Are Benzos Addictive? Here’s What You Should Know
Benzodiazepine tranquilizers, commonly called “benzos,” belong to the CNS (Central Nervous System) category of depressants.
Benzos bind to the brain’s GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) neurotransmitter receptors, which helps reduce neuron activity and, by extension, nervousness and muscle spasms. Because of their effectiveness in lessening physical and emotional tension, benzos are frequently prescribed for anxiety disorders, insomnia, and seizures.
Unfortunately, many people abuse benzos to the point of dependence. In fact, benzodiazepine addiction is a significant part of the American drug epidemic. These drugs are so addictive that annual overdose deaths1 involving benzos rose yearly during the first decade of the 21st century. Some of the most addictive benzodiazepines are Valium, Xanax, Ativan, Rohypnol, and Klonopin.
This blog post will answer the common question, “Are benzos addictive?” and cover the typical path to benzo addiction, including why people abuse benzo, the effects and risks of these drugs, and the medical approach to detox and recovery.
Why Are Benzodiazepines Addictive?
While benzos are commonly prescribed and overused, these questions remain: “Why do people abuse benzos?” and “What causes their addiction?”
There are numerous answers to the question, “Why are benzos addictive?” At their core, benzo addiction is closely tied to the body and brain building up a tolerance, requiring larger doses to achieve the same effect quickly.
Regular use of benzos teaches the body to depend on outside means for relaxing, so people taking them become increasingly tense and irritable without frequent doses and increasingly dependent psychologically on this easy stress relief.
Most benzo use involves prescription medications, and it’s psychologically easier to rationalize the overuse of a doctor-approved drug than an illegal substance for many.
The medical system has helped encourage benzo addiction by being too quick to offer an easy solution to mental struggles. Benzos are a traditional first-line treatment for anxiety disorders. As many as 150 million prescriptions have been issued in a single year.
Prescription benzos come in three types, all of which are potentially addictive, including:
- Ultra-short-acting drugs take effect rapidly and treat insomnia or as part of pre-surgical anesthesia. They include midazolam (Versed) and triazolam (Halcion).
- Short-acting drugs have a rapid but relatively short-lived effect. They help treat anxiety disorders and include alprazolam (Xanax) and lorazepam (Ativan).
- Long-acting drugs release their active ingredients slowly to produce long-term relief. Commonly prescribed for anxiety, seizures, and insomnia, they include chlordiazepoxide (Librium) and perhaps the best-known benzo drug, diazepam (Valium).
While doctors typically prescribe benzos only for short-term use, no more than three or four months, due to the risks, psychological cravings for additional tension relief can take hold early on.
One of the central answers to “What makes benzodiazepines addictive?” is simply their overuse and built-up tolerance over time.
Many people take extra pills according to their judgment, dangerously increasing their tolerance levels and moving their bodies toward physical addiction. Once the cravings become dominant, those taking the benzos seek ways to obtain more medication than authorized by the original prescriptions, sometimes continuing regular use for years.
What Benzo Abuse and Addiction Does to the Body
Now that we know the answer to, “Are benzos addictive?” Let’s understand the various side effects of benzo abuse and addiction.
Typical physical and psychological symptoms of benzo addiction include:
- Frequent drowsiness
- Dizzy spells
- Staggering movements or slurred speech, similar to classic “drunken” behavior
- Blurred vision
- Flu-like symptoms
- Poor judgment and poor memory (some benzos have been used as “date rape” drugs)
- Short temper or impatience
- Physical weakness
- Poor appetite
- Changes in breathing and heart rate
- Lack of initiative
- A decrease in job performance
- Social isolation
- A resurgence of anxiety or insomnia symptoms
- Depression and suicidal thoughts
It is important to note that these addiction symptoms may also appear as side effects during directed use or as signs of an overdose. If you are experiencing these symptoms, seek immediate medical treatment.
People with benzo addiction may also exhibit behavioral symptoms that involve circumventing prescription limits. Such behavior may include:
- Obtaining prescriptions under false pretenses
- Going to multiple doctors and pharmacies for multiple copies of similar prescriptions
- Stealing prescription benzos from family and acquaintances
- Failing to report benzos purchases to an insurance company or primary care physician
- Buying benzos online or through unregulated channels
- Crushing and snorting benzo pills to inhale or inject for a stronger rush (which also dramatically increases the risk of overdose)
Recovery Is Possible at Beach House
Are benzodiazepines addictive? Yes. But, you can recover from benzo addiction with us.
The effects of benzo withdrawal can be dangerous, especially when trying to manage them without the help of addiction specialists.
Since most benzo addiction originates in seeking treatment for legitimate disorders, effective detox treatment also includes learning alternate ways to manage anxiety and tension long-term.
At the Beach House, our compassionate team combines detox and follow-up treatment at one location, with ongoing attention to each patient’s needs.
We carefully observe clinical and medical protocol to ensure our patients successfully complete benzo detox and reach recovery goals.
You don’t have to live in active addiction forever. We are here to help. Contact us today to get started on a healthier, sober tomorrow.