Written by: Lee Spinks
Medically Reviewed by: Dr Mateen Durrani – MBBS, DPM, MSc, BCPsych
Last Updated: January 3rd, 2023
Benzodiazepines (or ‘benzos’) are a class of psychoactive drugs commonly prescribed for their pronounced sedative, anticonvulsant, relaxant and anti-anxiety properties. However, these drugs are also widely available to purchase without a prescription, either on the dark web or through street dealers. Some of the leading brands of benzodiazepines include Xanax, Klonopin, Valium, Ativan, and Ambien.
Addiction to benzodiazepines is a growing problem across the country, with recent findings indicating that more than a quarter of a million people in the UK are currently taking some form of dependency-forming benzodiazepine medication for far beyond the recommended two to four weeks. Due to the drug’s highly addictive potential, individuals who are reliant on the substance are recommended to undergo benzodiazepine detox, followed by regular therapeutic activities and workshops at benzodiazepine rehab.
Why are benzodiazepines addictive?
Because benzodiazepines are commonly prescribed to treat anxiety and aid our sleep, many are unaware of just how high the potential for addiction is. However, due to the way in which these substances act upon the brain, many users can find their dependence on the drug quickly overtaking their everyday lives.
Benzodiazepines act upon the brain’s GABA receptors, stimulating this chemical to slow down the central nervous system and induce feelings such as sedation, relaxation, and reduced anxiety. These pleasurable sensations produced by the drug can lead users to keep consuming benzodiazepines, even when they are no longer required for their medical purposes. When this happens, it is known as a benzodiazepine addiction.
In fact, doctors recommend intermittent use of benzodiazepines, as patients have been known to develop a physical dependency in as little as a few weeks. This is because of the high potential for addiction and the risks associated with long-term use. For this reason, doctors are extremely careful when prescribing benzodiazepines, monitoring their use carefully. This gives rise to the phenomenon of ‘prescription shopping’, where individuals will go from one doctor to another in order to maintain their supply of benzodiazepines without alerting another doctor of their drug use. Therefore, whilst benzodiazepines are commonly prescribed by medical professionals, this by no means indicates that they are harmless or safe, and it is vital to remain wary of their dangers and potential for addiction.
Signs and symptoms of benzodiazepine addiction
If you are beginning to worry that your benzodiazepine use is verging on an addiction, consult with the statements below to get a clearer picture as to whether you need to seek support for benzodiazepine addiction. Some visible signs of benzodiazepine addiction include the following:
- Rapid mood swings, for example, being calm one moment and aggressive the next
- Slurred words
- Uncoordinated movements
- Pronounced lethargy and drowsiness
If you are taking more benzodiazepines than you should, some of the symptoms of abuse in the short term can include:
- Anxiety and depression
- Memory problems
- Suicidal thoughts
Which benzos can cause addiction?
There are a number of benzodiazepines that individuals can become addicted to. Some of these include:
What happens if I keep taking benzodiazepines?
It is important to remember that benzodiazepines are not designed to be used for long periods of time. For this reason, there are a number of consequences that can come with continued use. Some of the long-term risks associated with benzodiazepine abuse include:
Myths about benzodiazepine addiction
Benzos are prescribed to treat anxiety, so long-term use should not be unsafe…
FALSE. While benzodiazepines can induce feelings of calm and relaxation, they also have the potential to decrease the user’s ability to regulate their emotions and behaviour. Some long-term users have admitted to experiencing bouts of paranoia, irrational thinking, and heightened anxiety, all as a result of benzodiazepine abuse. Therefore, while benzos can provide a temporary reprieve from symptoms associated with anxiety, this by no means indicates that long-term use is safe.
I haven’t used benzos for very long, so it won’t be difficult to quit…
FALSE. Developing a physical dependence on benzodiazepines can occur in a matter of weeks, and addiction can even present itself even in those using a dosage as prescribed by their doctor. Therefore, even if you have only taken benzos for a short time, withdrawal can be highly unsafe and should always be done under the supervision of medical professionals at a dedicated facility.
Using benzos is not dangerous…
FALSE. Benzodiazepines are habit-forming substances that can lead to dangerous, sometimes even life-threatening consequences, if left unaddressed. Unfortunately, there has been an increasing number of deaths involving benzodiazepines, with a 19.3% rise from 2019 to 2020. Therefore, while it may at first seem as though these prescription substances are not a cause for concern, benzos have a very high addictive potential, and without the proper support, this habit can quickly escalate into benzodiazepine dependence. To protect your own health and wellbeing, it is vital that you seek help to overcome this condition as soon as you can.
How to treat benzodiazepine addiction
Benzodiazepine addiction is a dreadful condition that causes tremendous unhappiness as well as posing numerous very serious health risks. Overcoming this condition can make the difference between life and death, and it is vital to seek treatment if you would like to begin leading a healthier life free from benzodiazepines.
In seeking treatment for your benzodiazepine addiction, we would recommend inpatient rehab as an effective method to address your dependence. Here at Primrose Lodge, we provide a range of treatments, all designed to help you overcome your benzo addiction and start the path to health and healing. With an intensive programme of detox, drug rehabilitation and aftercare services, our goal is to make your experience coming off benzodiazepines as safe and comfortable as possible.
We are here to help
If you are struggling with benzodiazepine addiction, we at Primrose Lodge would like to assure you that you are not alone and you can get the help you deserve if you are prepared to take that first step and reach out to an addiction specialist for help.
Our team is dedicated to delivering exceptional care in a calm and relaxed environment, all designed to help get your life back on track. If you are struggling with benzodiazepine addiction, talk to one of our advisors and get started on the road to recovery today.