Benzodiazepine Abuse: Signs & Symptoms

Benzodiazepines are sedatives that are often used for anxiety and insomnia. In fact, they’re the most widely prescribed medications. Because these medications are prescribed by doctors, many people don’t realize that they have a high potential for addiction and abuse. Taking them according to your doctor’s instructions can prevent you from becoming dependent on the substance. But if you do develop a benzodiazepine addiction, you should seek professional help to detox and access recovery.

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How Does Benzodiazepine Addiction Develop?

Benzodiazepines are a class of medication that have helped millions of people get through their daily lives. These medications relax your mind and body. They can help you get through debilitating panic attacks and allow you to regulate your central nervous system. But benzodiazepines are such strong medications that doctors usually only prescribe them for short-term use. This medication is supposed to be used to quell acute incidences. However, many people use them to escape from intense emotions. This can quickly lead to cravings, benzodiazepine addiction and abuse. Even if you use the medication as prescribed, you can develop a benzodiazepine dependence. Some people are genetically susceptible to developing an addiction. If you rely on the medication to help you regulate the emotions or manage stress, you might end up developing a problem with it.

Benzodiazepine Tolerance and Dependence

Tolerance happens when you need higher doses of the medication to produce the same effects. You may also find it hard to feel normal without taking the drug. For example, you may feel like you can’t sleep if you don’t take a benzo before bed. You could also be so nervous about having a panic attack that you start taking benzodiazepines preventatively. But when you really need the medication during an acute attack, you might find that it doesn’t work as well. This indicates that you are developing a tolerance. Your body has gotten used to the drug’s effects, and it requires higher or more frequent dosages to get relief. Some people also abuse benzodiazepines. They may take them even if they don’t have a prescription or need the medication for a medical condition. The pills can be used recreationally for their euphoric and tranquilizing effects. Benzodiazepine abuse can be especially dangerous because it puts you at risk of negative side effects, including risky behavior, dependence, addiction and death. Regardless of the reason that you started taking the drug, you could become dependent on it in just a few weeks. This is even possible for people who take the pills according to their physicians’ instructions. It’s important to be aware of the signs and symptoms of benzodiazepine addiction so that you can get the right type of help to combat it.

Signs of Benzodiazepine Abuse

The signs and symptoms of benzodiazepine abuse may be subtle. This is especially true for people who are taking a prescription and following their doctor’s orders. Those individuals may not be using the drugs to get high or taking them when they feel fine otherwise.

What to Look for If You Have a Benzo Prescription

Some signs that you are developing a benzodiazepine addiction or tolerance even if you take the pills under a doctor’s supervision include:
  • Changes in the medication’s effects
  • Failure to get relief from the condition that benzos were prescribed for
  • Needing to take more of the drug to feel the effects
  • Running out of medication before it’s time for a refill
  • Lethargy and lack of motivation
  • Loss of interest

Physical Symptoms

If you develop a dependence or intentionally misuse benzodiazepines, you are at risk of developing other side effects. The following physical symptoms of benzodiazepine abuse indicate that you may need to talk to a professional about weaning off of the medication or getting clean:
  • Drowsiness
  • Slurred speech
  • Coordination impairments
  • Dizziness
  • Abdominal distress
  • Headache
  • Weakness
  • Slowed breathing

Psychological Symptoms

Benzodiazepines affect your thinking and cognition. Some of the psychological and behavioral signs of benzodiazepine addiction include the following:
  • Mental confusion
  • Sudden mood swings
  • Withdrawing from family and friends
  • Impaired judgment
  • Emotional detachment or dysregulation
  • Memory problems
  • Difficulty concentrating

Why Is Benzodiazepine Abuse So Dangerous?

Benzodiazepine abuse is dangerous because the drugs have a strong potential for overdose. The risk of negative health consequences increases when you mix benzos with other drugs. If you pair benzodiazepines with other depressants, like alcohol, the dangerous side effects are enhanced. Some of the risks of abusing benzodiazepines include:
  • Respiratory depression
  • Decreased heart rate
  • Slowed reaction times
  • Loss of cognitive functioning
  • Overdose

Benzodiazepine Withdrawal

If you are dependent on benzodiazepines, you are likely to experience withdrawal symptoms when you stop taking them. Some signs of benzodiazepine withdrawal include:
  • Intense anxiety
  • Panic attacks
  • Tremors
  • Depression or lethargy
  • Mania
  • Body aches
  • Hyperventilation
  • Hallucinations
You shouldn’t just stop taking them cold turkey. Eliminating the drugs from your system too quickly can be dangerous. If you have been using the drugs for an extended period of time, your body may be used to the slowed state that the medication produces. When you stop taking the drugs, your central nervous system goes into overdrive, causing distressing and potentially fatal side effects.

How to Handle Benzodiazepine Abuse

Some people can safely take benzodiazepines when they need them to quell a panic attack or help them sleep. But if you feel that you need the medication regularly to feel normal, you may want to talk to someone about weaning off of it. Moreover, if you’re exhibiting other signs of addiction, such as stealing pills, forging prescriptions or buying medication off the street, you are entering dangerous territory. There are hundreds of therapy approaches that can help you relieve anxiety, manage stress and help panic attacks subside. You don’t have to rely on benzodiazepines to live the life that you want. However, it’s important to have medical supervision when you quit using benzodiazepines. An addiction treatment center that specializes in addiction to benzodiazepines will have the experience and resources that you need to set the foundation for a successful recovery. Burning Tree Programs offer individualized methods for treating a wide variety of addictions, including benzodiazepine dependence. We help you focus on long-term healing and building up your well-being on all levels. We will help you develop coping skills that address your mental, physical, emotional, spiritual and lifestyle needs so that you don’t need to rely on drugs to achieve the fulfillment that you desire.

Find an Inpatient Rehab Program Now

We are here to help you through every aspect of recovery. Call our admissions team to find the best for long-term recovery.

(866) 287-2877


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