Benzodiazepines are a type of medication used as anxiolytics or tranquilliser/ sedatives. They have a calming effect and may be prescribed by doctors for numerous medical conditions, such as insomnia, anxiety, panic attacks, for seizure control and as part of the alcohol withdrawal phase. 

What are benzodiazepines?

Benzodiazepines work by influencing the central nervous system, inducing muscle relaxation and producing sedation, while at the same time lowering anxiety levels. When used in small, controlled doses, they can have a positive impact on the patient’s quality of life that would otherwise be affected by issues such as seizures or insomnia (only used for brief periods). Nevertheless, their potential for abuse is high, given their calming effects. Many individuals who end up developing an addiction will have used these drugs in a legitimate manner, usually prescribed by a doctor.It is useful to note that when patients follow their doctor’s prescription thoroughly, addiction is not likely to occur.

Some of the most common types of benzodiazepines are Valium, Xanax, Ativan, Restoril, Librium and Klonopin. These may be classified according to the duration of their effect: ultra-short acting (Versed, Halcion), short-acting (Xanax, Ativan) or long-acting (Valium, Librium). 

These sedatives may not seem dangerous at first, however, long term use withdrawal may lead to life-threatening situations. Moreover, for many individuals, benzodiazepines are not the only drug used. A common and very dangerous combination is to mix benzodiazepine drugs with alcohol – a practice that can be deadly. 

The best practice for people struggling with benzodiazepine abuse is to seek a medically supervised detox within a specialised, long-term addiction recovery programme, such as Castle Health. 

Negative Effects of Benzodiazepines

Benzodiazepines can be prescribed to relieve anxiety or insomnia as well as to control other legitimate medical conditions. In regular doses, these drugs are usually tolerated well by patients. Nonetheless, high doses of benzodiazepines have a number of negative effects, including the following: 

  • Confusion
  • Drowsiness
  • Dizziness
  • Blurred vision
  • Slurred speech
  • Lack of coordination
  • Difficulty breathing

Even for people who do not abuse this medication taking benzodiazepines may present several adverse effects such as drowsiness or dizziness.

Signs of Benzodiazepine Addiction

Benzodiazepine addiction signs can vary from one individual to another, however, certain behavioural warning signs are common: 

  • Withdrawal from family and friends, not following through with obligations.
  • Uncharacteristic activities, borrowing money, being secretive, etc.
  • Mood swings or personality shifts are apparent.
  •  A deterioration in school or work performance.
  • The person is no longer making an effort to maintain an adequate or pleasant appearance (i.e. he or she may lack personal hygiene or grooming).

As these types of drugs are prescription-based, a sign of addiction may be changing doctors in order to refill the prescription in a different place otherwise known as “doctor shopping”. These drugs can also be obtained on the black market, however, this practice is dangerous because of the uncertainty of the purchase. 

As far as the physical signs of benzodiazepine addiction are concerned, we can list the following:

  • Drowsiness
  • Lack of motor coordination
  • Confusion
  • Poor decision making
  • Coma or death (more commonly when benzos are mixed with alcohol)

Chronic benzodiazepines abusers may also display anorexia and insomnia, anxiety, tremors, headaches and memory problems. 

An individual who has developed a benzodiazepines addiction may show an inability to reduce the dose or stop using it altogether on their own. They may also spend a lot of time using the drug, obtaining it, and will need a long term recovery plan. 

Health Risks of Benzodiazepine Use

The health risks of benzodiazepine abuse are more common in individuals who already display anxiety disorders, mood disorders or insomnia as these types of people will be more likely to find the effects of the drug helpful and will continue to use them, usually in much higher doses to maintain the desired effects. 

Psychomotor retardation, memory impairment and depression are among the health risks associated with benzodiazepines. 

Benzodiazepine Withdrawal Symptoms & Detox

Withdrawal symptoms are possible in individuals who have developed a benzodiazepine dependence. These include cravings for the drug, anxiety and insomnia. Serious symptoms include seizures and, in severe cases, coma and even death. 

In most cases, the symptoms occur within three or four days from the last administration. 

Abruptly stopping taking benzodiazepines can present many negative effects and can be dangerous for the patient. We strongly recommend that chronic users go through the detoxification phase in a medically-supervised safe environment, such as the residential rehab programme available at Castle Health. 

Treatment for Benzodiazepine Addiction at Castle Health

Stopping benzodiazepine use may be difficult for many patients who have been relying on the drug to relieve other medical conditions, especially when the drug has already been administered for a long time.

Residential benzodiazepine addiction treatment is recommended because of the potentially dangerous withdrawal symptoms in chronic users. Complete detoxification from the drug, as well as other substances such as alcohol is the first step in our addiction recovery programme. The medical detox phase is supervised by a qualified team of doctors and nurses and patients recovering from benzodiazepine addiction benefit from ongoing support and the highest quality of care. 

At our Castle Health centres, we personalise each addiction treatment plan so that it fits the patient’s needs. All our patients attend individual and group therapy sessions, as well as complementary therapies such as art or creative writing therapy. Long-term recovery is our main goal and to ensure this we provide a comprehensive continuing care plan which includes individual and group sessions. 

If you are interested in more information about addiction treatment for benzodiazepines and other types of sedatives, please contact us. We will be happy to answer any questions about the Castle Health residential rehab programme.