Addiction or substance abuse disorder is quite prevalent in the US and benzodiazepine addiction has added to the list of abused drugs. This resulted in more and more people needing professional treatment to recover from benzodiazepine addiction.

What is Benzodiazepine?

Benzodiazepine is a prescription medication that is highly addictive. It falls within the class of drugs known as depressants or tranquilizers and is commonly used to treat anxiety, insomnia, and seizures. Examples of this drug are alprazolam, estazolam, and clonazepam.

Effects of Benzodiazepine on the Brain

When treating patients for anxiety or insomnia, the medication targets the Central Nervous System (CNS) and takes effect by slowing brain functions. It calms or sedates the nerves and reduces regular anxiety. But even when used as prescribed, long-term use of the drug can build up tolerance and lead to overuse or addiction.

Misuse or Abuse of Benzodiazepine

Benzodiazepine often ends up being misused or abused by the patient or someone in the patient’s home, thus increasing the risk of dependency or addiction. The risk of getting “hooked” is higher in drugs users who seek and use benzodiazepines illegally. Street names for the drug are “benzos,” “sleeping pills,” and “candy.” When used with alcohol or illicit drugs, such as heroin or cocaine, the chance of overdose increases.

Symptoms of Benzodiazepine Addiction

People addicted to benzodiazepine will compulsively seek the drug and disregard the harm it causes to their physical and mental health. Other symptoms associated with addiction to the antidepressant are:

• Taking more of the drugs than recommended
• Strong cravings leading to non-prescription use
• Crushing and snorting the drug
• Dissolving the tablet or capsule powder to inject into a vein
• Finishing prescription ahead of time
• Signs of withdrawal when they don’t get the drug (e.g., restlessness, nausea, anxiety)
• Behavior changes such as aggressiveness, hostility or mood swings
• Falsifying prescription or lying to get the drug

Reducing the Risk of Addiction

Avoiding the use of benzodiazepines altogether is the safest way to reduce addiction. If use cannot be avoided, taking these steps can help reduce the chance of addiction:

• Use the medication as prescribed
• Stop using the drug when directed to
• Do not use medication prescribed to someone else
• Immediately discard unused benzodiazepines
• While taking benzodiazepines, avoid using alcohol or street drugs, e.g., cocaine
• Do not crush and use the tablet in any form, e.g, snort

Where to Get Help

Getting off benzodiazepines is difficult for many people who are addicted to these drugs. There are addiction treatment centers across the US that diagnose, treat, and help persons recover. Additionally, SAMHSA’s National Helpline, 1-800-662-HELP (4357) offers treatment referral services to those needing help.