Benzodiazepines are prescription sedative drugs. Often prescribed to treat anxiety or insomnia, this class of medications can cause people to feel relaxed, euphoric, or calm.
Common brand names of benzodiazepine medications include:
Even when taken as prescribed, these powerful drugs can cause certain side effects. If a person takes the medication more often than directed, they could become dependent on the drug. Being dependent on benzodiazepines can have physical and mental impacts, including withdrawal, social isolation, and overdose.
In 2015, benzodiazepines were involved in more than 8,000 overdose deaths in the U.S. Fortunately, benzodiazepine abuse, and addiction is treatable. Rehab facilities like The Bluffs offer personalized addiction treatment for people of all ages.
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If you suspect someone you love is struggling, you may want to familiarize yourself with the signs of benzodiazepine abuse and addiction. People who struggle with benzo abuse may display certain signs, including:
1. Change In Physical Appearance
It can be difficult to tell when a person is struggling with benzodiazepine abuse. But over time, these sedatives can impact a person’s physical appearance. Physical signs of benzodiazepine abuse include extreme fatigue, nausea, and frequent dizziness.
With repeated use, these impacts can result in weight loss, poor nutrition, and dependence on the drug. Once a person is dependent on the medication, they may suffer from withdrawal symptoms if they discontinue use.
Withdrawal can cause blurred vision, insomnia, and seizures. Benzodiazepine withdrawal can be life-threatening, and should always be medically supervised. If you or someone you love wants to stop taking benzos, talk to your doctor or consider a medical detox program.
2. Changes In Mood And Behavior
Behavioral change is another sign of benzodiazepine abuse. Because these drugs depress the systems of the body, they can affect a person’s mood or personality. People who take benzos in higher or more frequent doses may display low energy and a general disinterest in life.
Benzodiazepines work to slow down a person’s breathing, heart rate, and thought patterns. When taken in high doses, benzodiazepines can cause a person to appear sluggish and lethargic. Some people may swing between bouts of euphoria and depression. They may also display a flat affect, or show little to no emotions.
3. Poor Decision-Making
Addiction is defined as a chronic, relapsing brain disorder. This means people who are addicted to prescription drugs may continue to use, despite negative consequences. To a concerned friend or family member, this may look like making rash decisions and exercising poor judgment.
The altered ability to make sound decisions can place people in dangerous situations. People who are unable to get their prescription refilled may buy benzodiazepines off the street, or engage in criminal activity as a way to get drugs.
4. Drug-Seeking Behaviors
When a person is addicted to prescription drugs, they may become extremely secretive and dishonest. Your loved one may tell stories or give excuses that do not add up. They may be overly focused on pain, doctors, and obtaining prescriptions. These drug seeking-behaviors could be a sign they are suffering from addiction.
People who abuse prescriptions may also run out of their medication early. This can lead a person to take another person’s prescription illegally or to buy benzodiazepines off the street.
If you are missing cash or personal valuables, your loved one may be supporting a benzodiazepine habit.
5. Doctor Shopping
Another way people try to obtain pills is through “doctor shopping.” This includes visiting multiple providers to get more prescriptions.
If a person is dependent on benzodiazepines, they may become frantic about doctor shopping and prescriptions. This anxiety and agitation is a sign they may be entering withdrawal, and are looking to obtain benzos any way they can.
6. Social Isolation
When a person is struggling with drug addiction, they may close themselves off from loved ones — especially if anyone has expressed concern about their drug use.
People who abuse benzodiazepines may lose interest in relationships and hobbies they used to enjoy because they are solely focused on the drug. Your loved one may also deny they have a problem with prescription drugs, and attempt to hide behaviors related to drug use.
7. Using Benzos With Other Substances
Taking benzodiazepines with alcohol or other drugs is a common sign of abuse and addiction. Some people may drink alcohol while on benzos, or use these sedatives to “come down” off stimulants like cocaine.
One study found that over 50 percent of emergency room visits for benzos also involved other drugs. Taking benzodiazepines with another substance is extremely dangerous, and greatly increases a person’s risk of overdose.
Benzodiazepine Dependence, Withdrawal, And Detox
People who take benzodiazepines for any length of time can become dependent. Once a person is dependent on the medication, their body requires the drug to function. This can result in strong physical and mental cravings for benzodiazepines.
If a person stops their use suddenly, their body may enter acute withdrawal. Unlike opioid withdrawal, detoxing from benzodiazepines can be fatal. Withdrawing from these drugs should always take place in a medically supervised environment.
Fortunately, medical detox programs are offered on-site at rehab facilities like The Bluffs. Patients are provided with medical monitoring and medication-assisted treatment (MAT), which relieves withdrawal symptoms and reduces drug cravings.
Finding Treatment For Benzodiazepine Abuse And Addiction
Anyone who abuses these drugs can become dependent. However, people between the ages of 18 and 25 are most at risk for benzodiazepine addiction. Regardless of a person’s age, effective treatment is available.
Rehab facilities like The Bluffs provide addiction treatment in a serene and supportive environment. In our inpatient rehab program, patients are provided with detoxification services, 12-step support, and a range of therapies. Once patients successfully detox, they engage in motivational interviewing and practice relapse prevention strategies in a group setting.
It’s not too late for your loved one to recover from benzodiazepine abuse. For more information about the signs of addiction, or to learn more about treatment options, contact The Bluffs today.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse — Commonly Abused Drugs Charts
- National Institute on Drug Abuse — Well-known mechanism underlies benzodiazepines' addictive properties
- National Institute on Drug Abuse — Benzodiazepines and Opioids
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration — Combining benzodiazepines with other substances raises risks
- U.S National Library of Medicine, MedlinePlus — Alprazolam