Signs and Symptoms of Benzos Addiction

Benzodiazepines, more commonly referred to as benzos, are a group of substances that work to depress the central nervous system. Benzos are anxiolytic medications that include prescription medications like Klonopin, Xanax, Ativan, and Valium, all of which are commonly used to treat symptoms brought on by anxiety disorders. In addition to anxiety disorders, benzos are also used medically for the purposes of treating migraines, seizures, and other mental health conditions. While these substances can serve as a priceless necessity for many who suffer distress caused by these conditions, benzos are also highly addictive, and therefore possess the potential for abuse.

According to the fifth and most recent edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), benzos fall into a category of drugs known as sedative, hypnotic, or anxiolytics. When individuals start to abuse this substance to a degree where they experience clinically significant impairment or distress in response, they have likely developed a sedative, hypnotic, or anxiolytic use disorder. While this disorder, which includes a benzo addiction, can be challenging to defeat, there are comprehensive care options that can help individuals effectively defeat their compulsion to abuse benzos.

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Statistics

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) reports that out of all prescription medications, benzos are most commonly used for recreational reasons because of their accessibility. Amongst the adult population within the United States, 11% to 15% of them are said to be using some type of benzo, with roughly 1% to 2% having abused it for one year or longer.

Causes and Risk Factors for Benzo Abuse

The causes and risk factors for sedative, hypnotic, or anxiolytic use disorder, including benzo addiction, are explained in the following:

Genetic: According to the American Psychiatric Association (APA), an individual’s genetic background is a highly important factor when looking into the development of an addiction to anxiolytics like benzos. If there is a family history of benzo abuse and addiction, then one’s likelihood of suffering from similar concerns is greater.

Environmental: The APA also states that, due to the fact that benzos are pharmaceuticals, their availability to users is the greatest environmental cause in their widespread use. In addition, when individuals spend time within an environment where family members or peers are abusing substances, they become more likely to partake in similar behaviors.

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

Signs and Symptoms of Benzo Abuse

The signs and symptoms of benzo abuse will vary from individual to individual depending on the type of benzo that is being abused, the period of time that one has been abusing it for, the frequency in which he or she is partaking in the abuse, and the amount of the drug that is being taken at any given time. Some of the many symptoms one might experience can include the following:

Behavioral symptoms:

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

Physical symptoms:

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

Cognitive symptoms:

  • Insensibility
  • Cravings for continued use
  • Memory impairment
  • Attention difficulties

Psychosocial symptoms:

  • Depression
  • Periods of emotional detachment
  • Dysregulation of emotions
  • Euphoria
  • Anxiety
If you feel that you are in crisis, or are having thoughts about hurting yourself or others, please call 9-1-1 or go to the nearest emergency room immediately.

Effects of Benzodiazepine Abuse

Allowing an addiction of any kind to continue can cause the development of significant detriments within one’s life. When the chronic abuse of benzos is allowed to persist without intervention, users are likely to experience any number of upsetting consequences within their social, personal, and professional lives, as well as in regards to their physical wellbeing. Some of these effects might include, however are not limited to, the following:

  • Overall decline in physical health
  • Decline in cognition
  • Onset of new, or worsening of current, symptoms of other mental health conditions
  • Respiratory depression
  • Hypotension
  • Drop in occupational performance, potentially resulting in demotion job loss
  • Financial strain resulting from unemployment
  • Onset of severe depression, which can lead to suicidal thoughts and/or behaviors
  • Beginning to abuse other substances
  • Injuries and accidents that result from participating in high-risk behaviors while intoxicated
  • Disturbances within interpersonal relationships
  • Marital discord

Co-Occurring Disorders

Those who grapple with sedative, hypnotic, or anxiolytic use disorder might also struggle with symptoms of co-occurring mental health conditions at the same time. The following disorders are known to be diagnosed in those who suffer from this condition, which include benzodiazepine addiction:

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

Effects of Withdrawal and Overdose

Effects of benzodiazepine withdrawal: When an individual has been abusing benzos and then ceases his or her use of the substance, he or she will likely experience an upsetting period of withdrawal. At the time of this withdrawal, the individual will likely experience impairment in his or her ability to function appropriately. Some of the potential symptoms that might develop can include the following:

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

Effects of benzodiazepine overdose: When someone consumes more of a substance than his or her body can metabolize, he or she is at risk for overdosing. Overdosing on benzodiazepines should be treated as a medical emergency and treatment should be obtained right away. Signs that might show that someone has overdosed on benzos can include the following:

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