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Benzodiazepine
Substance Abuse

When Benzodiazepine Abuse Becomes an Addiction

Benzodiazepines (or benzos) is a term that is used to describe a class of psychoactive pharmaceutical drugs, that are usually prescribed by doctors, to help treat those who experience frequent and ongoing anxiety and/or insomnia. Benzodiazepines are central nervous system depressants and classified as Schedule IV drugs.

According to the National Institute for Drug Abuse, nearly 9,000 individuals fatally overdosed on benzodiazepines in 2015. Benzodiazepine overdoses claim the lives of more males than females. The danger with abusing benzodiazepines lies in the deadly potential they have when mixed with other substances such as alcohol or any type of opioid drug. Individuals that first begin using benzodiazepines may find them helpful for dealing with anxiety, but after a while can begin to abuse the medications and spiral out of control.

A person who is on benzodiazepines may like the drowsy, “out-of-it” feelings that they provide which sometimes lead to blackouts. When benzodiazepines are abused they can also make daily life seem like a blur and many have reported being unable to recall events that happened while they were under the influence of the medications. Many who have abused this drug in the past who are now successfully detoxed and in recovery, have stated that they cannot recall many events from the time they spent actively abusing benzos.

After long-term daily use of benzodiazepine drugs, detox and withdrawal can present a significant challenge. It is always recommended for those who are attempting to stop taking benzodiazepine medication to seek out medically supervised detox, to avoid taking chances of death during detox.

Benzodiazepine Drugs FAQ

What are Benzodiazepines?

Benzodiazepines are depressants that affect the central nervous system (CNS). They produce sedation, relieve anxiety, prevent seizures, relieve muscle spasms, and induce sleep.

How are Benzodiazepines obtained?

The only way to legally obtain a Benzodiazepine is through a prescription. Addicts can obtain Benzodiazepines by doctor shopping, forging prescriptions, or buying them illegally. The most common Benzodiazepines obtained illegally are Alprazolam and Diazepam.

What are Benzodiazepines common street names?

Benzos, Downers

How are Benzodiazepines abused?

It’s common to ingest a Benzodiazepine orally in pill form, or to crush it up and sniff it.

What are Benzodiazepines' effects on the mind?

Benzodiazepines can cause hostility, amnesia, vivid/disturbing dreams, and irritability.

What are Benzodiazepines effects on the body?

Effects of Benzodiazepine on the body include sleepiness and suppression of the CNS.

What are Benzodiazepines overdose effects?

An overdose of a Benzodiazepine can cause clammy skin, weak or rapid pulse, shallow respiration, dilated pupils, coma, and possibly death.

Which drugs cause similar effects as Benzodiazepine?

Benzodiazepines share similar characteristics with drugs such as sleeping pills, GHB, Barbiturates, and Alcohol.

What are the withdrawal effects of Benzodiazepine detox?

When someone stops using a Benzodiazepine, he or she could experience withdrawal symptoms such as gastrointestinal problems, pain in the jaw, mouth or head, joint and muscle pain, aggressive behavior, anxiety, UTIs, respiratory problems, sensory problems, loss of appetite, and motor control issues.

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Commonly Abused Benzodiazepine Drugs

Xanax

Xanax, generically known as alprazolam, ranks as the most widely abused and readily available benzodiazepine medication. Xanax tablets come in the shape of tiny footballs with several assorted colors, as well as tablets in the shape of a bar with easily broken off squares. Forty-nine million prescriptions were written for Xanax in 2011. Xanax—the strongest benzodiazepine on the market—is deadly when mixed in a concoction with certain drugs.

Klonopin

Klonopin (clonazepam as its generic name) is used to treat seizures, panic disorder, and anxiety. As with other drugs in the same family, it has a high potential for abuse and is deadly when mixed with some other drugs. In 2011, 29 million prescriptions for Clonazepam or Klonopin were written and the medication ranks as the second strongest benzo medication that is available and presents a challenge in detox after long-term use.

Valium

Valium goes by the generic name diazepam and is used to treat anxiety, muscle spasms, and seizures. Valium is known to be a benzodiazepine that stays long in the system, and if it is frequently used within a short period of time, it can be detected in urine over a month later. Valium is lesser in strength than other benzo medications such as Xanax.

Ativan

Ativan goes by the generic name lorazepam, and like all other benzodiazepines, it has a potential for abuse in amounts that exceed normal dosing. Ativan is a pharmaceutical drug that is intended only for short-term use and for those who have occasional anxiety, seizures, epilepsy, or panic disorders. Ativan has been known to worsen suicidal ideation and should never be mixed with alcohol or opioids.

Rohypnol

Rohypnol goes by the generic name flunitrazepam and is used to treat severe insomnia. It is known to be about ten times stronger than valium and can be used as a date rape drug. If abused, it can lead to drug dependence and painful, excruciating withdrawals. The drug also has some paradoxical effects, because it may cause irritability and aggressiveness that may even lead to criminal behavior.

Medical Detox

Effective medical detox experts focus on taking the discomfort out of the detox and withdrawal process. We understand that each patient has different needs. Patients can usually choose to either undergo medical detox or social detox. You deserve an effective and realistic addiction treatment plan.

Intensive Outpatient

Different outpatient programs, such as intensive outpatient and evening intensive outpatient programs, can help patients receive treatment while living at home. Connecting you to a safe and therapeutic program is our top priority. Learn More

Residential Treatment

Residential facilities are the perfect place to start your journey to recovery. At high-quality residential treatment centers, expert clinicians and medical providers assess your needs and provide an individualized plans tailored to your needs. Learn More

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Sign, Symptoms & Common Behaviors of Benzodiazepine Abuse

The signs and symptoms of benzodiazepine abuse are usually quite noticeable—individuals may consistently appear drowsy, disoriented, have difficulty breathing, may be unable to walk correctly, fall asleep while standing up, slurred speech, memory loss, inability to concentrate, disturbing dreams, and confusion.

Individuals may begin to “doctor shop,” or visit several different doctors at once to procure multiple prescriptions. Individuals may also begin to ask people around them for drugs, and although they may seek to slow down on their use, they will not be able to on their own.

In this case, this is an immediate clear sign that medical intervention and substance use treatment should be sought out especially if benzodiazepines are being abused on top of other substances such as alcohol or opioids. Continued abuse may result in other emerging issues such as insomnia, anxiety, headaches, memory problems, and tremors.

Good Resources Can Help You Make Life-Changing Decisions

Deciding to seek substance abuse treatment can be stressful. The stigma associated with active addiction makes it difficult to find a reputable source of information to support your life change decisions to get sober. Not many people feel comfortable going to a doctor to discuss their alcohol addiction without feeling shame or blame for their struggles. That is why it is important for ABTRS to provide information that you can count on, free from shame, and worth your trust.

We want to empower you with the knowledge to make good decisions that better your life. We take pride in offering reputable sources that are impartial, not funded by organizations that could benefit from certain outcomes, and proven or tested to be effective. Know that the sources below are there to help you by educating you about rehab and the substance you are indulging in.

Sources

Schmitz A. (2016). Benzodiazepine use, misuse, and abuse: A review. The mental health clinician, 6(3), 120-126. doi:10.9740/mhc.2016.05.120

LANCE P. LONGO, M.D., Addiction: Part I. Benzodiazepines—Side Effects, Abuse Risk and Alternatives. University of Wisconsin Medical School, Milwaukee, WisconsinM.D. BRIAN JOHNSON, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts Am Fam Physician. 2000 Apr 1;61(7):2121-2128.

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality. (December 18, 2014). The DAWN Report: Benzodiazepines in Combination with Opioid Pain Relievers or Alcohol: Greater Risk of More Serious ED Visit Outcomes.Rockville, MD

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