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Benzodiazepine Addiction and Abuse

Benzodiazepines are commonly prescribed tranquilizers used for the treatment of anxiety, panic attacks, muscle spasms and seizures.

Understanding Benzodiazepines

323377593_529c6db19b_zBenzodiazepines, or “benzos,” are a class of pharmaceutical drugs prescribed for a spectrum of mental disorders and ailments. They are used to treat moderate to severe anxiety, panic attacks, epileptic seizures and even withdrawal symptoms from other central nervous system depressants like alcohol.

Most benzodiazepines come in pill or tablet form for oral consumption. Some brands, like Valium, can also be administered intravenously as a clear, odorless liquid.

Benzodiazepines are legal when they are prescribed. However, a black market for the drugs exists as well. On the street, benzodiazepine drugs might go by other names like tranks, downers or simply benzos.

Benzodiazepines are labeled Schedule IV drugs under the Controlled Substances Act, meaning they are highly regulated by the U.S. government.

Some common benzodiazepines include:

Benzodiazepines can be dangerous and addictive, despite their medical validity and federal regulation. If you or a loved one is struggling with benzodiazepine use, get help today.

Benzodiazepines Effects and Abuse

Benzodiazepines bind with special neurons called GABA receptors in a process that slows overactive brain function and relieves severe mental stress. Those abusing benzodiazepines can experience a euphoric “high” or alcohol-like “buzz,” depending on the brand abused. This is followed by a prolonged sedation.

Any use of benzodiazepines outside of a doctor’s recommendation constitutes abuse. Some benzodiazepine users crush and snort their tablets or pills to amplify the potency. This increases the likelihood of overdose. Seizures and comas are common symptoms of a benzo overdose.

Benzodiazepine overdose can slow breathing and heart rates until they stop completely, resulting in death.

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Addiction to Benzodiazepines

Due to their high potency, benzodiazepines can change the brain’s neurochemistry. Over time, the drugs build up in the user’s body. Users can develop mental and physical dependencies on the drugs as a result.

The prevalence of benzodiazepines as popular, oft-prescribed anti-anxiety medications means that people from every demographic and lifestyle can be exposed to them. Addiction can form even under a physician’s care and prescribed doses.

Because benzodiazepines are available by prescription, users and their loved ones are often unaware of the high abusive and addictive potential they hold. Signs of addiction that might be overlooked include developing a tolerance to the drugs’ sedative effects or dismissing important people and activities to focus solely on getting and abusing the drugs. Learn the criteria for recognizing an addiction today.

Benzodiazepines and Other Drugs

In order to boost their buzz, some users will mix the drugs with other central nervous system (CNS) depressants. Alcohol is typically the chosen CNS sedative to combine with benzodiazepines, but users might also take benzos in conjunction with opiate drugs to escalate both highs. Mixing benzodiazepines with other prescription and illicit drugs greatly increases the odds of fatal overdose.

One study reported that nearly 95 percent of hospital admissions for benzodiazepine overdose claimed abuse of at least one other substance.

Benzodiazepine Abuse Statistics

50+million

Each and every year, doctors write out more than 50 million prescriptions for benzodiazepines, according to AAFP.

11-15percent

11 to 15 percent of Americans have benzos in their medicine cabinet, according to the American Psychiatric Association.

38+thousand

Nearly 38,329 deaths were drug overdoses in the U.S., according to the CDC. Nearly 60 percent were caused by prescription drugs.

Treating a Benzodiazepine Addiction

Now is your chance to seek help for yourself or a loved one. Treatment options across the country are available for benzodiazepine abuse and addiction. Call now to learn more.

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Sources & Author Last Edited: April 12, 2016

  1. Center for Substance Abuse Research. (2013). Benzodiazepines. Retrieved February 20, 2014, from: http://www.cesar.umd.edu/cesar/drugs/benzos.asp
  2. Drug Enforcement Administration. (2014). Drug Scheduling. Retrieved on February 20, 2014, from: http://www.justice.gov/dea/druginfo/ds.shtml
  3. American Academy of Family Physicians. (2000). Addiction: Part I. Benzodiazepines—Side Effects, Abuse Risk and Alternatives. Retrieved on February 20, 2014, from: http://www.aafp.org/afp/2000/0401/p2121.html
About the Writer, Kayla Smith

Kayla Smith is the editorial director for Addiction Center. After working for years as a journalist, she joined the Addiction Center team in hopes of spreading awareness about addiction and mental health issues and helping people get treatment.

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