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Signs Of Benzodiazepine Abuse

Isaac Alexis, M.D., AAMA, AMP-BC

Medically reviewed by

Isaac Alexis, M.D., AAMA, AMP-BC

April 2, 2019

Addiction comes in all shapes and sizes and isn’t limited to illegal substances. In fact, recent surveys have found that prescription drug abuse is becoming an increasingly problematic danger. This is especially true of benzodiazepines, a drug type that often drags unfortunate victims into the depths of addiction. Here’s how you can tell if you or someone you love is addicted to benzodiazepines.

The Purpose Of Benzodiazepines

Benzodiazepines are prescription medications prescribed to help people with a variety of mental health concerns. They can be broadly classified as “depressants,” which means they depress the activity of certain areas of the brain and central nervous system. Generally speaking, they are used to help calm anxiety and stress to avoid panic attacks. They can also be used as sedatives.

Typically, the medicines are called “benzos” by people utilizing them for illicit effect. Typical benzos include ProSom, Restoril, Halcion, Xanax, Librium, Valium, and Ativan. All of these drugs can be addictive when used in high amounts. Beyond their calming and sedative effects lies the “hypnotic” effect that many people who abuse benzos are chasing.

This state of mind is essentially a “zoned” state that causes a person to lose touch with reality and their surroundings. Many people want to achieve this state simply to get high, while others are trying to self-medicate. Abusing benzos for a long period causes a wide range of problematic symptoms.

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Sudden Increase In Sleepiness

People who abuse benzos often end up sleeping an excessive amount, often as much as 15-16 hours a day. And when they’re not sleeping, they may appear drowsy or fall asleep at any time. When awake, they may appear unsteady or confused.

They are also likely to report strange and disturbing dreams to you after they wake up. Benzos alter the way the mind works and often create weird imagery when abused. This imagery and excessive sleep may cause extreme irritability and agitation, which contrasts heavily with their normally “sedated” attitude.

Lack Of Interest In Life

When used properly, benzos can be a beneficial way for a person to regain control of their life. They can give them the anxiety and insomnia relief they need to stay happy and focused. However, abuse or addiction to benzos often has the opposite effect: people start behaving as if they have lost all interest in their life. As a result, you’re likely to see symptoms like the following:

  • Poor performance at school
  • Lack of interest in friendships
  • Withdrawal from family life
  • Indifference to personal disasters
  • Failure at work or loss of job

The tranquilizing nature of benzos definitely creates a more stable or tranquil state when properly utilized. However, excessive use will cause that nature to be amplified, creating a “zombie-like” state of indifference that can destroy the progress of a user’s life.

Memory Loss And Dementia Symptoms

The heavy sedation and hypnotic effect caused by excessive benzo use often causes users to have trouble forming new memories. As a result, they appear to suffer from memory loss or confusion. Even worse, they may actually start losing long-term memories and develop amnesia about important things in their life, such as:

  • Their name
  • Home address
  • Job role
  • Relationships with friends and family
  • Passwords and other vital information

As their memory loss worsens, they may start to show signs of severe dementia. This doesn’t necessarily mean they have developed dementia: it just means their mind is behaving in a similar way. As a result, you’re likely to see them acting confused, behaving in unpredictable ways, lashing out angrily, suddenly developing depression, or breaking the law.

Benzodiazepine Overdoses

Like any drug, benzodiazepines can be taken in dangerous amounts. Taking too many benzos results in overdose, a particularly dangerous problem for depressants. Typically, benzo overdose is indicated by the following symptoms:

  • Confusion or agitation
  • Difficulty moving or speaking
  • Collapsing physically
  • Falling to sleep repeatedly
  • Being unable to rouse them from sleep

Immediately call 911 if you suspect someone has fallen into a benzo overdose. Try to find the drug containers or discover the name of the drug they used. This is crucial for their treatment as it helps doctors give them the proper treatment.

Treatment usually requires emergency detoxification to help stop the person from falling into a coma or suffering heart failure. Once they are roused, they will then likely be put on a heart monitor, oxygen, and carefully monitored. Drug tests, such as urine screens and blood samples, are then taken to diagnose any other drug addiction.

Recovering From Addiction To Benzos

The dangers of a benzodiazepine addiction are similar to those suffered during opiate addiction. That’s why you need to be able to spot addiction to benzos and help yourself or a loved one achieve sobriety. Contact our counselors at to learn more about rehab. They can help you find a center that works for your needs.

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