Signs of Addiction to Benzodiazepines

Benzodiazepines, often known as benzos, are a class of prescription sedatives used to treat anxiety, hypertension, and insomnia.

As a commonly prescribed effective medication, many people do not recognize how addictive they are. Physical dependence

and habits of misuse develop even in trusted prescription drugs like these, and a few occasions of benzo misuse can very swiftly snowball into a harmful addiction.

Benzos are very commonly abused drugs. Users and the people close to them need to recognize the signs of addiction when they arise.

Benzodiazepine Addiction

Benzodiazepine Addiction

Addiction, or substance use disorder, refers to a condition where you compulsively take a drug despite being aware of the negative consequences.

Benzo addiction is usually a result of the drug’s high potential to cause physical dependence.

Psychological dependence tends to co-occur as users start to believe they need the drug to function normally.

Physical dependence on benzos results from the way the drug interacts with the chemistry of the brain. These sedatives work by amplifying the effects of the neurotransmitter GABA, causing moderately euphoric, calming, sleep-inducing, and muscle relaxant effects.

However, in the long-term, the body reacts and adapts to maintain normal chemistry levels. If GABA is overwhelming the system, it increases its responses that oppose sedation. In the body, you are likely to experience this as rising tolerance first and will have to take more of the drug to get the same effects. Many users will continue increasing their doses, and in turn, the body grows more physically dependent. At this point, if a user stops taking the drug, the body will go into painful withdrawal.

This process occurs to some degree in most people who use benzos, even when taken exactly as prescribed. Physical and psychological dependence on these drugs can quickly escalate into substance abuse disorder. If you are experiencing benzodiazepine withdrawal symptoms, medically assisted detox can help.

Physical Signs of Benzodiazepine Abuse

Physical Signs of Benzodiazepine Abuse

Addiction to benzos can occur even when they are used as prescribed.

At the same time, the sedative effects and moderate euphoria caused by benzos can be addictive.

You may find it difficult to determine if a loved one is following their prescription appropriately or if they are developing a pattern of abuse. However, there are some warning signs that can help to identify if an addictive habit is developing.

If someone you know is taking benzos in high doses to intensify their euphoric effects, you may recognize some of these short-term side signs and symptoms of heavy use:

  • Euphoric mood
  • Confusion
  • Forgetfulness
  • Fatigue
  • Drowsiness
  • Clumsiness
  • Instability on feet

On the other hand, signs of withdrawal after the drugs’ effects have finished are signs of physical dependence. These can include:

  • Dysphoric (depressed) moods
  • Heightened anxiety
  • Shakiness
  • Blurred vision
  • Irritability
  • Fever
  • Muscle pain
  • Headaches

Over a few days, you might recognize some general trends in appearance and behavior associated with habitual misuse of benzos. Some trends to watch for are:

  • Mood swings or erratic emotions
  • Frequently appearing drowsy
  • Worsening coordination
  • Dizziness
  • GI problems (nausea or diarrhea)
  • Short-term forgetfulness
  • Difficulty keeping memories

The physical signs of addiction and withdrawal can vary depending on a range of factors. The user’s fitness level, original reason for prescription, length of time and the amount taken, and even their genetic make-up can all affect the way their addiction manifests. Remember, not all of the symptoms have to occur for a benzo addiction to be present.

Long-term Side Effects

There are long-term, dangerous side effects to this addiction. Prolonged misuse of benzodiazepines can have catastrophic effects on physical health and cognitive function. Many severe reactions associated with benzo addiction occur during periods of untreated withdrawal. These include:

  • Loss of inhibition
  • Loss of coordination
  • Muscle stiffness
  • Convulsions
  • Seizures
  • Trouble breathing
  • Tremors
  • Ataxia (loss of full control of body movements)
  • Memory and concentration problems
  • Amnesia
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Depression
  • Dementia
  • Severe anxiety
  • Paranoia
  • Brain damage

If you suspect that you are seeing signs of misuse in a loved one or even in yourself, please seek medical advice as soon as possible.

Social and Behavioral Signs of Benzo Addiction

Social and Behavioral Signs of Benzo Addiction

In addition to the physical signs and side effects of benzo misuse detailed above, you may also notice changes in behavior and relationships with others that point to addiction.

Psychosocial Signs of Benzo Addiction

Benzo addiction can wreak havoc on addicted users’ emotional state and mental well-being. This, in turn, affects the way they react and relate to the people around them. You may recognize these steady changes in someone you are concerned has developed an addiction:

  • Hostility towards family members and friends
  • Isolating
  • Emotional detachment
  • Emotional dysregulation
  • Rapid shifts in mood
  • Dissociation
  • Intense irritability or anger, especially when they cannot access the drug

Behavioral Signs of Benzo Addiction

Addiction to prescription medication is associated with many of the same behaviors as other forms of addiction. Isolation, secrecy, and apathy to the outside world often develop with benzo abuse and addiction.

Additionally, as benzodiazepines are available by prescription only, addicted users may engage in some telling behaviors that suggest they are struggling with compulsive use.

The following behaviors may indicate that an individual is misusing or is addicted to benzos:

  • Taking medication in ways not prescribed by their doctor. This can mean taking higher doses than prescribed or with more frequency.
  • Becoming more secretive about how they take their medication, e.g. consistently taking it in private or avoiding conversations about their prescription with previously trusted loved ones.
  • Losing or claiming to lose their medication.
  • Lying about symptoms or about an upcoming need for medication to receive more prescriptions.
  • Doctor shopping – visiting multiple doctors to obtain additional prescriptions.
  • Researching or finding ways to access benzos without a prescription.
  • Isolating from friends or family and avoiding events.
  • Struggling to stay focused or interested in activities that used to be enjoyable.

An addicted user may attempt to explain away worrying behaviors to the people close to them. Seeking additional prescriptions may be excused as “stocking up” or building a supply in case they need them in the future. Isolating from friends may be claimed to be the fault of work distractions. However, if you have cause for concern that someone close to you has developed an addiction and things just are not adding up, it may be time to help them find support.

What Next?

What Next?

If you are here on behalf of a loved one and do not know how to approach them, an intervention specialist can support you with the next steps.

If you believe you may have developed a benzo abuse disorder, treatment centers like Cirque Lodge can help. We are a state-of-the-art licensed and accredited rehabilitation center offering effective inpatient treatment programs for prescription drug addiction. Our treatment plans incorporate medically assisted detox (MAT) with ongoing therapeutic and mental health support in a private and secluded campus.

You can access further information about our inpatient treatment for benzodiazepine addiction here.

Signs of Addiction to Benzodiazepines cta

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