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Benzodiazepines, also known as “benzos,” belong to the classification of drugs known as sedatives. There are numerous familiar brand names of tranquilizers in this category of substances, including Xanax, Valium and Ativan. When prescribed for conditions like anxiety and insomnia and used as directed, the drugs have been shown to have a positive effect in managing these disorders. However, their calming effects also drive people to use them for nonmedical purposes, intensifying the effects and increasing the risk of abuse and dependency.

Benzodiazepines are classified as Schedule IV in the Controlled Substances Act, which can be somewhat misleading considering the highly addictive nature of these drugs. In addition, it is common for people using benzos to use other substances at the same time, further increasing the potential danger of their use. Use of these drugs is also on the rise, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), which found benzodiazepine use tripled from 1998 to 2008.

The Effect of Benzodiazepines on the Body

The sedating effects of benzodiazepines may appear shortly after taking the drugs, resulting in the following symptoms:

  • Drowsiness
  • Mental confusion or disorientation
  • Upset stomach, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea
  • Dry mouth
  • Impaired motor function
  • Slurred speech
  • Blurred vision
  • Tremors and muscle weakness
  • Decreased respiration or difficulty breathing
  • Mood swings and erratic behavior

The specific side effects will depend on the dosing amount. Users often find that over time, they need to take more of the substance to achieve the same desired effects. This process is known as tolerance, and it is a sign that dependency is developing.

Signs of Benzodiazepine Abuse and Dependency

Tolerance is just one of the symptoms of benzodiazepine addiction. Other indications might include:

  • Significant amount of time obtaining, using and recovering from the effects of the substance
  • The person cannot stop taking the drug, even if it is causing problems in their life
  • The drug affects the person’s performance at home, work or school
  • The individual begins to seek out other sources for the substance, including street purchases in some cases
  • Loss of interest in activities and people they once enjoyed
  • When the person stops using, they experience painful withdrawal symptoms that make it difficult to quit without professional treatment

The withdrawal process from benzodiazepines can be very uncomfortable and even dangerous in some circumstances, necessitating medical supervision to break free of the addiction.

Long-Term Damage from Benzodiazepine Abuse

When a person abuses benzos over an extended period, the damage to their physical and mental health can be significant. In some situations, the damage can be permanent and might include the following issues:

  • Severe disorientation and ongoing judgment impairment
  • Persistent muscle weakness and diminished coordination
  • Chronic memory problems and deficits
  • Altered speech patterns

The Dangers of Benzodiazepine Withdrawal

When a person stops taking benzodiazepines, the withdrawal symptoms may start to appear within a few hours after the last use. Symptoms may last many days or even weeks and might include:

  • Achiness similar to flu symptoms
  • Confusion and reality distortions
  • Hallucinations and delusions
  • Restlessness
  • Seizures
  • Suicidal thoughts and ideations

Supervised detox can help those experiencing withdrawal from benzos to remain as comfortable as possible and provide medical intervention when necessary. Once the detox process is completed, treatment can begin in earnest.

Help is Available

People struggling with benzodiazepine addiction often feel like there is no way to break free from their dependency. However, that is untrue. Help is available for this disorder at Serenity Oaks Wellness Center, where we work with each client on an individual basis to bring them to the point of health, wholeness and long-term sobriety. To find out more about our treatment programs, contact Serenity Oaks Wellness Center today at 844-720-6847.

Serenity Oaks Wellness Center