Benzo Addiction Signs, Side-Effects, & Withdrawal: How To Overcome An Addiction To Benzos
Benzos are depressants, which means that they lower the stimuli and brain activity in the brain. They target the central nervous system of the body and, as a result, are used in various treatments for different medical problems. Benzodiazepines also interact with receptors in the brain called gamma-aminobutyric acid A receptors. These are also called GABA-A receptors.
The benzos can attach themselves to these GABA-A receptors, which calm the nerves in the brain. This makes the nerves less sensitive to stimuli, putting the user in a more relaxed and calm state.
Benzos are used to treat various medical issues, including panic disorder, anxiety disorder, alcohol withdrawal symptoms, and even as a muscle relaxer. Some people take benzos as a prescription medication to treat sleep disorders or seizures. Some doctors use benzodiazepines as a way to relax their patients before they perform surgery.
Benzodiazepines are only accessible through a prescription given by a doctor. However, many people have found loopholes and taken benzos illegally. Due to their highly addictive nature, benzos are strictly regulated by doctors and pharmaceutical companies to ensure that patients are not taking them when they do not need to be.
Yet thousands of people suffer each year from benzo addictions. Therefore, it is important to know the signs, symptoms, and side effects of benzodiazepine addiction and what the withdrawal symptoms and side effects look like. Please continue reading to learn about benzos and how to spot a benzo addiction.
What Are The Signs Of A Benzo Addiction?
Because benzodiazepines are in a class of drugs known as prescription sedatives, they have a highly calming effect. However, they are also highly addictive and can cause the person abusing benzos to experience various symptoms.
Many of these symptoms can be spotted by an outsider who knows what to look for. In this section, we will go over the signs of a benzodiazepine addiction so that you can determine whether you or a loved one is suffering from benzo abuse.
Although benzos are supposed to relax the individual, they can cause other symptoms when used excessively or for too long. Doctor shopping is one of the primary signs that a person is consuming benzos in an addictive way.
Doctor shopping is when an individual goes to multiple doctors to try and get a prescription for a drug. At each doctor, they may tell a different story, talk about how they have never used the drug before, or make up a situation requiring the doctor to prescribe them some benzos. That way, the user gets their fix, and the doctors are none the wiser because they keep rotating and moving on to new doctors.
Other signs of a benzo addiction include drastic changes in the individual’s ability to make decisions or their clarity of thinking. Other people in the user’s life can often pick up on changes in their judgment. This is a common occurrence of the results of benzo addiction.
The person suffering from benzo addiction may even say they want to cut back on the number of pills they are taking but find themselves unable to follow through with that one. They may find themselves stuck in a cycle where they want to escape but cannot.
Other signs of benzo addiction include the following list.
- Body weakness or fatigue
- Moodiness or extreme personality shifts
- Engaging in risky behavior
Combining benzos with other drugs or substances such as alcohol is another sign that a person may need to get help for a benzo addiction. Not only does combining benzos with other drugs pose a huge safety risk to the individual, but it can cause some serious physical harm or result in death or overdose.
Another huge sign of a benzo addiction is tolerance. Over time, an individual using benzodiazepines will build a tolerance to the drug, which will cause them to need more benzos to reach the same high feeling.
Once a person has stopped taking or greatly reduced the number of benzos they are taking, their body will be craving the input from the drug. This would trigger withdrawal symptoms, which can be severe and problematic.
Benzo Addiction Side-Effects & Withdrawal Symptoms & Timeline
The withdrawal symptoms of benzodiazepines are very intense. In addition, they are uncomfortable and painful and can be dangerous and, at times, life-threatening. Therefore, dealing with benzos withdrawal by yourself without the supervision of a medical professional is not recommended, as it can become hazardous very quickly.
It is important to note that both people who are addicted to taking benzos and people who are taking benzos as prescribed by their doctor can experience severe withdrawal symptoms. Regardless of the amount or length that the person was consuming benzos, it is incredibly likely that they will undergo withdrawal symptoms once they stop taking them.
That being said, people who take higher dosages for longer typically experience worse withdrawal symptoms than those who take lower doses for shorter times.
The symptoms of benzo withdrawal are both mentally and physically painful and challenging. Therefore, people who take higher doses of benzos over an extended time should never quit cold turkey. This is because they tend to have more intense withdrawal symptoms that can be life-threatening and dangerous.
The most common side effects caused by benzo withdrawal include disturbances in their sleep pattern, anxiety or panic attacks, and a craving for more drugs. In addition, there are more intense symptoms, including heart palpitations, muscle stiffness, tremors, perception issues, and trouble concentrating.
Many people experience headaches and tension in their bodies when dealing with benzo withdrawal.
Some rare symptoms can occur from benzo withdrawal, but they are much more severe than the typical symptoms listed above. In severe and long-term benzo addiction cases, hallucinations and seizures can occur during withdrawal and detox.
Psychosis and suicidal thoughts or actions are also possible with these more severe withdrawal symptoms. Therefore, monitoring your symptoms as you go through benzo withdrawal and ensuring you are not putting yourself or anybody else in danger is incredibly important.
The common symptoms will typically begin 1 to 4 days after the last dose of benzos and will kick in at a different frequency depending on how long and how many benzos were taken. The rebound effects of benzo withdrawal which include anxiety attacks or insomnia, typically last from 2 to 3 days.
Benzodiazepines have a half-life that varies from brand to brand. Short-acting benzos will have withdrawal symptoms set on sooner than long-acting benzos. This is because short-acting benzos leave the body faster than long-acting ones.
This means that withdrawal signs typically begin within six to eight hours after taking short-acting benzo in 24 to 48 hours for longer-acting benzodiazepines.
Within 6 to 8 hours of the last dose, the user will begin to feel common symptoms such as anxiety, sleeplessness, and discomfort. 1 to 4 days after taking the last dose, the rebound symptoms will peak. This is around when intense feelings of discomfort and anxiety will kick in. This includes the common symptoms of withdrawal associated with benzos.
The symptoms will continue within the next week to two weeks until they eventually fade away. Longer-acting benzos will peak within one to two weeks, while shorter-acting ones will fade away.
For those who were heavily dependent on consuming benzos for a very long time, they may face something called post-acute withdrawal symptoms. These are randomly occurring moments of intense withdrawal symptoms that can happen for months after dealing with detox and withdrawal.
For those dealing with a heavy dependence on benzos, it is recommended that they gradually wean themselves off of benzo use with a medical professional’s help. This can prevent post-acute withdrawal symptoms.
While weaning off your dose can help, you may still experience some benzo withdrawal symptoms.
How To Get The Help You Need & Deserve When Struggling With An Addiction To Benzos
If you or a loved one is dealing with an addiction to benzos, you are not alone. Thousands of people are in the same position as you: searching for help. Luckily, options and treatment plans can help you get your life back on track.
Reaching out to a professional facility such as a treatment center can help you gain confidence, sobriety, and life. You must take this step for yourself. It may seem like a scary, challenging road, but it is a journey you will surely be grateful you took.
Please reach out to Epiphany today to begin your journey towards sobriety and gaining control of your life back from benzodiazepine addiction.
Epiphany has sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations for our references. We avoid using tertiary references as our sources. You can learn more about how we source our references by reading our Editorial Policy.
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- Osborn CO. How Long Does Withdrawal From Benzodiazepines Last? Verywell Mind. Published November 5, 2021. Accessed August 9, 2022. https://www.verywellmind.com/benzodiazepine-withdrawal-4588452
- Semel Institute for Neuroscience & Human Behavior. Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS) | Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior. Accessed August 9, 2022. https://www.semel.ucla.edu/dual-diagnosis-program/News_and_Resources/PAWS