Guide to Benzos

Table of Contents

Guide to Benzos: Benzodiazepine Addiction

The risk of benzo addiction is one of the main reasons that benzodiazepines are only recommended for short-term use. 

Benzos are prescription medications used for the treatment of panic disorders and anxiety disorders. 

Benzodiazepines work by decreasing activity in the brain and the CNS (central nervous system). This induces a pronounced sense of calm as the effects of a naturally occurring brain chemical called GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) are intensified. 

What are benzos, then?

Request a call.

We want to help, let’s setup a call and figure out the best treatment options for you or your loved one. Our detox specialists will get back to you immediately.

What are Benzodiazepines?

Benzodiazepines, frequently abbreviated to benzos, are sedatives and depressants used to treat a variety of conditions, such as: 

  • Anxiety
  • Panic attacks
  • Insomnia
  • Seizure 

The DEA classifies benzos as schedule IV controlled substances. This means that benzodiazepines have a low potential for misuse and addiction if they are only used short-term and as prescribed. This does not apply in the event of sustained benzodiazepine use. 

Medications like Xanax and Klonopin induce calming and sedative effects much like those delivered by opioids. There is much less chance of overdose with benzos than with opioid-based alternatives. 

Benzodiazepines have a different mechanism of action to opioids, too. Benzos directly target GABA receptors in the brain. 

If you take high doses of benzodiazepines, you could experience vertigo, impaired coordination and balance, and extreme drowsiness. 

The effects of benzos last for anywhere from a few hours to the entire day, depending on your tolerance, the type of benzodiazepines, and the dosage.  

Common Types of Benzos

Some of the most common types of benzodiazepines drugs are as follows: 

Next, a more complete benzodiazepines list and the conditions they are used to treat.

Benzodiazepine List

  • Xanax (alprazolam) – for the treatment of anxiety and panic disorder
  • Valium (diazepam) – for the treatment of anxiety, seizure disorder, and as a muscle relaxant
  • Halcion (triazolam) – for the treatment of anxiety and insomnia
  • Librium (chlordiazepoxide) – for the treatment of anxiety and alcohol withdrawal
  • Ativan (lorazepam) – for the treatment of anxiety and seizure disorder
  • Serax (oxazepam) – for the treatment of anxiety
  • Klonopin (clonazepam) – for the treatment of anxiety, panic disorders, and seizure disorder
  • Tranxene (clorazepate) – for the treatment of anxiety and seizure disorder
  • Estazolam – for the treatment of insomnia
  • Flurazepam – for the treatment of insomnia
  • Doral (quazepam) – for the treatment of insomnia
  • Onfi (clobazam) – for the treatment of seizure disorder
  • Versed (clorazepate) – for the treatment of procedural anxiety, seizure disorder and for surgical sedation
  • Restoril (temazepam) – for the treatment of anxiety and insomnia
  • Byfavo (remimazolam) – for sedation

How Do Benzodiazepines Work?

Benzos work by inhibiting excitement in the CNS (central nervous system) and in the brain. Taking benzodiazepines induces a sense of calm by intensifying the effects of a chemical that occurs naturally in the brain – GABA or gamma-aminobutyric acid.

What Do Benzodiazepines Do?

Benzodiazepines deliver a calming effect that can be effective for treating various conditions. The mechanism of action involved is the same regardless of the condition for which benzos are prescribed. The most pronounced of these effects are calmness, relaxation, and tiredness. 

  • Benzos for alcohol or drug withdrawal: Benzos like Valium and Librium may mitigate some symptoms of severe alcohol withdrawal or drug withdrawal. These benzos may also induce a sense of calm and relaxation helpful for those in the early phase of detox and recovery.
  • Benzos for anxiety: Short-acting and long-acting benzodiazepines can effectively treat the symptoms of anxiety. By slowing the CNS (central nervous system), benzos trick your body into feeling less anxious and more relaxed.
  • Benzos for insomnia: Although the causes of insomnia are not fully understood, stress can be a contributory factor. Benzos like Restoril, Klonopin, and Ativan can improve symptoms of insomnia by reducing stress levels.
  • Benzos for seizure disorder: Benzodiazepines like Valium, Librium, and Klonopin may be used as a muscle relaxant during seizures.

Common Benzo Side Effects

In most cases, people use benzodiazepines to alleviate the symptoms of anxiety disorders. 

Less frequently, benzos are prescribed for the treatment of panic disorders. 

Many people often misuse benzodiazepines for its calming side effects, often unaware of the consequences of abusing this class of medication. 

When medications like Xanax or Klonopin are abused, this can trigger the following side effects: 

  • Aggression
  • Impulsive behavior
  • Depression
  • Psychosis 

When you take benzodiazepines, tolerance to the medication rapidly builds. This means you will need more benzos to achieve the same calming side effects. Alternatively, you’ll need to take more frequent doses of benzos. 

Abusing benzodiazepines can cause dependence and addiction to develop in the form of substance use disorder. 

If you become addicted to benzodiazepines, a variety of unpleasant withdrawal symptoms will manifest in the absence of the medication. 

The most common side effects can be grouped according to whether they are short-term or long-term.

Short-Term Benzodiazepines Side Effects

Taking benzodiazepines triggers many short-term effects. These side effects usually present at the start of benzo therapy and subside when you discontinue the medication. 

These short-term effects can include any of the following: 

  • Headaches
  • Drowsiness
  • Impaired coordination
  • Light-headedness
  • Reduced energy levels
  • Confusion
  • Nervousness
  • Irritability
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Fear
  • Restlessness
  • Insomnia
  • Fainting
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Blurred vision
  • Tinnitus
  • Reduced sex drive
  • Memory loss
  • Inflammation of the skin
  • Rash
  • Dry mouth
  • Constipation
  • Tremors
  • Cramps
  • Muscle twitching
  • Heart palpitations
  • Tachycardia
  • Hyperventilation
  • Chest pain
  • Hypotension
  • Appetite changes
  • Weight loss or weight gain
  • Upper respiratory infection
  • Menstrual disorders
  • Nasal congestion 

What are the long term effects of benzodiazepines, then?

Long-Term Benzodiazepines Side Effects

If you abuse benzodiazepines like Xanax or Valium long-term, this leads to changes in the function and structure of the brain. Over time, the brain’s ability to operate without benzodiazepines is impaired. 

The long term side effects of benzodiazepines disrupt the following: 

  • Consciousness
  • Emotional responses
  • Thought processes
  • Memory
  • Muscular coordination 

All types of benzos prompt an increase in GABA production in the brain. GABA (gamma aminobutyric acid) is an amino acid that occurs naturally and serves as a neurotransmitter or chemical messenger. GABA calms nerve impulses that govern emotional responses like anxiety or panic. 

Taking benzos long-term causes tolerance to form and renders the medication increasingly less effective. Over time, the medication will no longer effectively counter emotional disruptions. 

The higher the dosage of benzodiazepines you take, the greater your risk of developing an addiction. Dependency can start forming in as little as one month, even with small doses of benzos. 

Continuing to use benzodiazepines can lead to pronounced mood swings, often resulting in hostility, aggression, and sometimes violent behavior. 

Sustained use of benzos typically causes appetite changes and weight gain or weight loss. In some cases, long-term benzo use can precipitate binge eating episodes. 

Benzodiazepines stimulate neurotransmitters in the brain, but the medication can make you feel fatigued. Lethargy is a long-term side effect associated with benzodiazepines. 

If you use benzodiazepines long-term, they have a strong potential for abuse and addiction. 

Tolerance to benzos rapidly forms. As this happens, you will need to take more of the medication or more frequent dosages to get the same effects. With the potency of the medication diminishing as tolerance continues to build, many people continue this vicious cycle and become physically dependent on benzos. If you become dependent on benzodiazepines, intensely uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms will manifest if you discontinue use. 

Tolerance and withdrawal symptoms are both diagnostic criteria for benzo addiction. 

Abusing any type of benzo long-term will bring about structural and functional changes to areas of the brain governing reward. In time, you will need the medication just to feel normal. 

Long-term benzo abuse disrupts the following functions: 

  • Memory
  • Thought processes
  • Emotional responses
  • Consciousness
  • Muscular coordination 

The greater the dose of benzos you take, the higher the risk you will develop a benzo addiction. Tolerance forms almost from the onset of treatment, and physical dependence can develop in as little as one month, even when small doses of benzodiazepines are used as prescribed. 

Ongoing benzodiazepine use is likely to be accompanied by dramatic mood swings, aggression, and hostility. Sometimes this can manifest in violent behaviors as benzo addiction sets in. 

Once you are addicted to benzodiazepines, you will almost certainly require a supervised and tapered medical detox followed by inpatient or outpatient rehab. 

Benzo Rehab at California Detox

If you are addicted to benzos, we can help you initiate your long-term recovery safely here at California Detox. 

The most effective treatment for benzo addiction begins with a supervised medical detox. Take advantage of a tapered withdrawal with medications and around-the-click clinical and emotional care at our luxury beachside facility. 

Many people find that inpatient rehab offers the most structured and efficient route to recovery. Engage with evidence-based treatment delivered from addiction specialist and mental health professionals in an environment free of triggers and distractions. 

For those who feel outpatient treatment is the best fit, we offer regular outpatient programs, virtual rehab, and intensive outpatient treatment for benzo addiction. 

After scheduling an appointment with your prescribing doctor, you can detox from benzodiazepines as comfortably as possible in a secluded and luxurious setting. Kickstart your recovery today by calling 949.390.5377.

FAQs

Different types of benzos have different elimination half-lives, and as such it takes differing amounts of time for the body to eliminate them. Depending on the type of benzo, the dosage, and the type of sample taken, benzodiazepines may be detectable for days, weeks, or months after the last use. Short-acting benzos like Halcion are detectable in urine for 24 hours. Intermediate-acting benzos like Klonopin, Xanax, and Ativan are detectable for 1 to 5 days after the last use. Long-acting benzos such as Valium are detectable for 5 to 8 days after the last use. Chronic benzodiazepine abuse can be detectable for 30 days after the last use.

Yes, benzodiazepines can be fatal if taken in large doses or in combination with other depressant substances such as alcohol. Overdose can lead to respiratory depression, coma, and death. Always follow prescribed dosage instructions and do not mix benzodiazepines with other substances without consulting your doctor.

Sources