Benzo Abuse Signs, Symptoms & Effects

Red River Hospital helps individuals struggling with benzo addiction build a strong foundation for long-term recovery. Serving Wichita Falls, TX, Red River is the leading provider of benzo addiction treatment.

Understanding Benzos

Learn about benzos and substance abuse

Benzodiazepines, more commonly referred to as benzos, are medications that are effective in helping depress the central nervous system, which make them ideal for treating conditions like anxiety disorders. Valium, Klonopin, Ativan, and Xanax are common benzos and are classified as sedative, hypnotic, or anxiolytics, according to the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). While used primarily for mental health conditions, benzos are also effective in the treatment of seizures, migraines, and other physical ailments. Unfortunately, like many other substances, benzos are highly addictive and enticing substances to abuse.

If an individual starts abusing benzos to the extent where he or she is suffering impairment, he or she has developed sedative, hypnotic, or anxiolytic use disorder. This can be a highly difficult disorder to defeat. However, professional treatment can offer care that can help an individual if he or she is grappling with this disorder.

Statistics

Benzo addiction statistics

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), benzos are most commonly abused in a recreational manner because of how accessible they are. Roughly 11 to 15% of the American population abuses some kind of benzo, with nearly 1 to 2% having abused this kind of medication for one year or longer.

Causes and Risk Factors

Causes and risk factors for benzo addiction

There are many causes and risk factors that can lead to sedative, hypnotic, or anxiolytic use disorder, including the following:

Genetic: According to the American Psychiatric Association (APA), one’s genetic background serves as a vital factor in the development of this type of substance use disorder. For instance, possessing a family history of benzo abuse and addiction can increase one’s odds of experiencing the same thing.

Environmental: The APA also reports that the accessibility of benzos can make individuals more likely to abuse them. When individuals associate with others who abuse benzos, they are more vulnerable to abuse benzodiazepines them as well.

Risk Factors:

  • Suffering from a medical condition for which benzodiazepines are prescribed to treat
  • Having an impulsive temperament
  • Family history of substance abuse and addiction
  • Ease of availability with which one can obtain benzodiazepines
  • Antisocial behavior
  • Being female (The APA notes that females are at a greater risk for abusing prescription drugs than males)
  • Being around other people who abuse drugs and/or alcohol
  • Suffering from a mental health condition
  • Beginning to abuse substances at an early age

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of benzo addiction

The signs and symptoms of benzo abuse can vary from individual to individual. The obviousness of these signs can depend on how the benzos are being abused, how long they have been abused for, and how often these drugs are consumed. Symptoms of benzo abuse can include the following:

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Visiting multiple doctors in order to obtain multiple prescriptions for benzodiazepines
  • Disinhibited behavior
  • Neglecting responsibilities at home
  • Participation in recreational activities that one once enjoyed declines
  • Limiting contact with friends and family members
  • Repeated absences from work
  • Slurred speech
  • Failing to fulfill obligations at work

Physical symptoms:

  • Rapid, involuntary eye movement
  • Unsteady gait
  • Incoordination
  • Drowsiness

Cognitive symptoms:

  • Attention difficulties
  • Cravings for benzos
  • Insensibility
  • Memory impairment

Psychosocial symptoms:

  • Depression
  • Dysregulation of emotions
  • Anxiety
  • Euphoria
  • Periods of emotional detachment

Effects

Effects of benzo addiction

Effects of benzodiazepine withdrawal: When an individual has been abusing benzos and then attempts to stop his or her use suddenly, he or she can experience withdrawal. When withdrawal begins, the user may suffer from the following symptoms:

  • Brief visual, auditory, or tactile hallucinations
  • Vomiting
  • Insomnia
  • Increased pulse rate
  • Grand mal seizures
  • Psychomotor agitation
  • Hand tremors
  • Anxiety
  • Sweating
  • Nausea

Co-Occurring Disorders

Benzo addiction and co-occurring disorders

There are many disorders that can exist at the same time as a benzo addiction. Some of these disorder include the following:

  • Alcohol use disorder
  • Tobacco use disorder
  • Depressive disorders
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Antisocial personality disorder
  • Bipolar disorders

Effects of benzodiazepine overdose: When an individual consumes benzos in an amount that is greater than what his or her body is able to process, he or she risks an overdose. When a benzo overdose occurs, it is imperative that emergency medical treatment is obtained as quickly as possible. Some signs of a benzo overdose can include the following:

  • Sedation
  • Blurred vision
  • Extreme dizziness
  • Muscle weakness
  • Loss of coordination
  • Respiratory system depression

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I was treated with respect and staff showed me love, and understanding from day one till leaving out the door! I received courage, motivation, open eyes, and my heart. Thank you staff, for bringing me back to life.

– Former Resident
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