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Benzodiazepine Addiction and Treatment

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Although benzodiazepine use is widespread in the United States, statistics show that benzo abuse rates are somewhat low. In 2020 among Americans aged 12 and older, roughly 1.7% (4.8 million) misused benzos in the past year and only 0.4% (1.2 million people) met the criteria for a substance use disorder (the diagnostic term for addiction).1

The relatively low rates of benzodiazepine abuse in the United States don’t mean that benzo use isn’t a problem. In fact, between 2019 and 2020:2

  • Benzodiazepine overdoses led to a 24% increase in U.S. emergency room visits.
  • Fatal overdoses from illegal benzos (benzos purchased on the street, without a prescription) increased by more than 500%.
  • Fatal overdoses from prescription benzodiazepines increased by 22%.2

In 2018 in Clark County, Nevada, benzos were involved in about one-quarter of overdose deaths.13

What Are Benzodiazepines?

Benzodiazepines, also known as benzos, are a Schedule IV substance under the Controlled Substances Act, which means they have valid medical uses but do carry a low risk of abuse.3 Benzodiazepines are a class of prescription CNS (central nervous system) depressants, which means they slow down brain activity, leading to sleepiness and less anxiety. This is why benzos are most commonly prescribed to treat insomnia and anxiety, but they are also sometimes used to treat other disorders as well.4,5

Different benzodiazepines act differently on your body. Short-acting benzos produce effects must faster and also leave your body more quickly, possibly causing an increase in withdrawal symptoms because your body doesn’t have enough time to process them.6 Long-acting benzos take longer to have an effect and stay in your body longer; this gives your body more time to process them, so you may be less likely to feel serious withdrawal effects but more likely to feel hangover-like symptoms (less severe withdrawal symptoms).6

Benzodiazepine Health Effects

As with other prescription medicines, benzos come with a long list of possible side effects. Which ones you feel and how intense they are will depend on the specific benzo you’re taking, how much and how often you take it, and your overall physical and mental health.5

Short-Term Effects of Benzodiazepines

Common short-term benzodiazepine side effects include:4,5,7

  • Feeling very sleepy (drowsy).
  • Headache.
  • Feeling dizzy or light-headed.
  • Blurry vision.
  • Slurred speech.
  • Muscle weakness.
  • Slow, shallow breathing (respiratory depression).
  • Nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting.
  • Confusion.
  • Feeling unsteady.
  • Slow reaction time, which can lead to falls, accidents, and other injuries.
  • Short-term memory loss (amnesia).

Long-Term Effects of Benzodiazepines

Long-term benzo use can cause significant changes to your health and well-being. Potential long-term effects of benzodiazepines include:5,6,8

  • Trouble concentrating.
  • Memory problems.
  • Feeling irritable, impatient, or aggressive.
  • Paranoia (extreme distrust of others).
  • Increased anxiety and depression.

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Benzodiazepine Tolerance, Dependence, and Addiction

Regular benzo use also increases your risk of tolerance, dependence, and addiction. Tolerance means you need to take more of the substance to get the same desired effects.9 Dependence means that your brain and body have gotten so used to the substance that you may feel withdrawal symptoms when you stop using the drug or decrease your dose.9 Addiction, also known as substance use disorder (SUD), is the uncontrollable use of a substance no matter the harms it may cause you.9

Any benzodiazepine can cause addiction, but they are not typically the only drug a person misuses. Around 80% of people who abuse benzos also misuse other substances (called polydrug use), which most commonly includes opioids.5 Benzos can be addictive because of their euphoric effects, but people also often abuse the drug as a way of increasing the euphoric effects of other substances, such as opioids or alcohol. Some people also abuse benzos to ease withdrawal symptoms from other substances.4,5

Benzodiazepine Withdrawal

Common signs and symptoms of benzo withdrawal include:9

  • Anxiety.
  • Trouble falling asleep or staying asleep (insomnia).
  • Shakiness (tremors).
  • Increased heart rate.
  • High blood pressure (hypertension).
  • Sweating.
  • Drug cravings.
  • Seizures.
  • Hallucinations (seeing, hearing, or feeling things that aren’t there).

Some of these symptoms can be life-threatening, so it’s important to talk to your doctor before trying to quit benzos on your own.9

Treatment for Benzodiazepine Addiction

Benzodiazepine addiction can be challenging, but don’t lose hope. People can and do recover from substance use disorders, and evidence-based treatment can help. For many people, the first step of recovery is often professional medical detox, which can help keep you safe and comfortable during the withdrawal process.10 For comfort and safety reasons, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) advises inpatient detox or some other form of 24-hour care for people going through benzo withdrawal.10

While detox helps clear your body of benzos and manage your withdrawal symptoms, it doesn’t address the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that led to addiction in the first place.11 To address these issues, many people continue their treatment after detox. Common treatment settings include:12

No matter which treatment setting you choose, your treatment will likely include some combination of behavioral therapy, peer support groups, and prescription treatment medicines.

Finding a Benzodiazepine Treatment Center in Las Vegas

American Addiction Centers is a leading provider of benzodiazepine addiction treatment in Nevada and across the nation. We tailor each treatment plan to your specific recovery needs. Our friendly, experienced, and compassionate staff will help you through every stage of the treatment process. If you’re ready to take back control of your life, we’re ready to help. Call our free, confidential helpline at any time of day or night. An admissions navigator can answer any questions you have and help you find the benzodiazepine addiction rehab in Nevada (or anywhere in the U.S.) that’s right for you.