Addiction to Benzos

Benzodiazepines are prescription medications that are often prescribed to patients for the treatment of anxiety, seizures, or insomnia, and other sleep disorders. Common benzodiazepine medications include Xanax, Ativan, Valium, and Klonopin. Unfortunately, benzodiazepines can be habit-forming and frequent use can cause addiction even if the medication is prescribed by a professional health care provider. 

Benzodiazepine addiction can be difficult to overcome and generally requires professional treatment by a residential rehab center. What makes benzodiazepine addiction so hard to combat is that this addiction, like all types of drug addiction, doesn’t affect anyone specific demographic, gender, or class. Almost anyone who uses a benzo has the potential to become addicted and, benzodiazepine abuse resulting from recreational use of these drugs is almost certain to result in benzo addiction that will require professional help in order to quit.  

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How Benzodiazepines Are Abused

There are several ways for benzodiazepines to be abused. The most common method of benzodiazepine abuse isis via oral consumption. Patients that have been prescribed benzos such as Xanax or Klonopin ingest the tablets or capsules orally as needed or as prescribed. As dependence, the user may realize he or she cannot miss a dose without feeling unwell. However,  if the frequency of dosage increases and frequent stops at the pharmacy for refills begin to take place without a legit increase from the doctor, benzodiazepine abuse is actually taking place.  

Benzos may also be consumed through the nasal passage. Snorting benzos, similar to snorting methamphetamine or heroin, results in an instant or quicker high. However, this form of abuse causes damage to the nasal passages. 

Intravenous and intramuscular administration is less common due primarily to convenience and knowledge of how to administer outside of a medical facility. 

If you or someone you care about is using benzos in any way other than prescribed, call St. John’s Recovery Place at 1-833-397-3422 to discuss the problem. Our treatment team is ready to support your decision to seek help. We’ll love you until you learn to love yourself.

Benzo Addiction Symptoms

Signs of benzodiazepine abuse and the symptoms of addiction do not always appear immediately. Sometimes the signs of dependency do not appear for weeks or months depending on the user. Studies have shown that it takes four weeks or less to build a dependence on benzos. Classical signs of benzo abuse tend to manifest in three ways: physical, psychological, and behavioral. 

Physical Symptoms of Abuse

Many of the benzodiazepine abuse symptoms that clients experience are much like the symptoms that make them start taking benzos in the first place. Physical symptoms of benzo abuse include:

  • Slurred speech or inability to hold a conversation
  • Excessive fatigue or trouble staying awake
  • Lightheadedness or difficulting holding up one’s head
  • Sweating or appearing clammy, cold, and plae
  • Seizures or tremors
  • Reduced heart rate
  • Shallow breathing
  • Reduced sex drive or inability to perform sexually

 While these disturbances can be warning signs the most noticeable changes can be seen in the behavioral patterns and psychological impact of the benzodiazepine use on users. 

Psychological Symptoms of Abuse

Benzodiazepines that are taken long-term may result in addiction that is significantly more difficult to treat.  Psychological symptoms of benzodiazepine abuse include:

  • Impaired comprehension rates
  • Memory loss 
  • Erratic mood swings
  • Disturbing hallucinations
  • Suicidal thoughts or tendencies
  • Irritability & aggression

Behavioral Symptoms of Abuse

One of the most telling signs of benzodiazepine abuse is the noticeable changes that take place n the user’s day to day patterns. You may notice the following changes in the behavior of a loved one that is using benzodiazepines such as Xanax or Klonopin on a regular basis:  

  • Reduction of physical activity
  • Loss of interest in hobbies or socializing events
  • Irritable or low mood 
  • Increase in mood swings
  • Lethargic state
  • Increase secrecy and isolation
  • Hiding pills, pill bottles or conversations
  • Doctor shopping (calling or seeing multiple doctors in an effort to obtain more medications)
  • Taking medication more frequently or in larger amounts than prescribed

Benzodiazepines Side Effects

When taking benzodiazepines in increased dosages and for extended periods of time the likelihood of experiencing negative side effects is almost guaranteed. Benzo side effects can vary between users and may include:

  • Reduced visual range 
  • Sudden weakness in joints and muscles
  • An increase in negative thoughts or feelings
  • Headaches 
  • Nausea
  • Poor motor skills. 
  • A state of confusion 
  • Slowed breathing

Short Term Side Effects

While short term use of a benzo may be recommended by a general practitioner it is ill-advised to continue using benzos for a period longer than six weeks due to the dependency that may develop quickly. Short term side effects that can develop in benzo users include:

  • Sleepiness
  • Changes in eating patterns which can prompt excessive weight gain or weight loss
  • Dry mouth
  • Problems with concentration for long and short periods 
  • Memory loss 
  • Nausea
  • Negative impact on vision 

Long Term Side Effects

 It is seldom encouraged to continue the use of benzodiazepines long term . Discuss an action plan with your general care practitioner to reduce the length of time a benzo is prescribed. Long term effects of benzodiazepine abuse are drastically different from the short term effects. Serious adverse reactions may occur if you continue to use benzos long term. 

Additional side effects of taking benzodiazepines long term may include:

  • Higher risk of motor vehicle accidents due to delayed reaction times, drowsiness, and overall limited reflexes and coordination.
  • Reduced efficiency of the immune system as benzos can slow down the body’s amazing regenerative property and make the user more susceptible to illness that otherwise would be easily fought off. 
  • Impaired cognitive function. While Benzos can have an impact on day to day “fogginess” of the brain and delayed recall, long-term use of benzodiazepines can impact the brain and may lead to dementia, Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease. 
  • Overdose. Unfortunately, an overdose is the most common long term side effect as long term use directly correlates with dependence. As the brain and body build up such high tolerance users often accidentally overdose.

Dangers of Polysubstance Abuse

As the name implies, polysubstance abuse is the ingestion of more than one form of narcotic, stimulant, or depressant simultaneously. Some of the most common polysubstance abuse patterns include mixing  benzos with alcohol or benzodiazepines and opiates. Polysubstance abuse habits may form by simple experimentation to see what gives the best high which is common with teenagers and college-age students. Polysubstance abuse habits may also form as a result of intentional and constant multi-dosing or mixed dosing of various substances. 

Mixing benzos with alcohol, both depressants, can negatively impact the brain’s ability to function resulting in overdose. A similar situation occurs with benzodiazepines and opiate interactions. 

Polysubstance abuse has a  direct influence on brain function heavily impacting recall, recognition, and the processing of new information. The longer the polysubstance abuse occurs the more severe the damage can be.

What Causes Benzodiazepine Addiction?

Addiction is a merciless illness. It can take control of the lives of the healthiest and brightest minds. There are several possible reasons why one might form an addiction to benzos and why others might not. Addiction is often caused by:

  • Recreational use or early exposure to drug use. Such as in teenagers and college-aged students. 
  • Genetic Patterns: Studies have shown that 30-70% of drug use is correlated to the genetic blueprint and that some minds are genetically pre-dispositioned towards addictive habits.
  • Underlying Psychiatric Conditions: Dual diagnosis of bipolar disorder, anxiety, depression, and panic disorders often lead to benzo use as a way of self-medicating. Once benzos are used they are incredibly effective and hard to stop.
  • Individuals who Suffer from Poor Stress Management: not necessarily anxiety – may try benzos once and get hooked. For this group, addiction is the result of not having the coping mechanisms in place to deal with stress in a healthy manner.
  • Innate Want or Desire:  As simplistic as it may seem, the journey of excessive drug use often begins purely from curiosity or boredom and an underlying desire to “try something new.” 

Benzo Addiction Risk Factors

Regardless of the underlying causes of benzodiazepine addiction, certain risk factors are known to increase the likelihood of a user becoming addicted. If any of the following factors are present, the potential for benzo addiction is significantly higher than for those without these high-risk factors involved:

  • High Dose Benzo Use: This could imply the use of taking multiple doses of benzos or constant use of high dosage benzos at a time. 
  • Polysubstance Abuse: Polysubstance use, and often abuse of more than one drug at a time. Benzodiazepines are often abused along with alcohol and opioids. 
  • Long-term Use: Long term use of benzos is described as approximately 6 weeks or more of continued use. 
  • Co-Occurring Disorders: An individual who is suffering from a drug dependency, as well as compromised mental health such as anxiety or depression, may have a greater risk of benzo addiction. This can be a very delicate state to manage and certainly requires professional treatment.
  • Additional Risk Factors: Several variables can make an impact on individuals who are at a higher risk of becoming addicted such as lower-income brackets, gender, and known or underlying psychiatric disturbances.

Benzo Withdrawal Symptoms

Benzodiazepine withdrawal can be physically and emotionally distressing. It is imperative that whether a benzo addict is detoxing at a rehabilitation center or outpatient treatment program they are looked after with a watchful eye. Symptoms of the withdrawal experience can be widespread and agonizing for the patient if they are not appropriately treated. 

At St. John’s Recovery Place, we treat clients for benzo withdrawal by providing medical detox, around-the-clock support from our nursing and medical team, and compassionate care. We don’t want clients to feel uncomfortable or miserable and believe that uncomfortable withdrawal can be directly attributed to things like leaving treatment against medical advice. We encourage you to call our facility to learn more about our benzo detox program if you, or someone you love, is struggling with benzo addiction and needs help.

The symptoms of benzodiazepine withdrawal include:

  • anxiety 
  • panic attacks
  • tremors
  • seizures
  • psychosis
  • heightened risk of suicide 

No benzodiazepine withdrawal case is the same, some might be more or less extreme. It is vital to ensure that the client is in the best hands for long term recovery and continued sobriety

Benzodiazepine Addiction Statistics

Although benzos have been around since the 1960s, there are some alarming facts about benzodiazepines that many are unaware of including:

  • Most people who are abusing benzodiazepines have been prescribed these medications for therapeutic reasons.
  • Lorazepam (e.g., Ativan), alprazolam (e.g., Xanax), clonazepam (e.g., Klonopin), and diazepam (e.g., Valium) are 4 of the top prescribed medications and also the most frequently seen being sold illicitly.
  • Benzodiazepine treatment admissions most commonly include the following demographics: Caucasian (85%) and males (56%), between the ages of 18 and 34 (55%).
  • Polysubstance abuse is estimated to be present in 95% of people seeking treatment for benzodiazepines.
  • In about 82% of benzo-related treatment admissions, another drug is the primary substance of abuse. Benzodiazepines are often secondary to opioids, alcohol, and marijuana.
  • Benzodiazepines accounted for more than 11,000 deaths in 2017 in the United States alone.

Benzo Addiction Treatment Trends in Florida

As advancements in science continue and more is learned from the addiction treatment process there has been an increase in therapy programs to assist in the recovery process. At St. John’s Recovery Place we use a variety of treatments to help you or someone you love overcome benzodiazepine addiction. Our center includes the following treatment support programs:

These forms of therapy can be utilized separately or together to create a personalized experience for each client at our center. A holistic approach is ideal to ensure the best results. From brain mapping sessions to evaluate cerebral activity to positively expressing thoughts and feelings through music or the arts, there are so many ways to curate a positive recovery from benzodiazepine addiction.

Check out these Florida Benzo Addiction Treatment Facts:

  • In 2013 and 2014, around 410,000 Floridians were dependent on or had abused illicit drugs within a year
  • In Miami-Dade County, there were 49 reports of alprazolam detected in deceased persons during the first half of 2012, of which 47 percent were considered lethal.
  • There were 2,622 reports of a benzodiazepine present in deceased persons across Florida in the first half of 2012.
  • In direct correlation to the Miami-Dade club scene, 8 to 29 who reported regular attendance at EDM venues and recent use of both club drugs and BZDs. Prevalences of BZD-related problems were 12.6% for BZD dependence, 21.1% BZD abuse, and 24.2% BZD abuse and/or dependence.

Benzodiazepine Overdose

While benzodiazepine overdose can occur independently it is far more likely for an individual to overdose via polysubstance abuse either by intention or accidentally. 

Benzo Overdose Symptoms

It can take several hours to realize that a family friend or loved one is overdoing. Unfortunately, many individuals do not realize the signs of an overdose until it is too late to call for help.

Classic benzo overdose symptoms are:

  • Confusion
  • Loss of motor coordination
  • Visual impairment
  • Vomiting 
  • Slow breathing rate
  • Coma 
  • Death 

How to Help Someone Addicted to Benzodiazepines

The process of approaching a friend or loved one that may be struggling with addiction is very delicate. It is important to keep a few points in mind. 

  • Before staging an intervention or sit-down. Collect some resources on various treatment styles and rehabilitation centers. Consider the cost of treatment, length of stay, and the location of the center of choice.
  • Sit down with them and have a heart to heart. Express the changes you’ve noticed in behavioral patterns and daily activity.
  • Share your concern but stay positive. Steer away from any negative commentary that might trigger or be a cause of stress
  • Encourage and ensure that you will stand by and support them throughout the process. 

Benzodiazepine Addiction Treatment Options

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to benzodiazepine addiction treatment. Sometimes a blended approach is ideal for creating the best long-lasting solution to recovery. 

  • Detox: The process of eliminating the presence of benzos in the body and mind. This process can take up to a few weeks to several months which is contingent on severity.
  • Residential: The process of completing detox at a licensed rehabilitation center with around the clock care. Treatment at a residential center can last approximately 1 to 6 months. 
  • Outpatient: This type of rehabilitation can be done from the privacy of one’s home or designated safe space. This type of treatment option is more affordable but the results are generally not long-lasting. 
  • Dual Diagnosis: This is the presence of a substance abuse disorder and mental health disorder occurring simultaneously. This type of case must be observed with even more caution. With this type of diagnosis, it is recommended to be treated in a residential facility.

Understanding Benzodiazepine Abuse & Addiction

Addiction is a disease that preys on everyone. It doesn’t matter one’s age, gender, or social-economic status. Everyone is a target. Benzodiazepine addiction can be one of the most difficult recoveries to make it through. But health and healing are possible. It is imperative to understand why benzodiazepines are so addictive, the individual impact and how to create a game plan for an effective recovery process.

Recovery is possible.  At St. John’s Recovery Place we try to help clients learn how to find their own way in recovery. Benzodiazepine addiction treatment is just a phone call away – 1-833-397-3422

Resources:

“Benzodiazepine Withdrawal Syndrome: Presentations and Emergency Department Management.” EmDOCs.net – Emergency Medicine Education, 23 Aug. 2017, www.emdocs.net/benzodiazepine-withdrawal-syndrome-presentations-emergency-department-management/.

https://mphdegree.usc.edu/blog/the-next-u-s-drug-epidemic-as-of-2019/

National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Benzodiazepines and Opioids.” NIDA, 15 Mar. 2018, www.drugabuse.gov/drugs-abuse/opioids/benzodiazepines-opioids

https://www.drugabuse.gov/drugs-abuse/opioids/benzodiazepines-opioids

Wermeling, Daniel P. “Intranasal Delivery of Antiepileptic Medications for Treatment of Seizures.” Neurotherapeutics : the Journal of the American Society for Experimental NeuroTherapeutics, Springer-Verlag, Apr. 2009, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5084214/.

Schmitz, Allison. “Benzodiazepine Use, Misuse, and Abuse: A Review.” The Mental Health Clinician, College of Psychiatric & Neurologic Pharmacists, 6 May 2016, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6007645/.

Kurtz, S. P., Buttram, M. E., & Surratt, H. L. (2017). Benzodiazepine Dependence among Young Adult Participants in the Club Scene Who Use Drugs. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5582537/