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benzodiazepine addiction signs

Benzodiazepine Addiction Signs and Symptoms

Benzodiazepines are prescription sedative drugs with a high potential for addiction. Due to the way benzos work within the system, developing a tolerance is expected, which causes people to use a higher volume of benzodiazepines to reach similar effects. Benzodiazepine addiction can be particularly dangerous, mainly because withdrawal symptoms tend to be life-threatening.  Benzos are central nervous system depressants that help treat anxiety, seizures, and insomnia. Benzodiazepines are one of the most commonly prescribed medications in the nation. Some of the most popular brands are Valium, Xanax, and Klonopin. People misuse and abuse these drugs for their euphoric and relaxing effects. However, even those who follow their doctor’s orders can develop a physical tolerance and linger the line of addiction.  Today, benzodiazepine addiction is described as hypnotic, sedative, or anxiolytic use disorder. By the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, to be diagnosed with a sedative use disorder, someone must manifest at least two of the possible symptoms for a period of 12-months. 

Benzodiazepine Addiction Signs

Immediately after someone abuses benzodiazepines, they’ll experience a “high” feeling. Once the high has subsided, they’re likely to experience mental confusion, anxiety, headaches, irritability, and fatigue.  A person that’s struggling with benzodiazepine addiction might start experiencing the following symptoms:

  • Anorexia
  • Insomnia
  • Anxiety
  • Tremors
  • Headaches
  • Memory problems 

Other potential benzodiazepine addiction signs and side effects include:

  • Drowsiness
  • A sense of depression
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Loss of orientation
  • Confusion
  • Irritability 

Over time people who abuse benzos are more likely to develop dementia. One of the things that’s different about benzodiazepines addiction is that they’re commonly abused with other drugs. For example, people mix benzos and opioids or benzos with alcohol to create a greater sense of euphoria. Not only does this make the addiction more challenging to treat, but it also makes the withdrawal and overdose risk more dangerous.  Someone concerned with a loved one’s drug abuse may not pinpoint the signs of addiction. Unfortunately, most loved ones see the signs of addiction once the person struggling exhibits signs of benzodiazepine overdose, including dizziness, slurred speech, difficulty breathing, hallucinations, lack of coordination, and unresponsiveness. In some cases, overdose can lead to coma and eventually death. 

Benzodiazepine Addiction Behavioral Signs

When someone develops a benzodiazepine addiction, they’re likely to start exhibiting behavioral changes. As people start spending more time getting, using, and recovering from their substance abuse, friends and family quickly notice the shift in personality.  The most common behavioral signs of benzo abuse include:

  • Withdrawal from friends and family members to use the drug
  • Sudden financial and legal problems
  • Engagement in risky activities, such as driving under the influence
  • Poor hygiene and grooming
  • Secretive behavior about their daily schedule
  • Sudden shifts in mood and personality
  • Prescription and doctor shopping behaviors to maintain their medicine supply at home

Since most people swallow benzos pills, sometimes it’s challenging to recognize their abuse. Most individuals will engage in doctor shopping to get a few prescriptions from different doctors. If you suspect they’re abusing benzodiazepines, check their prescription bottles to see if they have pills from other doctors.  Benzodiazepines are also available on the street. Street-level benzos carry other risks because dealers sometimes sell fake pills or mix different substances, passing them as benzodiazepines. 

Long-term Effects of Benzodiazepines Abuse and Addiction

Death and serious illness rarely result from benzodiazepine abuse. However, they’re often taken with alcohol or other medications, a combination that can be dangerous and potentially lethal. Most people struggling with benzodiazepines addiction have difficulties quitting the drug because of their impact on cognitive function and the brain. Over time, benzo abuse can lead to:

  • Uncontrollable disinhibition
  • Impaired memory
  • Drowsiness
  • Impaired balance and coordination (ataxia)
  • Loss of coordination
  • Amnesia
  • Permanent cognitive deficits
  • Muscle stiffness
  • Depression
  • Slowed heart rate
  • Dementia
  • Sexual dysfunction 

Take Our “Am I a Drug Addict?” Self-Assessment

If you’re unsure whether you or a loved one is struggling with drug addiction, take our complimentary self-assessment quiz below. The evaluation consists of yes or no questions that serve as informational resources to assess the severity of a substance use disorder. The test is confidential, free, and no personal information is needed to receive the result. [interact id=”5fbc328646b5620016cea0d2″ type=”quiz” mobile=”false”]

How Can I Help a Loved One With Benzo Addiction?

Recognizing that a loved one is struggling with benzodiazepine use can be heartbreaking. The first is talking to them and seeing if they’re ready to find help. Many sufferers don’t recognize their addiction for what it is – a disease – and might not even believe they can get help. They might often deny the help they need. However, that doesn’t mean you should forget about them. You must express your concerns in a gentle yet firm manner. If you believe you need help to talk to them, learn how to stage an intervention to get them the help they need. 

Addiction Treatment

Trying to quit benzodiazepines alone can be dangerous. Speaking with an addiction treatment specialist as soon as possible is the best way to start seeking help for benzo’s addiction. At Lighthouse Recovery Institute, our drug addiction recovery programs include:

  • Benzo Medical Detox: A clinically supervised detox process to ensure the patient’s safety and make the benzodiazepine withdrawal as comfortable and safe as possible. 
  • Dual Diagnosis Treatment: Often, people who misuse benzos mix it with alcohol, struggle with opioid misuse, or have co-occurring mental health illnesses. A dual diagnosis treatment plan collectively and holistically treats the various ailments. 
  • Inpatient Programs: These offer a temptation-free environment that’s designed to help people in recovery. In this case, people check into a living drug rehab facility, and they attend meetings and therapy sessions while remaining in a supervised environment. 
  • Outpatient Programs: For those with mild benzo addiction, an outpatient rehab program might be an option. In this case, they have a more flexible program that allows them to maintain their daily schedule and responsibilities like attending school, work, or caring for their family. 
  • Intensive Outpatient Programs: A form of drug rehab offers more flexibility to patients seeking addiction treatment while maintaining daily obligations like work, school, or caregiving.
  • Aftercare Programs: Addiction isn’t one thing people can shove under the rug. The remnants of addiction often stay with them for the rest of their life. To help users find happiness and purpose in their lives, aftercare programs offer relapse prevention classes, life skills, and other essential tools for a successful life after treatment. 

If you or someone you love is struggling with benzodiazepine abuse, seek help immediately. Contact Lighthouse Recovery Institute today and speak with our addiction specialists about our comprehensive and personalized addiction treatment programs. 

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