Are Benzodiazepines Addictive?

Table of Contents


Benzodiazepines are sedative drugs that have a calming effect, but they are highly addictive, triggering myriad physical, psychological, and behavioral symptoms when abused – weakness, blurred vision, drowsiness, poor judgment, and doctor shopping, for instance. Tolerance to benzos builds rapidly, requiring higher doses for the same effect, and benzo withdrawal symptoms can be dangerous and life-threatening, making medical detox under a doctor’s supervision crucial.

Read on to discover:

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  • Are benzodiazepines addictive?
  • Why are benzodiazepines addictive?
  • Are benzos dangerous?
  • Benzo dependence vs benzos addiction: what’s the difference?
  • Addicted to benzos: now what? Connect with science-backed treatment in California.

Benzodiazepines Abuse

Benzodiazepine abuse is a concerning and complex issue that has become a growing public health concern. These prescription sedative drugs, which include commonly known medications like Xanax, Valium, Ativan, and Klonopin, are widely prescribed for legitimate medical purposes. However, their calming and relaxing effects have also led to their misuse and abuse, resulting in significant health risks and societal consequences.

Those who abuse benzodiazepines may do so to achieve a euphoric or intoxicating effect, seeking a temporary escape from stress, anxiety, or emotional pain. Others may misuse these drugs to enhance the effects of other substances, such as alcohol or opioids, leading to dangerous polydrug interactions.

One of the primary reasons benzodiazepines are prone to abuse is their ability to induce a sense of relaxation and tranquility. That said, these drugs are intended for short-term use due to their potential for dependence and tolerance. With prolonged or frequent use, the body can develop a tolerance to benzodiazepines, requiring higher doses to achieve the desired effects. As a result, individuals may escalate their usage, putting themselves at risk of addiction.

an image of pills, representing benzo addiction

Effects of Benzodiazepine Abuse

Benzodiazepine abuse can have severe consequences on various aspects of a person’s life. Physically, excessive use of these drugs can lead to a range of side effects, including drowsiness, dizziness, impaired coordination, blurred vision, and memory problems. Over time, individuals may experience cognitive impairment and difficulty concentrating, affecting their ability to perform daily tasks and responsibilities.

Psychologically, benzodiazepine abuse can lead to mood swings, increased anxiety, and even inflaming mental health conditions. The risk of developing a co-occurring substance use disorder and mental health disorder is higher among those who abuse benzodiazepines.

Socially and behaviorally, benzodiazepine abuse can lead to strained relationships, poor academic or work performance, legal issues, and risky behaviors, such as driving under the influence. Obtaining these drugs illicitly or using multiple doctors to get prescriptions (commonly known as doctor shopping) is also prevalent among those engaged in benzodiazepine abuse.

Addressing benzodiazepine abuse promptly can prevent further harm and potential long-term consequences. Early intervention and support can help individuals seek appropriate treatment and break the cycle of addiction. Treatment for benzodiazepine abuse often involves a combination of medical detox, behavioral therapy, counseling, and support groups.

Symptoms Benzodiazepine Addiction

Benzodiazepines addiction is clinically described as sedative, hypnotic, or anxiolytic use disorder and informally known as benzo use disorder. This chronic condition is characterized by the compulsive use of these prescription sedative drugs despite negative consequences. DSM-5-TR (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition) outlines specific criteria for diagnosing benzodiazepine use disorder:

  1. Taking larger amounts or using benzodiazepines for a longer duration than intended: Individuals may find it challenging to stick to the prescribed dosage, leading them to consume higher doses or continue using the drugs beyond the recommended timeframe.
  2. Persistent desire or unsuccessful efforts to cut down or control use: People with benzodiazepine use disorder may express a strong desire to reduce or stop using the drugs but struggle to do so, even when facing negative consequences.
  3. Spending a significant amount of time obtaining, using, or recovering from the effects of benzodiazepines: The excessive focus on obtaining and using the drugs can interfere with daily responsibilities and activities.
  4. Craving or strong urge to use benzodiazepines: Individuals may experience intense cravings for benzodiazepines, leading to a persistent preoccupation with obtaining and using them.
  5. Failure to fulfill major obligations at work, school, or home: Benzodiazepine addiction can lead to neglecting important responsibilities, jeopardizing professional and academic performance, or family life.
  6. Continued use despite social or interpersonal problems caused or exacerbated by benzodiazepines: Individuals may continue to use these drugs despite experiencing conflicts with loved ones or difficulties in relationships.
  7. Giving up or reducing important social, occupational, or recreational activities: The addiction may lead individuals to withdraw from activities they once enjoyed in favor of using benzodiazepines.
  8. Recurrent use in situations where it is physically hazardous: Continued use of benzodiazepines, even in situations where it poses physical risks (driving under the influence, for example), is a hallmark symptom of the disorder.
  9. Continued use despite knowing it causes physical or psychological problems: Despite being aware of the negative impact on physical health and mental well-being, individuals with benzodiazepine use disorder may persist in their drug use.
  10. Tolerance: Over time, the body adapts to benzodiazepines, requiring higher doses to achieve the desired effects.
  11. Withdrawal: When benzodiazepine use is reduced or discontinued, individuals may experience withdrawal symptoms, which can be both physically and psychologically distressing.

To be diagnosed with benzodiazepine use disorder, an individual must exhibit at least two of the above symptoms within a 12-month period. The severity of the disorder can range from mild to severe, depending on the number of symptoms present. 

Benzodiazepine Withdrawal

Benzodiazepine withdrawal is a challenging and often distressing process that occurs when someone reduces or stops using benzodiazepine drugs after developing physical dependence. These prescription sedative drugs act on the central nervous system and produce a calming effect, making them effective for treating anxiety, insomnia, and other conditions. However, prolonged use of benzodiazepines can lead to physical dependence, which means the body has adapted to the presence of the drug and requires it to function normally.

When an individual becomes dependent on benzodiazepines and attempts to quit or significantly reduce their usage, they are likely to experience a range of withdrawal symptoms. The severity and duration of these symptoms can vary depending on factors such as the individual’s dosage, duration of use, and overall health. Benzodiazepine withdrawal can be potentially dangerous, and medical supervision is highly recommended to ensure safety and manage any complications that may arise during the process.

These are the most common symptoms of benzodiazepine withdrawal:

  • Anxiety and panic: The very conditions that benzodiazepines were initially prescribed to treat may worsen during withdrawal, leading to heightened anxiety and panic attacks.
  • Insomnia: Sleep disturbances are common during benzodiazepine withdrawal, and individuals may find it difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep.
  • Irritability and mood swings: Emotionally, individuals may experience irritability, mood swings, and increased emotional sensitivity during withdrawal.
  • Physical discomfort: Headaches, muscle tension, and body aches are common physical symptoms during withdrawal.
  • Gastrointestinal issues: Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach discomfort may occur as the body readjusts to functioning without benzodiazepines.
  • Sensory distortions: Some individuals may experience heightened sensitivity to light, sound, and touch during withdrawal.
  • Cognitive impairment: Cognitive function may be impaired, leading to difficulties with concentration, memory, and decision-making.
  • Sweating and chills: Changes in body temperature regulation can cause sweating or chills.
  • Rapid heartbeat: Increased heart rate or palpitations are possible during withdrawal.
  • Seizures: In severe cases, abrupt withdrawal from high doses of benzodiazepines can trigger seizures, which is why medical supervision is critical during the withdrawal process.

The timing of benzodiazepine withdrawal symptoms can vary. Short-acting benzodiazepines may lead to withdrawal symptoms within a few hours to a day, while symptoms for longer-acting benzodiazepines may take several days to manifest fully. In some cases, individuals may experience protracted withdrawal, where symptoms linger for weeks or even months after the drug has been discontinued.

Due to the potential risks associated with benzodiazepine withdrawal, medical detoxification is often recommended. Medical professionals can gradually taper the individual off the drug, reducing the dosage in a controlled manner to minimize withdrawal symptoms and the risk of seizures.

Comprehensive treatment during benzodiazepine withdrawal may include counseling, therapy, and support groups to address the underlying reasons for benzodiazepine use and develop coping strategies for managing anxiety and other symptoms without relying on these drugs. Engaging in a structured treatment program can increase the likelihood of successful recovery and help individuals reclaim their lives from benzodiazepine addiction.

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Get Treatment for Benzodiazepine Addiction at California Detox

Have you developed a prescription drug addiction involving benzos? If so, we can help you with intensive and structured treatment at California Detox in Laguna Beach, CA.

Rather than risking a home detox, access continuous clinical and emotional care when you engage with our supervised benzo detox. A tapered reduction in dosage will mitigate many withdrawal symptoms and will address the issue of physical dependence.

Following detox, you can move directly into ongoing treatment. Our inpatient treatment program allows you the time to focus on tackling the psychological component of benzodiazepine addiction removed from temptations and triggers.

All treatment programs draw from the following treatments:

  • MAT (medication-assisted treatment)
  • Psychotherapy (CBT and DBT)
  • Group therapy
  • Family therapy
  • Individual counseling
  • Holistic therapy
  • Aftercare support

Call 949.694.8305 today for immediate assistance.


Benzodiazepines are addictive because they interact with receptors in the brain that regulate anxiety and mood, triggering the release of dopamine and endorphins and leading to feelings of relaxation and well-being. With prolonged use, the brain adapts to their presence, leading to dependence and the need for higher doses to achieve the desired effect, eventually culminating in the development of addiction.
Common side effects of benzodiazepines include dizziness, drowsiness, poor coordination, depression, trembling, confusion, headache, and vision problems. When mixed with alcohol or other drugs, the side effects can be intensified and may pose serious risks, such as impaired driving and overdose.


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