Benzodiazepine Addiction & Abuse

Learn About Benzodiazepine Addiction, its Effects and Treatment Options

Benzodiazepines, called “benzos” for brevity, are pharmaceutical drugs used to treat a broad range of psychological disorders. Notably anxiety, panic attacks, and seizures.

Benzos are most often consumed in pill or tablet form, though they can be administered intravenously or ground up and snorted.

Though benzodiazepine is a legal drug when prescribed by a doctor, benzodiazepine abuse is common, and a large underground market exists for the illegal distribution and consumption of the drug. It is a schedule IV drug under the Controlled Substances Act.

Drugs in this category must meet the following criteria:
  1. The drug has a low potential for abuse relative to those placed in Schedule III
  2. The drug has a currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States
  3. Abuse of the drug may lead to limited physical or psychological dependence relative to those in schedule III
The most common benzodiazepines are:
  • Valium
  • Ativan
  • Klonopin
  • Librium
  • Halcion
  • Xanax
Despite benzodiazepine’s legitimate medical applications, it is a highly addictive and dangerous drug. If you or your loved one is struggling with benzodiazepine abuse, you are encouraged to seek professional help immediately.

Effects of Benzodiazepine Abuse

Benzodiazepine work by enhancing the effect of the neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), which is an inhibitory neurotransmitter. Put simply, it slows or “calms down” excitable neurons, as well as regulates muscle tone. For patients suffering from severe anxiety, panic attacks, or seizures, benzodiazepine reduces or eliminates their symptoms. Abusing benzodiazepine gives users a euphoric “high” and may sedate them.

Any use of benzodiazepines without a prescription or outside of a doctor’s specific instructions is considered abuse. Abusing benzodiazepine can lead to an overdose that results in coma, seizures, or even death.

People using benzos without a legitimate medical need may experience the following common effects:
  • Drowsiness
  • Lack of coordination
  • Irritability
  • Memory loss
  • Impaired vision and reaction
Prolonged benzodiazepine abuse may lead to long-term physical and psychological damage, as well as addiction.

Benzodiazepine Overdose

Though benzodiazepine overdose is rarely fatal on its own, especially after hospitalization. If taken in massive quantities or combined with high doses of other drugs like alcohol, barbiturates, or opioids, it may induce a coma or be fatal.

Users may experience an acute overdose followed by rapidly developing symptoms including:
  • Impairment of the central nervous system
  • Intoxication
  • Impaired balance, coordination, and motor function
  • Slurred speech
  • Slowed heart rate
When taken in copious amounts, benzodiazepines may slow the users breathing and heart rate until stopped completely, resulting in a fatal overdose. All benzo abusers are at risk of an overdose whether fatal or non-fatal. Therefore, it is critical that you seek professional help immediately if you or a loved one is struggling with benzo abuse.

Recognizing Benzodiazepine Addiction

Abusing benzodiazepine may eventually progress to addiction. It is possible to become addicted to benzos, even while using them under the care of a physician. If you or a loved one is prescribed benzodiazepine by your doctor, it is important that you take the medication in strict compliance with your physician’s specific instructions to lower the risk of developing an addiction, though even at recommended doses users may still develop a physical or mental dependency.

Over time, benzodiazepine can change the neurochemistry of the brain, build up in the user’s body, and result in physical or psychological dependency. Recognizing benzodiazepine addiction can be extremely difficult, especially when you or your loved one are taking it under a physician’s care. Some common signs of benzodiazepine addiction may include:
  • An appearance of being “detached” or “checked out”
  • A loss of ambition and drive
  • Withdrawal from family and social events
  • Expired pill bottles with pills in them
  • Pill bottles from multiple doctors
  • Plastic baggies with pills
  • Emergency room visits for adverse reactions to the drug or acute overdose

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Identifying Benzodiazepines

Benzos are sold under many different names and can be difficult to identify. Here is a full list of names that you may find on pill bottles with generic names and associated brand names:

  • Estazolam (ProSom)
  • Flurazepam (Dalmane)
  • Temazepam (Restoril)
  • Triazolam (Halcion)
  • Midazolam (Versed)
  • Alprazolam (Xanax)
  • Chlordiazepoxide (Librium)
  • Clorazepate (Tranxene)
  • Diazepam (Valium)
  • Halazepam (Paxipam)
  • Lorazepam (Ativan)
  • Oxazepam (Serax)
  • Prazepam (Centrax)
  • Quazepam (Doral)
  • Clonazepam (Klonopin)

Heightened Abuse – Pairing Benzodiazepine with Other Drugs


Since alcohol is also a central nervous system depressant, users may take it along with benzos to enhance the euphoric “high”. Alcohol greatly increases the risk of coma or fatal overdose, due to both the drugs affecting the central nervous system simultaneously. Heart rate and breathing can become slowed to a dangerous rate and even stopped. As with all occasions of polydrug abuse, treatment becomes more complicated when the user is dependent on both substances.


Someone abusing cocaine may use Benzodiazepine to offset some of the undesirable side effects of cocaine abuse or cocaine withdrawal. Benzos and cocaine have very different effects on the body, so the abuser may use one to counteract the effects of the other. Polydrug abuse involving cocaine and Benzodiazepine is incredibly dangerous, and greatly increases the risk of coma, organ failure, and fatal overdose.


Like alcohol, opioids such as heroin, morphine, methadone, and codeine also depress the central nervous system and may be used to enhance the high a user achieves from benzos. When any two central nervous system depressants are used together, it is incredibly dangerous and may lead to fatal respiratory failure or coma.

Other Drugs

Benzos may be used to reduce the stressful side effects of a variety of drugs such as various hallucinogens like LSD or stimulates like speed, ecstasy, or methamphetamine. Because Benzodiazepine is an accepted medication to treat stress and anxiety, users think that it is safe to use them to relieve symptoms of stress caused by abusing other drugs, without fully understanding the dangers associated with polydrug abuse.

Benzodiazepine Statistics

From 2002 to 2015 there was a 4.3-fold increase in deaths from overdoses involving Benzodiazepine

Benzodiazepine abuse accounts for 35% of all drug-related hospital visits

95% of Benzodiazepine related emergency room visits also involve alcohol

Prescription drug abuse accounts for nearly 60% of fatal drug overdoses

Benzodiazepine Addiction Treatment

Benzodiazepine addiction can be very difficult to overcome, but with proper professional treatment, you or your loved one can recover. There are many treatment options for those suffering from benzodiazepine addiction depending on your location, resources, health, and circumstances. Click here (Riverside) for more information about benzodiazepine abuse, addiction, and treatment and begin your journey toward a healthy, drug-free life.

Take The First Step

Our experienced, compassionate admissions staff at Riverside Recovery of Tampa will guide you through every step of the admissions process. Many of them have gone through recovery themselves or are experienced in the mental health and substance abuse field. From your initial contact with our center, to your intake assessment, the admissions staff will bring you through our doors and on your way to recovery.