Understanding Benzo Addiction and Withdrawal Symptoms

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Benzos don’t seem to get as much national attention as alcohol or opioids get. But benzo addiction is a serious problem in the United States, and the distress of benzo withdrawal can prevent people from ending their use of these dangerous drugs.

What is a Benzo?

Benzo is a shortened version of the term benzodiazepine. Benzos are a type of prescription medication that are commonly prescribed to people who have certain anxiety disorders, insomnia, or seizures. They are sometimes also incorporated into general anesthesia prior to surgery or other invasive medical procedures.

Benzos are central nervous system depressants. This means that they slow the ability of neurons to pass messages throughout the body. Typical effects of benzos include relaxation, sedation, and anterograde amnesia.

Types of Benzos

The category of benzos contains several drugs. The following are examples of some of the more commonly prescribed benzos, with the generic term listed first, followed by the brand name:

  • Alprazolam (Xanax)
  • Lorazepam (Ativan)
  • Diazepam (Valium)
  • Clonazepam (Klonopin)
  • Chlordiazepoxide (Librium)
  • Temazepam (Restoril)
  • Clorazepate (Tranxene)

How Addictive Are Benzos?

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) has classified benzos as Schedule IV controlled substances. This means that, in the opinion of the U.S. government, benzos have a low risk of abuse and addiction. 

This opinion is countered by other sources that report benzos are commonly abused and can be highly addictive. 

According to an analysis that was published in the February 2019 edition of the peer-reviewed journal Psychiatric Services, about 30.6 million adults in the U.S. used benzos in the previous year. About 5.3 million people (or 17.4% of all benzo users) misused or abused these drugs.

Benzo abuse and addiction can expose a person to serious harm, including death. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), benzos were involved in 1,135 deaths in 1999. By 2021, the annual number of benzo-involved overdose deaths in the U.S. had risen to 12,499. 

What are the Benzo Withdrawal Symptoms?

When someone becomes addicted to a benzo, their body will adapt to the continued presence of this substance. When this person then tries to stop using the benzo – or if they are prevented from using the drug for a certain period of time – they may develop a variety of uncomfortable physical and psychological symptoms. This is known as benzo withdrawal.

As with benzo addiction, benzo withdrawal can affect different people in different ways. However, most people who go through benzo withdrawal can expect to experience symptoms such as the following:

  • Agitation, anxiety, and/or paranoia
  • Sense of detachment from self and/or surroundings
  • Elevated blood pressure
  • Chest pain and racing heart rate
  • Muscle spasms, tremors, and/or seizures
  • Insomnia
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Hot flashes and excessive perspiration
  • Blurred vision
  • Ringing in the ears

Who Gets Addicted to Benzos?

Anyone who takes a benzodiazepine is at risk for benzo addiction. This risk level can be raised or lowered depending on how they use the drug.

  • If you take a benzo on a prescription basis for a legitimate medical purpose, and you follow all the directions provided by your physician, your risk for developing benzo addiction will be on the lower side.
  • On the other hand, if you abuse benzos (either in an attempt to self-medicate or solely for recreational purposes), your likelihood of developing benzo addiction can increase significantly.

If you suspect that you have become addicted to benzos, you should consult with a professional. 

  • If the benzo was prescribed to you, talk to your doctor about your concerns. 
  • If you have been abusing benzos that were not prescribed to you, you may want to schedule an assessment with an addiction expert or other healthcare provider. This person can determine the scope of your needs and recommend appropriate treatment options.

Resources for Benzo Addiction 

The following resources can help you learn more more about benzo addiction, find support during benzo withdrawal or get help during a benzo-related crisis:

Types of Treatment for Benzo Addiction

Benzo addiction is a treatable condition. But there is no single course of care that works for everyone. This is why it is so important to explore your options, so that you can find a provider whose services align with your unique needs and preferences.

One of the first decisions regarding benzo addiction treatment is determining which of the following levels of care are right for you:

  • Detoxification: If the distress of benzo withdrawal has kept you trapped in active substance abuse, this may be the ideal place to start.
  • Residential treatment: At the residential level, you will live at the center where you are receiving care. This can provide you with temporary respite from the stresses and distractions of everyday life, which can minimize your risk of relapse and help you build a solid foundation for recovery.
  • Partial hospitalization program (PHP): This level of care features full days of treatment, but without a residential requirement. When the treatment day has ended, you can return to your home or to an alternative supportive residence.
  • Intensive outpatient program (IOP): When you’re in an IOP, you will usually participate in partial days of treatment a few days each week. Many patients step down to an IOP for continued support after they’ve completed treatment at the residential or PHP level.
  • Outpatient program: Outpatient programming offers the greatest degree of flexibility. This level of care can be a vital source of ongoing support as you progress in your recovery.

Most reputable benzo addiction treatment centers also offer some form of discharge planning or aftercare programming. These services are designed to ensure that you have the support you need to achieve and maintain successful, long-term recovery from benzo addiction.

Begin Benzo Addiction Treatment

Renewal Health Group offers a full continuum of customized services for adults who have developed benzo addiction, including detox to help patients get through benzo withdrawal. 

Features of treatment at our benzo addiction treatment centers in Southern California include personalized treatment planning, multiple levels of care, an unwavering commitment to patient safety, and robust aftercare planning. In every program and at every level of care, you will work in close collaboration with a team of skilled professionals who truly care about you. With our help, you can end your benzo abuse for good and learn how to live a healthier life in recovery.

To learn more or to schedule a free assessment, please visit our Contact page or call us today.

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