Recovery Center Blog

Benzodiazepine Abuse, Addiction, and Treatment

Written By Recovery Centers - June 2nd, 2022
Benzodiazepine Abuse, Addiction, and Treatment

Benzodiazepines belong to the sedative class of drugs and are used to treat anxiety, insomnia, and seizure disorders. Despite their medicinal use, these drugs are known to be extraordinarily habit-forming and highly addictive.

According to a study published by the Library of Medicine, out of the 30.6 million individuals who use benzodiazepines, 17.2% reported misuse or abuse of the drug.[1]

When people abuse benzodiazepines, they are at an increased risk of developing an addiction. Addiction to this substance tends to be severe, requiring extensive professional treatment and a medical detox program to allow patients to overcome withdrawal symptoms safely.

Unfortunately, many people avoid attending treatment due to a fear of the unknown. However, benzodiazepine addiction treatment doesn’t have to be scary. Knowing what to expect can help prospective patients prepare.

Benzodiazepine Abuse

What are Benzodiazepines?

Benzodiazepines, also known as “benzos”, are psychoactive drugs that work as central nervous system (CNS) depressants. These substances produce sedative and hypnotic effects, allowing them to reduce anxiety, inhibit muscle spasms, and relieve seizures.

Common types of benzodiazepines include:

  • Valium (diazepam)
  • Xanax (alprazolam)
  • Halcion (triazolam)
  • Ativan (lorazepam)
  • Klonopin (clonazepam)
  • Librium (chlordiazepoxide)

Because benzos slow down the central nervous system, individuals who take this drug may experience drowsiness, a relaxed mood, or sleepiness. However, these medications also may cause adverse effects like amnesia, hostility, irritability, and disturbing or vivid dreams.[2]

The Symptoms of Benzodiazepine Abuse

People abuse benzodiazepines because of the euphoric and relaxing effects they provide. According to the DEA, benzo abuse is common among young people and those who abuse other drugs like heroin or cocaine.[2]

Individuals abusing these substances may attempt to conceal the symptoms of their abuse. However, the psychological, physical, and behavioral signs of abuse will become difficult to conceal over time.

The signs and symptoms of benzodiazepine abuse include:

  • Physical weakness
  • Blurry vision
  • Tiredness or drowsiness
  • Poor judgment and inhibited thinking skills
  • Going to multiple doctors to obtain more prescriptions (doctor shopping)
  • Buying pills from friends, acquaintances, family members, or drug dealers
  • Wanting to cut back on the number of benzos they abuse but being unable to
  • Mood swings or changes in overall mood
  • Risk-taking behaviors and impulsivity
  • Combining benzos with other drugs like alcohol or opioids

Are Benzodiazepines Addictive?

Individuals who routinely abuse benzodiazepines will become addicted to the drug. While people who take their prescriptions as directed can become physically dependent on benzos, addiction occurs when tolerance and physical as well as psychological dependence are present.

People who suffer from an addiction to these substances will experience symptoms of withdrawal when they cut back or completely stop their usage. The symptoms of benzodiazepine withdrawal include:[3]

  • Sleep disturbances
  • Irritability
  • Rebound anxiety or insomnia
  • Panic attacks
  • Tremors in the hand
  • Sweating
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Nausea, dry retching, and vomiting
  • Weight loss
  • Heart palpitations
  • Headache
  • Muscle aches, pains, and stiffness
  • Perceptual changes
  • Seizures
  • Psychotic reactions

The severity of benzo withdrawal symptoms will depend on a variety of physiological factors as well as the intensity of their previous benzodiazepine use. The propensity for withdrawal symptoms to become severe and life-threatening makes it vital for individuals to go to detox.

Treating Benzodiazepine Addiction

Benzodiazepine addiction is a serious, chronic, and progressive condition that requires professional care. Typically, individuals attend a medical detox program and a residential addiction treatment facility to recover from this disease. Residential or inpatient programs provide patients with an array of services to build a foundation for recovery, including behavioral therapies, group counseling, and relapse prevention planning.

Medical Detox

Medical detox is designed to help patients overcome their physical and psychological symptoms of withdrawal. To do so, many patients are prescribed medications and treatments that lower the severity of their symptoms and prevent cravings from occurring.

The medications used to treat benzo withdrawal symptoms include:[4]

  • Anticonvulsants like carbamazepine
  • Pregabalin
  • Flumazenil
  • Neurontin
  • Propranolol

Behavioral Therapy

Behavioral therapy is one of the most important aspects of addiction treatment. Evidence-based therapies allow patients to recover from potential causes of their addiction and trauma related to their addiction. Additionally, behavioral therapy allows patients to learn how to properly manage stress or triggers without substance abuse.

Common forms of behavioral therapy for benzo addiction recovery include:

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • Contingency management (CM)
  • Motivational interviewing (MI)
  • Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT)
  • Group counseling or family therapy
  • Trauma-informed care groups
  • 12-step facilitation therapy
  • Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing therapy (EMDR)

Relapse Prevention Planning

Lastly, once patients are nearing the end of their treatment programs they will begin creating relapse prevention plans with their therapist. This is an individualized plan intended to provide patients with all of the tools they need to successfully manage triggers and cravings to prevent themselves from relapsing.

Things that may be included in a relapse prevention plan include:

  • Continued individual therapy and group counseling
  • Continued medication management if needed
  • References to sober living programs and halfway houses
  • References to 12-step support groups or other forms of addiction support meetings
  • Sober supports to call in times of need
  • A plan of action to take in case a relapse occurs

Find Help for Benzodiazepine Abuse and Addiction

If you or a loved one suffer from benzodiazepine abuse or addiction, professional treatment is necessary. The effects of benzo addiction can be devastating, creating issues in each aspect of a person’s life.

If you are ready to begin a new way of life and recover from addiction, contact Recovery Centers. We can help you find an addiction treatment center that suits your unique needs.