Benzodiazepine Abuse Causes, Statistics, Addiction Signs, Symptoms & Side Effects

What are Benzodiazepines?

Benzodiazepines are a class of depressants that affect the central nervous system and are used as a sedative and muscle relaxant. They are highly potent and incredibly addictive, both physically and psychologically, often leading to benzodiazepine abuse.

Benzodiazepines are commonly prescribed to treat panic disorder, anxiety disorders, panic attacks, insomnia, migraines, seizures, restless legs syndrome, Tourette’s syndrome and epilepsy. Benzodiazepine addiction is quite prevalent due to its popularity in treating so many different issues.

Two types are especially common – Xanax and Valium – and are among the most abused psychoactive drugs in America. Due to benzodiazepines being readily accessible, it helps promote a benzodiazepine addiction.

The side effects of a benzodiazepine addiction can be very difficult to endure. Some of the symptoms experienced consist of dry retching, psychosis, delirium, seizures, slurred speech, panic attacks, hallucinations, increased risk of suicide, weakness, impaired coordination, and vertigo.

The negative side effects also include “paradoxical effects.” A “paradoxical effect” is a reaction to a drug that has the opposite effect of what was intended. An example is when a drug is supposed to decrease pain but instead increases pain. Benzodiazepines are more often abused by simply taking multiple pills, but it can be injected, snorted or even taken via blotter paper.

Benzodiazepines are often used in conjunction with a number of other drugs and alcohol. This can increase the potential of developing a benzodiazepine addiction as well as an addiction to other drugs or alcohol.

Some of the more common drugs types used in combination with benzodiazepines are other depressants (Marijuana, Alcohol), hallucinogens (LSD, Angel Dust), amphetamines (Adderall, Dexedrine), and opiates (Heroin, Morphine). Fatal respiratory depression (unable to perform the needed oxygen and carbon dioxide exchange) can easily happen when a combination of benzodiazepines and other depressants are mixed together. Some street names for benzodiazepines include benzos, pins, serries, normies, K-pins, rowies, V, vals, sleepers, moggies, K-cuts, tranks and downers.

Statistics of Benzos Abuse

In a TEDS (Treatment Episode Data Set) report, it stated almost all benzodiazepine admissions (95 percent) reported abuse of another substance in addition to abuse of benzodiazepines: 82.1 percent reported primary abuse of another substance with secondary abuse of benzodiazepines, and 12.9 percent reported primary abuse of benzodiazepines with secondary abuse of another substance [1]. Other statistical data follows:

  • A study performed by SAMHSA discovered that, in the U.S., benzodiazepines, due to their widespread availability, are recreationally the most frequently used pharmaceuticals. This is accounting for 35% of all drug-related visits to hospital emergency and urgent care facilities. Men and women use benzodiazepines recreationally as commonly. The report found that alprazolam (Xanax) is the most common benzodiazepine for recreational use followed by clonazepam, lorazepam, and diazepam. The number of emergency room visits due to benzodiazepines increased by 36% between 2004 and 2006 [2].
  • Treatment Episode Data Set (TEDS), an annual compilation of patient characteristics in substance abuse treatment facilities in the United States, admissions due to “primary tranquilizer” (including, but not limited to, benzodiazepine-type) drug use increased 79% from 1992 to 2002, suggesting that misuse of benzodiazepines may be on the rise [3].
  • The majority of benzodiazepine admissions were male, between the ages of 18 and 34, and non-Hispanic White. Compared with all admissions, benzodiazepine admissions were more likely to be female (44.0 vs. 32.0 percent), more likely to be between the ages of 18 and 34 (55.3 vs. 44.5 percent), and more likely to be non-Hispanic White (84.8 vs. 59.7 percent) [1].
  • Benzodiazepines ranked in fifth place in the proportion of total substance abuse admissions in the first half of 2011 in Cincinnati, and in sixth place in Baltimore City, Boston, and South Florida Broward County [4].
  • Alcohol was the substance most frequently reported with benzodiazepines in drug abuse-related emergency room visits. Almost all benzodiazepine admissions (95 percent) reported abuse of another substance in addition to abuse of benzodiazepines, 82.1 percent reported primary abuse of another substance with secondary abuse of benzodiazepines and 12.9 percent reported primary abuse of benzodiazepines with secondary abuse of another substance[5].

Causes of Benzodiazepine Addiction

Benzodiazepines affect the central nervous system and activate the brain’s pleasure centers. This in turn helps develop a benzodiazepine addiction relatively easy.

Benzodiazepines are highly addictive both physically and psychologically, and often, an addiction can be developed after a few weeks of use. A person can quickly develop a tolerance to benzodiazepines, thus requiring more of the drug to feel the same effects.

It is highly addictive as the reactions felt from benzodiazepines are rapid, within a half hour of taking the drug. The potential for abuse is increased as benzodiazepines have a high binding affinity and short half-life. A benzodiazepine dependency will obstruct responsibilities such as work, school or family.

Often, the benzodiazepine addiction is due to peer pressure or curiosity. It can also be initiated because the benzodiazepine is being used to self medicate a mood disorder such as depression or a personal trauma. A benzodiazepine treatment program geared towards treating the dependency will help stop this cycle and addiction.

Signs of Benzos Use, Addiction and Dependence

When a person is fighting a benzodiazepine addiction, they behave in a way that is considered abnormal. When the addict is high on benzodiazepines, they exhibit multiple warning signs and indications. Some of these signals will be both physical and psychological. Some of the symptoms include:

  • Mania
  • Slurred speech
  • Increased risk of suicide
  • Panic attacks
  • Loss of libido
  • Dry retching
  • Drowsiness
  • Impaired coordination
  • Rage
  • Aggression
  • Fatigue
  • Vertigo
  • Hostility
  • Memory problems
  • Agitation
  • Dizziness

Benzodiazepine Effects

There are wide-ranging effects when dealing with the difficulties of a benzodiazepine addiction. Benzodiazepines are used to treat numerous ailments and are extensively prescribed by physicians.

They are quite addictive and can create unwanted results that occur from abruptly ceasing a benzodiazepine dependency. Some of the issues and consequences affect several areas of the user’s life such as their physical, psychological and personal existence. A few of these effects include:

Physical symptoms:

  • Vertigo
  • Psychomotor agitation
  • Loss of libido
  • Paradoxical effects
  • Slurred speech
  • Hyperactivity
  • Impaired or absent reflexes
  • Sleep disturbance
  • Drowsiness
  • Dizziness
  • Twitches
  • Tremors
  • Restlessness
  • Fatigue
  • Impaired coordination
  • Death

Psychological symptoms:

  • Psychosis
  • Increased risk of suicide
  • Hallucinations
  • Rage
  • Memory problems
  • Aggression
  • Mania
  • Hostility
  • Agitation

Personal symptoms:

  • Personal relationships are lost
  • Loss of family
  • Career collapses
  • Financial adversity
  • Becomes reclusive
  • Enjoyable activities are avoided

Benzodiazepine Withdrawal

The addiction properties of benzodiazepines are incredibly strong, and tolerance is quickly built up. If a person has a benzodiazepine addiction and they abruptly stop using the drug, they will experience physical withdrawal symptoms. It is highly recommended for a person with a benzodiazepine addiction to seek medical aid at a benzodiazepine detox center.

The withdrawal effects are comparable to that of barbiturates and alcohol withdrawal and are directly associated with how long someone has had a benzodiazepine dependency. The severity of the withdrawal is directly dependent on the dosage strength, length of use, dosage frequency, previous use of cross-tolerant or cross-dependent drugs, and the manner in which the dosage is reduced.

The withdrawal process can be lethal due to its tendency to provoke withdrawal convulsions. The withdrawal symptoms are often typified by psychosis, sleep disturbance, anxiety, dry retching and nausea, panic attacks, memory problems, hallucinations, seizures and possibly suicide. If you or someone you know is experiencing these symptoms, please contact a benzodiazepine treatment center for assistance.

Benzodiazepine Addiction Treatment

As of now, there are not any pharmacological treatments available that help stop a benzodiazepine addiction or withdrawals. Gradual reduction is the most effective method in ending benzodiazepine dependency. This will take an extend amount of time to complete, but it is much safer than abruptly stopping.

Because there is not a “quick fix” for beating this addiction, treatment for benzodiazepine addiction can be very lengthy. Some of the contributing factors that influence the amount of time needed to stop a benzodiazepine addiction include the length of habit and the strength of dosage.

If the user has been abusing benzodiazepines for a lengthy time and has continually increased the dosage strength, then the rehab will take longer. The severity of the dependency will also be a factor in determining the level of treatment needed to heal. Contact a benzodiazepine rehab center for treatment assistance and guidance. Help is available, all you need to do is ask.







  • Some teenagers experience and deal with life’s challenges in many different ways. Sometimes, some teens have difficulty dealing with these stresses. Often, Benzodiazepines will be prescribed to help them cope and function more effectively. However, Benzos are addictive and often abused, and this abuse can cause permanent brain damage.
  • The pace of life at which our society runs seems to only become more rampant as the years pass. Our rapidly evolving culture, in combination with technological advances, makes for lifestyles that are bursting at the seams with activities, functions, careers and more. Learn how benzodiazepines how they help (and hurt) anxiety.

Last Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on April 10, 2014
Published on, Substance Abuse Resource Directory