Signs & Symptoms of Dependence
Benzodiazepine addiction is not commonly thought of as a particularly widespread issue, but according to the NIDA, they are one of the most commonly abused drug types under the category of CNS depressants. Benzodiazepines are often used to treat anxiety, seizures, stress and panic attacks, and even addiction to other substances. However, benzodiazepines have an addictive potential of their own when abused.
There are treatment options for those who become addicted to benzodiazepines as well as signs and symptoms to look for if you believe your loved one might be abusing these drugs. Consider the following review of benzodiazepine addiction, and ask yourself whether or not you or someone you love might benefit from treatment for this condition.
Benzodiazepine Addiction Overview
Benzodiazepines are CNS depressants and are also called sedative-hypnotics. They slow down activity in the body like other depressants in order to make an individual calmer and more relaxed. Benzodiazepines specifically slow down the workings of the brain and, when abused in larger doses, can create a euphoric high.
Some commonly prescribed and commonly abused benzodiazepines are:
- Xanax (alprazolam)
- Valium (diazepam)
- Halcion (triazolam)
- ProSom (estazolam)
- Librium (chlordiazepoxide)
- Ativan (lorazepam)
Benzodiazepines can be prescribed for many different disorders and medical conditions which is partly why they are so heavily abused. According to CESAR, “Abuse of benzodiazepines was not specifically addressed until the 1980s, when they became among the most prescribed medications in America.” When a person abuses benzodiazepine drugs for a few weeks or even months, they have a high chance of becoming addicted, and many issues can arise as a result.
Signs of Benzodiazepine Addiction
If you are concerned that a friend or family member of yours may be abusing benzodiazepines, there are certain steps between abuse and addiction. When people become addicted to drugs, they are unable to stop abusing them no matter what. Even if they try to stop, they won’t likely be very successful without proper treatment. If you notice this in someone you care about, it is very likely that they are already addicted.
Some other signs of benzodiazepine addiction are:
- The constant signs of benzodiazepine intoxication
- Extremely slowed reflexes
- Intense mood swings
- Hostile behavior
- Erratic behavior and actions
- Tremors of the hands
- Slurred speech
- Constant confusion
- Problems with thinking and memory
- Motor coordination problems
- Apathy toward all other aspects of life
- Changes in those they surround themselves with (as they will only want to spend time around others who abuse benzodiazepines)
- Recurring issues that always seem to have to do with the drug including:
- Relationship problems
- Work issues
- Legal and financial problems
- Dangerous behavior as a result of seeking out more drugs
- Doctor shopping, faking prescriptions, lying about prescriptions or other actions that are caused by an uncontrollable desire for more of the drug
Vomiting, diarrhea, nausea, and a loss of appetite are all additional side effects that are commonly exhibited by those who abuse benzodiazepines. These can lead to malnutrition and extreme weight loss as well.
When someone is abusing benzodiazepines, they will be tired, lethargic, and relaxed whenever they are on the drug. They may seem like they are drunk because they are slurring their words and their motor skills will be impaired. According to SAMHSA, “Unfortunately most individuals who ingest benzodiazepines also may be using alcohol, other sedative-hypnotics, or other drugs of abuse, which in combination with benzodiazepines could be fatal if not managed appropriately.”
When someone who is addicted to benzodiazepines suddenly stops abusing them, withdrawal symptoms will also appear, as benzodiazepines cause a physical dependence as well. These can become dangerous, not unlike the severe withdrawal symptoms caused by alcohol abuse, and according to UCLA, include:
- Physical tremors
- Sleep disturbances
- Psychosis (Rare)
- Convulsions (Rare)
Look for the signs in someone you know who might be abusing benzodiazepines. Even if someone who is taking them with a prescription begins to take higher doses or more doses daily than their doctor recommends, this is prescription drug abuse and can lead to addiction.
Symptoms of Benzodiazepine Addiction
In addition, there are many symptoms of benzodiazepine addiction that can be difficult for someone on the outside to notice. Depression is not an unusual symptom in a benzodiazepine abuser; in fact, “benzodiazepine addicts often display self-harming behavior and suicidal tendencies, especially young people” (UCLA). This is just one of the reasons addiction to benzodiazepines can become so dangerous.
If you are unsure whether or not your benzodiazepine abuse has crossed over into the realm of addiction, ask yourself the questions below and decide if you should seek help for your benzodiazepine problem.
- Do I abuse benzodiazepines every day?
- Have I built up a strong tolerance to benzodiazepine drugs and a cross-tolerance to other substances that are similar like alcohol and barbiturates?
- Do I ever abuse more than one of these substances together?
- Do I feel like I wouldn’t be able to fall asleep or get out of bed in the morning without taking benzodiazepines?
- Am I unhappy unless I am high on benzodiazepines?
- Have more than one of my friends or loved ones expressed concern for my benzodiazepine abuse levels?
- Was I addicted to another substance and treated with benzodiazepines?
- Have I since begun abusing benzodiazepines?
- Do I not discriminate between different types of benzodiazepines as long as they get me high?
- Have the other aspects of my life (school, work, family) become less important to me in the last few weeks/months since I started taking benzodiazepines?
- Do I feel that I have become severely depressed since I’ve begun using benzodiazepines to get high?
- Am I constantly too tired, drowsy, or fatigued to do much of anything, due to my benzodiazepine abuse?
- Have I ever experienced a benzodiazepine overdose?
- Have I experienced several severe issues as a result of my benzodiazepine abuse?
- Have I experienced a “failure or inability to reduce doses or stop using benzodiazepines?”
If you answered yes to most of these questions, you are already addicted to benzodiazepines. Attending treatment will be beneficial and likely necessary for your recovery.