Topsail Addiction Treatment

Drug Education Series: Benzos


Benzodiazepines, also known as benzos, are a type of depressant drug that can treat various conditions. You may recognize popular brand names of the drug, such as Valium and Xanax. The Federal Drug Administration (FDA) has put a black box warning on benzos, which is the highest level of warning a substance can receive. The black box warning is on every bottle of the drug and cautions users that the prescription comes with an elevated risk of addiction, misuse and withdrawal reactions.

What Are Benzodiazepines?

Benzodiazepine is a sedative that decreases a person’s nervous system activity. In the United States, benzos are considered a classified drug, which means a person needs a prescription to obtain them legally. Benzodiazepines are classified because they’re incredibly addictive and can be very dangerous when taken in large doses.

Doctors are cautioned to be careful when prescribing benzodiazepines to patients and to warn patients of the habit-forming risks. Most often, doctors will not prescribe benzos for more than a two to four-week period.

There are two types of categories of benzodiazepines:

  • Hypnotics: This is a short-acting benzodiazepine where the drug’s effect usually only lasts a few hours. Hypnotics are commonly used to treat insomnia, which requires immediate relief, but only for a short period, so the person can fall asleep.
  • Anxiolytics: This is a longer-lasting benzodiazepine, where the effects can last several days. Anxiolytics are commonly used to treat anxiety disorders, as feelings of anxiety can be constant throughout the day, impacting a person’s ability to function.

Some of the most common brand names of benzos are:

  • Ativan®
  • Klonopin®
  • Restoril®
  • Valium®
  • Xanax®

What Are Benzos Used For?

As mentioned above, benzodiazepines slow down a person’s nervous system activity. When someone’s nervous system activity is overactive, they can become overstimulated. Benzos help to slow down the brain and create a calming effect, which can be incredibly helpful for people struggling with conditions that make them have spiraling thoughts or anxiety.

This potent drug can relax the muscles and make a person feel calm, sleepy and dizzy. In rare instances, benzos can have more substantial effects, including:

  • Delusions
  • Hallucinations
  • A spike in anxiety
  • Restlessness
  • Irritability and aggressiveness

When someone misuses benzos (by taking more than the prescribed amount), they can experience a high and feelings of euphoria. Chasing these feelings of euphoria is one of the reasons people get addicted to this drug.

Benzos are used to treat a variety of conditions, including:

  • Insomnia and other sleeping disorders
  • Anxiety disorders, including Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) and social anxiety disorder
  • Seizure disorders, such as epilepsy
  • Panic disorders
  • Tics
  • Schizophrenia
  • Bipolar disorder

Additionally, benzodiazepines are sometimes used to help manage alcohol withdrawal symptoms.

Lastly, since benzos can have a calming effect, they are often given to people prior to beginning general anesthesia before surgeries and other procedures.

A Brief History of Benzodiazepines

Swiss chemist Leo Sternbach synthesized the first benzodiazepine in 1955, and just five years later, in 1960, it was available to the public. When it first began selling, benzodiazepine was marketed as a safe and risk-free drug. However, it quickly became apparent that benzodiazepines were just as habit-forming as the other popular drugs on the market, like barbiturates.

As the reputation of benzodiazepines was tainted, the pharmaceutical company would start an all-too-common cycle of spinning up the drug under a new brand name to trick medical staff and patients.

In 1979 Senator Ted Kennedy organized a Senate hearing into the dangers of benzodiazepines. This would be the first of many attempts by the government to intervene in the increasing usage of benzos with little to no success. By 2008, more than five percent of all American adults were receiving a benzodiazepine prescription.

Throughout the years, continued research and studies confirmed the dangers of benzos, and the government put heavier restrictions into place. Unfortunately, the number of benzodiazepine prescriptions is still increasing to this day in the United States, with little signs of slowing down.

Important Statistics About Benzos

  • Benzodiazepines are one of the most common prescriptions in the United States. There are approximately 94 million prescriptions for different kinds of benzos today, equating to about one for every three American citizens.

  • One study found benzos misuse was most common among those ages 18-25.

  • For those who report misusing benzodiazepine, their source for the drug is usually a friend or family member.

The Health Risks of Abusing Benzos

Benzodiazepines are meant to be used for a short period and in the dosage prescribed by a doctor. If a person misuses the drug by taking it when not prescribed, taking higher amounts, or taking it too frequently, they can put themselves at risk for many health concerns. Benzos are an incredibly potent substance that the body cannot handle in large quantities or high frequencies.

Some of the health risks of misusing or abusing benzos are:

  • Insomnia
  • Memory problems
  • Anorexia
  • Anxiety
  • Tremors
  • Addiction
  • Withdrawal symptoms
  • Overdose and death

Someone with a history of substance abuse is at a higher risk for developing a benzo addiction after being given a legitimate prescription. Additionally, individuals with an existing mental health condition are also at a higher risk for addiction.

Signs of Benzo Abuse

A person abusing benzodiazepines often shows behavioral and physical signs of addiction.

Behavioral signs:

  • Isolating
  • Increase in risky behavior
  • Worsening relationships with loved ones
  • Problems at work or school, mood swings
  • Worsening self-care and grooming habits

Physical signs:

  • Confusion
  • Memory loss
  • Headaches
  • Fainting
  • Blurred vision
  • Unsteadiness

Tips For Preventing Benzodiazepines Addiction

It’s necessary to note that while they carry a high risk for addiction, benzodiazepines are still important drugs that serve a legitimate purpose. If your doctor has prescribed benzodiazepines to you, it’s critical to be aware of the habit-forming risk and follow these tips:

  • Only take benzodiazepines if you’ve been prescribed them by a doctor.
  • Follow the prescription instructions carefully and never exceed the recommended dosage or frequency.
  • Try to wean yourself off the medication as quickly as possible.
  • If you notice you’re craving the drug or constantly thinking about your next dose, talk to your doctor immediately about other medication options.
  • Know the early warning signs of benzodiazepine addiction.
  • Inform all your friends and family that you’re taking benzodiazepines and educate them on the early signs of addiction so they can also monitor you.

Treatment for Benzos Addiction

Thankfully, an addiction to benzodiazepines is highly treatable, especially if the individual seeks professional help.

Someone physically dependent on benzodiazepines will likely experience withdrawal symptoms when they try to get sober. Withdrawal symptoms from benzos can include insomnia, anxiety, seizures, epilepsy and more. This is why going through withdrawal and recovery in professional rehabilitation is incredibly beneficial. The medical staff will be able to monitor and help patients throughout the withdrawal process, ensuring they’re safe and they don’t relapse.

If you or someone you know is abusing benzodiazepines, you can get help by calling the addiction specialists at Topsail Addiction Treatment. Benzodiazepine addiction can come with many dangerous side effects, and the longer the person waits to get help, the higher the risk of the addiction impacting their health long-term. Don’t allow addiction to own another day, and get help today.

Helping People Conquer Addiction in Massachusetts

Start your journey to recovery today with Topsail Addiction Treatment — reach out now and take the first step towards a healthier, substance-free life.

Paying for Treatment

We accept most forms of health insurance. Click the button below to submit your insurance information and we will get back to you right away to discuss your coverage and options. 

Outpatient Treatment Options

Need Help Now?

Call us 24/7 at


Or complete this form and we will be in touch ASAP

Complete this form to check your insurance. Once completed, someone from our team will be in touch to discuss your options.