Benzo Addiction Symptoms & Warning Signs

Understanding Benzo Addiction

Learn about benzo addiction & abuse

Benzodiazepines, a group of psychoactive substances, can be prescribed to those who are battling insomnia, anxiety, and panic. Also known as “benzos,” these substances depress the central nervous system when consumed, and can also be used to treat those who are having seizures or severe muscle pain, or who require medical help to control the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal syndrome.

Some of the most commonly prescribed medications that have benzos within them include Klonopin (clonazepam), Valium (which contains diazepam), Ativan (lorazepam), and Xanax (alprazolam). The effects that can be produced through the consumption of benzos can include relaxation, sedation, and peacefulness. While these effects can be very beneficial, they are also appealing to those who desire to self-medicate themselves or want to obtain a recreational high. No matter why an individual misuses benzos, the result can be tremendously negative. Not only does the range of immediate risks that come with this substance abuse remain present, but the continual abuse of these substances can also cause a dependence to develop. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), a dependency on benzos is referred to as a sedative, hypnotic, or anxiolytic use disorder.

Fortunately, with the help of professionals, those who were once stuck in the deadly cycle of benzodiazepine abuse can defeat their challenges and learn how to make changes that support a life in recovery.


Statistics on benzodiazepines addiction

Medications that have benzos in them are some of the most frequently abused prescription medications throughout the nation, with over 50 million prescriptions for these medications being written each year. The National Center for Biotechnology Information reports that a study that assessed data from 2008 showed that 5.2% of American adults between the ages of 18 and 80 obtained a prescription for benzodiazepines within that year, with women obtaining roughly two times more of these prescriptions than men.

Data collected by the Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN) showed that 30% of drug-related emergency room visits were linked to benzodiazepine abuse. The American Psychological Association (APA) reported that the 12-month prevalence of sedative, hypnotic, or anxiolytic use disorder is 0.2% amongst American adults.

Causes and Risk Factors

Causes and risk factors for benzodiazepine abuse

An individual’s risk for abusing benzos or developing sedative, hypnotic, or anxiolytic use disorder can be impacted by a number of aspects, including:

Genetic: The APA states that genetics play a strong role in the development of sedative, hypnotic, and anxiolytic use disorder. One’s genetic predisposition to this issue becomes more obvious as individuals go from adolescence to adulthood.

Environmental: A critical environmental risk factor for the abuse of benzos is availability and access. Medications with these substances in them are readily available through prescriptions. The excessive use shows that drugs can also be illegally obtained as well.

Risk Factors:

  • Being female
  • Having alcohol use disorder
  • Having access to benzodiazepines
  • Early use of benzodiazepines
  • Impulsivity or novelty-seeking temperament

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of benzodiazepine abuse

Below are signs and symptoms that can signify if an individual is abusing benzos or has developed sedative, hypnotic, or anxiolytic use disorder:

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Using prescribed medications contrary to the prescribing physician’s directions
  • Borrowing or stealing medications
  • Withdrawing from family and friends
  • Lying or being otherwise deceptive about activities
  • Visiting several doctors in an attempt to get multiple prescriptions

Physical symptoms:

  • Coordination and motor skill problems
  • Irregular breathing
  • Blurry vision
  • Slurred speech
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Tremors in hands

Cognitive symptoms:

  • Nightmares
  • Poor judgment
  • Diminished inhibitions
  • Paranoia
  • Confusion
  • Retrograde amnesia
  • Problems focusing or concentrating

Psychosocial symptoms:

  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Mood swings
  • Depression
  • Inability to experience pleasure


Effects of benzodiazepine abuse

Continued, untreated abuse of benzos can cause a number of dangerous outcomes to develop, including those listed below:

  • Problems with memory and concentration
  • Confusion and disorientation
  • Suicidal ideation
  • Suicide attempts
  • Withdrawal and isolation
  • Self-harm
  • Sleep disruptions
  • Vision problems
  • Legal problems, including arrest and incarceration
  • Depression
  • Family discord, including separation or divorce
  • Damaged or destroyed interpersonal relationships
  • Financial distress
  • Poor job performance, possibly leading to job loss and ongoing unemployment

Withdrawal and Overdose

Effects of benzodiazapine withdrawal and overdose

Effects of benzodiazepine withdrawal: When an individual becomes dependent on a benzo, trying to stop or curb the abuse of that substance can bring on a number of upsetting symptoms, including:

  • Depression
  • Agitation
  • Tremors
  • Vomiting
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Irritability
  • Muscle pain
  • Anxiety
  • Suicidal ideation
  • Strong drug cravings
  • Tinnitus
  • Nausea
  • Panic
  • Heart palpitations

Effects of benzodiazepine overdose: When an individual consumes a benzo in an amount that is overwhelming to his or her body, the body will be unable to metabolize its presence, and an overdose will likely occur. Someone who shows the following symptoms after abusing a benzo should obtain immediate medical attention:

  • Delirium
  • Unconsciousness
  • Double vision
  • Respiratory distress
  • Coma
  • Irregular heart rate, including cardiac arrest
  • Impaired balance and motor functions
  • Dramatic drop in body temperature
  • Hallucinations