Benzo is the street term for benzodiazepines (BZD), which is a wide classification of psychoactive drugs that are liberally prescribed all over the world. Problems such as anxiety, stress, panic attacks and sleep disorders are all potentially alleviated by one form of Benzodiazepine, provided the drug is used properly in prescribed doses.

Like most drugs however, they can certainly cause substance abuse problems after long-term use. As central nervous system depressants, these drugs act as sedatives in moderate dosages. However, many people use them for a long enough period of time to a prescription drug addiction.

Benzodiazepines are No Laughing Matter

The name “benzos” gets thrown around pretty casually these days. Almost everyone has either taken one of these anxiety drugs or knows someone who has. They’ve been mentioned in many books, TV shows and movies, and often times, there is a comical tone to their usage. There seems to be a false sense of security with these medicines, and it’s important to understand that benzo addiction and benzo abuse are very real problems that often require the assistance of an addiction counselor.

Benzo Addiction

The prescribed names of these medicines are some of the most recognized in America. Those who visit their doctors with complaints of daytime anxiety might be prescribed a long-lasting benzo such as Valium, Xanax, Librium, Klonopin and Ativan. Other short-acting drugs (often called “sleeping pills”) that may be helpful for inducing sleep or calming a person down before surgery include Halcion, ProSom, Versed and Restoril.

As mentioned, problems occur after long-term use. Drug addiction sets in, and what was once a sensible, moderate usage of a tranquilizer becomes full-blown benzo addiction. Those abusing the drugs will generally develop a tolerance for benzos and will need to get extremely high dosages in order to produce the same effect.

Side Effects of Benzo Use

Although benzo has well-intentioned treatment effects against anxiety and stress, prolonged use of benzo can create unintended negative effects, which include:

  • poor memory and cognition
  • decreased alertness and concentration
  • lack of coordination
  • emotional blunting
  • increased anxiety
  • depression

In addition, benzodiazepines can become ineffective after even a few weeks of regular use; users become easily tolerant of this drug in this time. The rapid tolerance that builds in clients is often the main problem. Benzo addiction seems to creep up on people. One day, they are being prescribed a medicine that helps with panic attacks; the next, the medicine no longer seems to work, resulting in the need for a dosage increase. Then a different benzo is prescribed, and the client goes on a merry-go-round of benzos trying to find relief.

Benzo Withdrawal Symptoms

Eventually, a person may begin to show signs of benzo abuse, and perhaps they’ll decide it’s time to get off the drug once and for all. That’s when the horror of benzo withdrawal symptoms begins. Withdrawal symptoms include:

  • anxiety
  • lack of sleep
  • social isolation
  • psychosis
  • homicidal or suicidal thoughts
  • convulsions

According to Jennifer Garrison, LPN, Head Nurse at Cornerstone Recovery Center, “One client spoke of her benzodiazepine withdrawal as follows: ‘There is no duct tape for benzo withdrawal.’ And she is correct.  Going to a reputable detox center, when followed up by a stay in a treatment center, can be very successful. However, being released from a week-long detox and being sent out into the world held together with chicken wire and bubble gum, is a recipe for disaster.”

Benzo Addiction Treatment

Because benzodiazepines are mostly legally prescribed by doctors, the use of benzo does not have the same stigma as that of illicit drugs, such as heroin or cocaine. The solution for benzo addiction is the same as for any depressant drug abuse – or for any other type of substance abuse for that matter – it’s time to talk to an addiction counselor. This is especially true with this class of drugs, which carries very serious withdrawal symptoms.  It is essential to call a drug counselor to help navigate the physical withdrawal that unfortunately comes with the territory of benzo addiction.

Are you or someone you know addicted to benzos? The counselors at Cornerstone Recovery Center, a drug treatment center in Ft. Lauderdale, FL, can help. Please call 954.271.2846 to speak with an admissions counselor today.