nausea, vomiting, and loss of appetite, or more severe neurological symptoms like seizures, tremors or convulsions. 

And, since they depress respiratory functions, benzodiazepines can also lead to increased respiratory infections among chronic users, and in extreme cases, difficulty breathing, which can in turn lead to coma or death. Though fatal overdose is rare in patients who are abusing benzodiazepines alone, it is a serious risk for anyone who combines benzodiazepines with other depressants like opiates and alcohol.

3. Exhibiting These Symptoms Of Psychological Dependence

Someone who is addicted to benzodiazepines may also exhibit psychological and behavioral symptoms related to the central role benzodiazepines have come to play in their life. You may notice that you or your loved one are gradually increasing their dosage of the drug, needing more and more of it to achieve the same effect. They can also become noticeably anxious, irritable and angry in situations where they cannot access the drug, obsessing over how much of the drug is available to them and when they will be able to use next. 

Someone who is abusing benzodiazepines may also exhibit changes in their eating and sleeping patterns related to their drug use and profound personality changes or mood disturbances as they vacillate between a relaxed high and more anxious come-down. Prolonged benzodiazepine abuse can also result in chronic memory problems and even eventual dementia. 

A benzodiazepine addict may also become secretive and isolate themselves to hide signs of their dependence and ward off anyone who might intervene. They may withdraw socially, losing interest in their outside obligations and showing impaired performance in their academic and professional life. And they may appear detached or apathetic, or even begin shirking off basic hygiene or grooming.  Someone who is addicted to benzodiazepines will be determined to keep using despite any of these negative effects, demonstrating their loss of control over their use. 

4. Going To Extreme Lengths To Obtain More Benzodiazepines

Even if someone only became addicted to benzodiazepines after they were prescribed to them for a legitimate medical reason, they may become so dependent on the drug that they are driven to resort to deception in order to continue their use. 

One example of this is a behavior called doctor shopping, in which the patient will visit multiple doctors in order to obtain multiple prescriptions for benzodiazepines, manipulating the medical practitioners by withholding information, exaggerating their compliants, or straight-up lying.

People who are addicted to benzodiazepines may also ask or beg anyone with a prescription to hand over their pills, or, if unsuccessful, move on to outright stealing them or to trying to forge a prescription. 

Finally, benzodiazepines are also, unfortunately, commonly sold as a street drug, so someone who cannot obtain them through other means may simply buy them illicitly.

5. Experiencing Withdrawal Symptoms When Trying To Curb Use

One of the surest signs that someone has become addicted to benzodiazepines is that they experience withdrawal symptoms when they attempt to stop or reduce their use. 

These symptoms might include anxiety, irritability, insomnia, headaches, muscle pain, poor concentration, and high blood pressure. 

In more serious cases, however, signs of benzodiazepine withdrawal can include more serious symptoms like tremors, palpitations, and seizures, which can lead in severe cases to coma or death. Benzodiazepine withdrawal can also cause dangerous psychological conditions like psychosis, mania, and suicidality. 

Because of these risks, it is recommended that someone who is dependent on benzodiazepines only attempt to stop taking them while under medical supervision. Doctors will usually recommend that patients gradually taper off their use rather than stop cold turkey to ward off these unpleasant and dangerous effects. 

To learn more about benzodiazepine withdrawal, click here. And if you or someone you love is currently struggling with addiction, don’t hesitate to call our hotline for help at (833) 489-5577.

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