Six Warning Signs of Benzodiazepine Abuse and Addiction

benzodiazepine abuse

Six Warning Signs of Benzodiazepine Abuse and Addiction

Benzodiazepine drugs are sedatives that have a calming effect and are used to treat anxiety and panic disorders, certain types of seizures, insomnia, and alcohol withdrawal.[1] Benzodiazepines or “benzos” are some of the most commonly prescribed medications in the United States. The most widely used benzos include Xanax (alprazolam), Valium (diazepam), Halcion (triazolam), Ativan (lorazepam), and Klonopin (clonazepam).[2]

While these medications are extremely useful when taken as directed, their calming and relaxing capabilities make them a target for abuse. Benzodiazepine abuse can quickly turn into an addiction. Even people who are prescribed benzodiazepines often have them for short-term use only due to the risk potential for abuse and physical dependence. Studies have found that more than 5.3 million adults abuse benzodiazepine medications and drug abuse accounts for more than 17% of overall benzodiazepine use.[3]

Drug abuse is dangerous and has the potential to lead to addiction, overdose, and even death. It can harm individuals, families, and communities as a whole. As a result, it’s important to be able to spot the warning signs of benzodiazepine abuse.

1. Physical Signs of Benzodiazepine Intoxication

One of the easiest ways to tell if a person has been abusing benzodiazepines is to look for physical side effects. Possible physical signs of benzodiazepine abuse include:[4]

  • Slurred speech
  • Drowsiness
  • Dizziness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Lack of coordination
  • Slowed reflexes
  • Drunk-like state
  • Glazed over eyes or trance-like state

When taken at the correct medicinal dose, benzos should only produce minor side effects. People who exhibit side effects like these may have taken too many pills or be abusing their medication.

2. Psychological Side Effects of Benzodiazepine Abuse

Looking for the psychological, mental, or emotional side effects of benzodiazepine misuse can also be helpful in determining whether or not a person has a drug problem. Because these substances are used to treat anxiety, they have a relaxing, calming, and sedating effect.

Other mental or emotional signs of abuse include:[4]

  • Temporary, short-term memory loss
  • Forgetfulness
  • Mental confusion
  • Easily annoyed or irritated
  • Lack of interest in activities
  • Manic-like mood swings
  • Inability to focus on tasks
  • Disorientation

The more benzodiazepines a person takes, the more pronounced these symptoms will become.

3. Benzodiazepine Withdrawal Symptoms That Occur When The Drugs Wear Off

Prolonged drug abuse can lead to physical dependence and addiction. Physical dependence occurs when a person’s body needs benzodiazepines in its system to function properly. If a person suddenly stops using benzodiazepines or misses a dose of their medication, they may experience symptoms of withdrawal.

Unfortunately, benzodiazepine withdrawal can be dangerous, and in severe cases, even deadly. It’s always important to detox from benzos under close medical supervision. Common symptoms of withdrawal include:

  • Muscle pain
  • Cramps
  • Sweating
  • Anxiety
  • Tremors
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Seizures
  • Loss of consciousness

4. Mixing Benzodiazepines With Opioids, Alcohol, or Other Substances

One popular way to abuse benzodiazepines is to mix them with other substances like opioids or alcohol. Combining alcohol and benzos can lead to increased side effects and make people get drunk faster. Similarly, mixing opioids and benzos can increase the euphoric and sedative effects of both drugs.

Mixing benzos with other drugs is extremely dangerous and increases the risk of overdose and adverse side effects. In 2017, nearly 85% of benzodiazepine-related overdose deaths also involved an opioid.[1]

5. Risky, Dangerous, and Compulsive Behaviors

Other common signs of benzodiazepine abuse include risky, dangerous, and compulsive behaviors. This is because people who get addicted to benzodiazepines become mentally consumed with the drug. Individuals may go to extreme lengths to continue their addiction, including, but not limited to:

  • Doctor shopping to obtain multiple prescriptions at once
  • Lying to family members or medical providers about drug use
  • Stealing from loved ones or commercial stores
  • Committing crimes such as selling drugs or bank fraud
  • Driving while under the influence
  • Stealing someone else’s prescription

Sometimes, benzodiazepine users don’t even realize certain dangerous behaviors they have participated in because they experience blackouts or lapses in memory while under the influence.

6. Suffering a Benzodiazepine Overdose

While opioid overdoses continue to dominate news headlines, benzodiazepine overdoses are a huge problem as well. Emergency room visits related to benzodiazepine misuse increased from 27.6 million in 2003 to 62.6 million in 2015. Furthermore, benzodiazepine-related overdose deaths increased from 0.58 per 100,000 adults in 1996 to 3.07 in 2010.[1] These numbers are thought to have increased in recent years.

People who abuse benzodiazepines may crush and snort them, take them in dangerously high doses, or combine them with other substances. All of these scenarios substantially increase the risk of overdose. Symptoms of benzodiazepine overdose include:[2]

  • Extreme drowsiness
  • Confusion
  • Impaired coordination
  • Decreased reflexes
  • Respiratory depression
  • Coma
  • Death

If medical attention is received fast enough, flumazenil, a benzodiazepine overdose antidote, can be administered to help treat overdose symptoms.

Find Help for Benzodiazepine Abuse and Addiction Today

Individuals who experience these six warning signs may be at risk for addiction. Benzodiazepine addiction is a legitimate health condition that requires professional treatment. If you or a loved one are addicted to benzodiazepines, our comprehensive addiction treatment program at Florida Recovery Group can help. Call now to speak with an admissions coordinator to see if our rehab program is right for you.