Noticing a change in your loved one isn’t always alarming. If this continues over time, or the changes you notice are a bit more drastic, you might start to wonder about why. If you’re theorizing that potential substance use might be the cause or even misuse of a prescription they take, how can you know? In the case of benzodiazepine misuse, there are some things you can look out for to know if this is the source. So what are the signs of benzodiazepine addiction?
Here at Shadow Mountain Recovery, we offer treatment options for all forms of substance misuse. We’re well-versed in many kinds of substances and what signs to look for. We like to share this information with our clients. Having educational, easy-to-access information is an important part of destigmatizing substance use and recovery overall. This information can also help people make informed decisions about their health when they need it most.
Signs of Benzodiazepine Misuse
Benzodiazepines can show a few different side effects from misuse. It’s important to know that benzodiazepines (commonly known as benzos) have two primary forms: long-acting and short-acting. This refers to the amount of time it takes for the benzo to start working in your body, as well as the amount of time it takes for it to exit your body.
These differences mean that side effects and signs may vary in time windows based on what kind of benzos someone takes. Valium and Xanax are both well-known benzos, but Valium is long-acting while Xanax is short-acting.
Even though benzos primarily impact your central nervous system, the signs of benzo misuse can impact all areas of your body. Let’s talk about a few you might notice.
Physical and Mental Health Effects of Benzodiazepine Use Disorder
Even those taking benzos within medical prescription can experience side effects. More side effects are likely to occur and be regularly noticeable, however, when you take benzos long-term or outside of medical direction.
Benzodiazepines are primarily used to help those with anxiety, sleep disorders, and seizure disorders. Despite this, they come with the potential for “paradoxical” side effects, which are side effects that do the opposite of what the medication is intended to do. Some of these paradoxical side effects include aggressive behavior, anxiety, nightmares, hallucinations, feeling detached from your surroundings or reality (known as depersonalization and derealization), restlessness, and delusions.
Some other common side effects of benzo use include:
- Slurred speech
- Memory problems
- Dry mouth
- Muscle weakness
- Blurred vision
- Low blood pressure
The chances of side effects increase the longer you take a medication. Some of these side effects include difficulty concentrating, loss of confidence, increased irritability and lack of patience, feeling like the world is duller, feeling isolated or detached from reality, weight problems, and memory problems.
Recognizing Benzodiazepine Addiction
Many times, dependency and withdrawal symptoms can go hand in hand. When a substance, even a prescription, has withdrawal symptoms that can be alleviated by taking more of the substance, a dependency has begun to develop.
Due to how benzos go through a person’s system, withdrawal symptoms are common even for those taking them as prescribed. Many benzodiazepines have a short half-life, meaning that it doesn’t take long for them to enter and exit the body. When our bodies have a substance inside of them, they can adjust to their presence and help. If the substance then suddenly leaves the body, the lack of substance can make the body react, causing withdrawal.
The more often you take a substance, however, the more likely you are to experience withdrawal. For those who are taking benzos outside of medical direction, withdrawal and the inability to stop taking benzos, even when you want to, can be a major sign of benzodiazepine use disorder.
Exhibiting Benzodiazepine Withdrawal Symptoms
Withdrawal from benzodiazepines can start as soon as a few hours after your last dose for short-acting benzos, or up to a couple of weeks after your last dose for long-acting benzos. Regardless of the type of benzos you’re taking, the symptoms you might experience during withdrawal are the same.
Physical symptoms of withdrawal –
- Abdominal cramps
- Sensitivity to light, sound, smells, and touch
- Nausea and vomiting
- Face and neck pain
- Pins and needles on your hands and feet
- Sore eyes and tongue
- Muscle twitching
- Burning sensation on your skin
Psychological symptoms of withdrawal –
- Difficulty sleeping and nightmares
- Memory loss
- Depersonalization and derealisation
- Panic attacks
Experiencing Benzodiazepine Overdose
Overdose happens when the substance levels inside of a person’s body are too much for it to properly process. Most benzo overdoses are not fatal on their own.However, many people who take benzos recreationally combine them with other substances. This can not only make overdoses more likely but also more deadly.
If you combine benzos with other depressants, the effects of them can be amplified. If normal dosages are taken before the effects kick in, you can risk overdosing. For those who take benzos with stimulants, the two can make the effects of the other lessen. Because of this, it’s easy to not realize how affected you are by the substances. This can lead to people taking more than they normally would without realizing how much they’ve taken. Any of these situations can increase your risk of overdose.
If you start experiencing any of these symptoms, or you notice a loved one displaying any of these symptoms, they might be experiencing an overdose:
- Jitteriness and elevated excitability
- Slowed or shallow breathing
- Unconsciousness or over-sedation
- Mood swings or aggression
Other symptoms might appear if you have other substances in your system as well. If you start noticing things like pinpoint pupils, confusion, seizures, or sudden changes in behavior, these could also be signs of an overdose.
Benzo Addiction Statistics
Benzodiazepines are prescribed to over 5% of adults in the United States. Of those adults, the age group with the highest prescription is adults ages 50-64, accounting for 12.9% of the total. Over 5.3 million adults, however, reported misusing benzodiazepines within the last year. Amongst those who claimed misuse, the highest age group was 18 to 25-year-olds.
In 2020 alone, benzos were involved in over 12,000 deaths in the United States. These deaths were mainly from benzos mixed with opioids. For every 100,000 ER visits in the United States, 30 of them were emergencies involving benzos.
Getting Treatment for Benzodiazepine Addiction
The first step on the road to recovery might feel like the hardest, but it doesn’t have to be. Our team is full of licensed medical professionals who know how to make sure you reach your healing goals. We know that every client that walks through our doors is unique which is why we offer more than just a12-step program. We have a variety of evidence-based benzo treatment options to ensure you find something that works best for you.
If you have any questions about treatment plans, recovery, or anything else, don’t hesitate to give us a call today at 800-203-8249. We’re here and ready to help get you started on the path you want to be on.
FAQs About Benzo Addiction Treatment
What signs to recognize that a loved one is abusing Benzodiazepine?
If you start noticing things like sudden changes in anxiety, memory problems, slurred speech, difficulties sleeping, increased headaches, blurry vision, and muscle tremors – these are all side effects of benzodiazepine use.
What are the dangers of Benzodiazepine abuse?
Benzodiazepine misuse can lead to dependency and withdrawal. Some major side effects that can occur from this include anxiety, seizures, panic attacks, delusions, hallucinations, depersonalization, depression, and memory loss.