Benzodiazepines (benzos) are a type of prescription drug often used to control seizures, sleep disorders, and anxiety. Used properly according to the prescription, these drugs are very effective at helping to control symptoms. But benzos are also addictive, particularly when used improperly or illicitly. A person abusing benzos may develop addiction and dependence within a short amount of time, creating long-term risks to health.
More About Benzodiazepines
As a prescription sedative, benzos can have a calming effect. Of the 12.5 percent of adults in the U.S. who use benzos with a prescription, about 0.2% of them (about 6 million) have a benzo use disorder. Using benzos illicitly and mixing them with other drugs, especially opioids, can increase the risk of an overdose.
Using benzos as directed by a doctor is critical to avoiding addiction. It also helps to minimize benzos’ side effects, which can include suicidal ideation and mental health disorders.
Signs of Misuse of Benzos
Misusing benzos can lead to dependence and addiction. The signs of benzo addiction include:
- Blurry vision
- Poor judgment and difficulty making decisions
- Asking friends or family for pills
- Seeking out multiple doctors to obtain more than one prescription
- Running out of a prescription too soon
- Engaging in risk-taking behaviors that are out of the ordinary
- Wanting to stop using and failing to do so
Benzo use can lead to dependence. When a person is dependent, the drug has changed the brain functioning such that the body and brain become reliant on the presence of the drug to function normally. A person who feels pain, anxiety, intense headaches, lack of sleep, or agitation when they do not use these drugs may be experiencing withdrawal symptoms.
Also, notice tolerance buildup. Over time, the body becomes used to the amount of drugs being taken. To feel the same calming feeling, a person needs to take more of the drug. This increased use is often present with benzo dependence and can lead to a higher risk of overdose.
Why Do People Develop Benzo Addiction?
Some people seek out benzos because of peer pressure or just to get high. Many other people experience a drug’s addictive qualities because of long-term use or because of worsening symptoms of their health condition.
According to one study, 46.3 percent of people who misused benzos did so to help relax or relieve tension. About 22.4 percent of people misused them to help improve sleep. Another 5.7 percent reported experimentation as their motivation for misuse. The rest reported using them as a way to get high.
Overuse of benzos creates addiction, dependence, and tolerance risks. Once this occurs, it becomes very difficult for a person to stop using the drugs on their own.
What Happens if Benzo Addiction Continues?
There is always a risk of overdose from benzo use, especially when high doses are used or when a person mixes them with opioids, alcohol, or other drugs. Even in the absence of overdose, high doses or consistent use of benzos can lead to other complications. These include:
- Cognitive function decline, including memory loss
- Heart, kidney, and liver damage
- Paranoia and seizures
If you believe you have developed dependence, don’t quit on your own. Work closely with a drug and alcohol treatment center to stop the drug use in a safe and controlled environment.
How Benzo Addiction Recovery Happens
Treatment for benzo addiction is available and effective. Medical detox allows the body to cleanse itself of drugs safely, with minimal withdrawal symptoms. Ongoing treatment helps clients restore balance and build strategies for staying sober. Therapists can help clients learn the following:
- Why they use benzos and why they are facing an addiction
- How to better manage stress and anxiety
- How to recognize triggers to unhealthy and inaccurate thought patterns
- How to rebuild relationships damaged from addiction
Our team at DK Solutions Group can help you understand your dependence or addiction and help you assess what level of treatment you need. If your loved one’s misuse of benzos is out of control, learn more about our intervention services.