Benzodiazepines such as Xanax and Valium are among the most commonly prescribed drugs in the world. They are typically prescribed to treat acute anxiety, panic attacks, or insomnia related to stressful events. They work well when used for very short periods. Unfortunately, benzodiazepines are also extremely addictive. Even two weeks of regular use can lead to physical dependence. Ironically, once you develop a physical dependence, they may actually make anxiety even worse. Benzodiazepines are difficult to quit once dependence has formed because withdrawal symptoms are unpleasant and possibly dangerous. They may include intense anxiety, irritability, psychosis, and seizures. There are also side effects of regular use. Here are some signs that someone you know may be addicted to benzodiazepines.
Changes in behavior
Dependence or misuse of benzodiazepines will likely result in behavioral changes. Keep an eye out for general symptoms of addiction. These include secretive behavior, trying to quit or promising to quit but being unable to, missing important engagements at work or school because of benzodiazepine use, building a tolerance, or becoming inflexible, lest schedule changes interfere with using. Specific ways benzodiazepines change behavior include memory lapses, poor concentration, nodding off, lethargy, slurred speech, slow reaction times, or loss of interest in things they used to enjoy. Increased irritability or anxiety when a dose wears off may also be a sign of physical dependence.
Benzodiazepines work by enhancing the effect of the inhibitory neurotransmitter GABA. More GABA reduces anxiety, but it also reduces activity in other parts of the brain and body. This may result in diminished sex drive, dizziness, constipation, headaches, nausea, and poor coordination. Physical signs of withdrawal may include increased heart rate and blood pressure, excessive sweating, insomnia, shaking, and seizures.
Preoccupation with prescriptions
Someone who is addicted to benzodiazepines will likely be concerned about running out, especially toward the end of her prescription. She may become angry if her doctor won’t extend her prescription. She might see other doctors, or go “doctor shopping,” to get additional prescriptions or she might try to buy benzodiazepines on the street.
Fatal benzodiazepine overdoses are very uncommon and typically involve taking benzodiazepines with alcohol or other drugs. However, it is possible to overdose on benzodiazepines. Symptoms typically include severe dizziness, severe confusion, lack of coordination, unresponsiveness, amnesia, blurred vision, low blood pressure, hallucinations, suppressed breathing, and coma. Someone experiencing these symptoms needs medical attention right away. There’s no antidote for benzodiazepine overdose as there is for opioid overdose, but supportive care can reduce the danger.
If you or someone you love is struggling with benzodiazepine addiction or mental illness, we can help. Recovery Ways is a premier drug and alcohol addiction treatment facility located in Salt Lake City, Utah. We have the resources to effectively treat a dual diagnosis. Our mission is to provide the most cost-effective, accessible substance abuse treatment to as many people as possible. Request information online or call us today at 1-888-986-7848.