What Are Benzos?

Benzodiazepines pills in RX prescription drug bottle

Benzodiazepines, also known as benzos, belong to a class of prescription drugs used to help treat anxiety, relax muscles, prevent panic disorders, and promote sleep. Because these drugs are highly addictive, their use is usually limited to a short-term and as-needed basis.

Despite being carefully restricted, there are two ways people start abusing them. While some people start by taking the drugs as prescribed, they may progress gradually to taking more than the recommended amount. Others may start acquiring them illicitly and become addicted to them. The more you abuse benzos, the more you become tolerant and need more of the drug to realize its effects.

What Drugs Are Benzos?

benzodiazepine 10 mg drug

Some of the most commonly prescribed types of benzodiazepines are:

  • Xanax – Anxiety disorders
  • Librium – Anxiety disorders and alcohol withdrawal
  • Valium – Anxiety disorders, sleep disorders, control seizures, and alcohol withdrawal
  • Ativan – Sleep disorders and alcohol withdrawal
  • Halcion – Sleep disorders


How Do Benzos Work in the Body?

Depressed woman portrait suffering for addiction

Benzodiazepines are a type of sedative medication. They’re usually a short-term treatment given for two to four weeks. Benzos work by affecting the neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid, also known as GABA. Benzodiazepine drugs increase the effects of GABA in the brain, which causes a slowdown of the nervous system, effectively producing a feeling of relaxation and a sedative effect and relieving anxiety or insomnia. It is strongly advised to only take benzos for the shortest amount of time possible. Taking benzos regularly for even a few weeks or months could lead to addiction.

What Are Benzos Used For?

Anti anxiety white pill medicine on finger

Benzos are prescribed for short-term use by people with anxiety, unprovoked anger, stress, and other similar symptoms that normally occur in patients with bipolar disorder.

Different benzos are prescribed in terms of potency, absorbability, and purpose. There are two main groups benzos can be categorized into:

  • Hypnotics – Short-acting medications generally used for the treatment of sleep disorders such as insomnia
  • Anxiolytics – Long-acting benzos generally used for the treatment of anxiety


Abusing Benzodiazepines

Pile of white pills on light blue background

With the highly addictive nature of benzos, it is very easy to abuse these drugs. Failure to follow the prescription or illicit use of the drugs can easily lead to addiction. The use of benzodiazepines can cause psychological and physical dependence and, because tolerance increases over time, users may need to keep increasing their dosage to maintain the initial medical effect on anxiety or insomnia.

Effects of Abusing Benzodiazepines

One man taking painkillers to relieve pain and headache

A person using benzodiazepines may exhibit effects such as drowsiness and sleepiness, lack of coordination, as well as hostility and irritability. Such a patient may experience clear and disturbing dreams when they sleep.


Abusing benzos will result in the development of tolerance to the drugs, addiction, and more abuse. Even in cases where it will be normal to manifest anxiety, people who abuse this drug will not exhibit such a reaction.

It is also important to note that benzos are used during surgeries to cause amnesia. This means that those who abuse the drugs are likely to have poor memory and outright amnesia of some events. The use of benzodiazepines can negatively affect your mental health and increase the risk of suicidal thoughts, particularly in adolescents and those addicted to drugs and alcohol,

Some common side effects of taking big doses of benzos are long-term memory loss and excessive sleepiness.

Abusing a combination of benzos and other drugs may result in a coma or death. Hundreds of people go to emergency rooms for problems associated with the abuse of benzos.

Signs and Symptoms of Benzo Addiction

White pills in RX prescription drug bottle

There are a variety of signs and symptoms that are associated with benzodiazepine abuse when not used as prescribed by a physician. They will look different from person to person depending on the amount of benzos a person is using as well as the length of time a person has been abusing this drug. Some of the most common side effects of benzodiazepines abuse are:

Physical Symptoms


  • Physical dependence
  • Double vision
  • Muscle weakness
  • Vertigo
  • Headaches
  • Changes in eating and sleeping patterns


Cognitive Symptoms


  • Memory impairment
  • Anterograde amnesia
  • Increased confusion
  • Slowed thinking
  • Slowed reaction time


Psychosocial Symptoms


  • Increased anxiety
  • Irritability and hostility
  • Depression
  • Mood swings


Withdrawing from Benzodiazepines

benzodiazepine withdrawal

Most commonly, people with benzodiazepine withdrawal experience rebound anxiety. The symptoms usually manifest within one to four days of stopping the drug and are characterized by anxiety and insomnia.

If you have been using the drugs for less than four months, recovery is likely to take a short time. However, most people have recovery periods that span months and even years. Trying to stop taking benzos “cold turkey” can be extremely dangerous and even life-threatening. For this reason, it’s essential to seek professional help if you or a loved one wants to stop using benzos.

Some of the common withdrawal symptoms of the drugs include:

  • Extreme anxiety
  • Severe depression
  • Migraines
  • Body tremors
  • Heart palpitations
  • Muscle twitching
  • Burning sensations going through the brain


Recovering from Addiction

Man hugging psychologist during therapy session in support group

Even with the difficult withdrawal process, the good news is that certain steps can be taken to minimize the symptoms. Patients should also know that it is possible to recover and progress toward full sobriety after addiction.

It is highly recommended to detox from benzos under medical supervision. The patient should be closely monitored for seizures and other complications during this process. Medications should be administered when possible to ease withdrawal symptoms. The length of a patient’s recovery, as well as symptom intensity, is dependent on the severity and duration of the patient’s addiction and the type of benzo they are addicted to.

In case you or your loved one becomes addicted to benzos, it is important to identify a treatment facility that will help you on your path to recovery.

How Yellowstone Recovery Can Help

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If you or a loved one is struggling with the effects of benzodiazepine addiction, you can get support and assistance from Yellowstone Recovery.

Yellowstone Recovery is a low-cost drug rehab that offers superior treatment and care services. Kindly give us a call at (888) 418-4188 or visit our website to learn more about our recovery program for benzodiazepine addiction.

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