Benzodiazepines, or benzos, are used to treat conditions like anxiety and panic disorder. However, they also carry the risk of abuse, dependence and addiction.

Benzodiazepines, also referred to as benzos, are a class of prescription medications that produce feelings of sedation, relaxation and euphoria. Because benzos can produce these pleasurable effects, their risk of abuse and addiction is high. 

According to the National Drug Intelligence Center, benzos and several other drugs are becoming a growing problem for Georgia residents. Fortunately, Georgia drug and alcohol addiction rehab facilities like The Recovery Village Atlanta can help. Our full-service treatment center has the staff, resources and medical support necessary to help those struggling with addiction to benzodiazepines or other substances. 

What Are Benzodiazepines?

Benzodiazepines are used to treat a variety of conditions, including anxiety, panic disorder, muscle spasms, seizures and alcohol withdrawal. Benzos can also be prescribed to treat insomnia. These medications work by binding to GABA receptors in the brain, which produces a calming feeling. When benzos increase the effects of GABA, electrical activity in the brain is reduced. 

Experts advise that these medications should only be used for short-term relief of symptoms in most cases. This is because long-term use is associated with tolerance, meaning that larger amounts of the drug are needed to produce the same effects. Drug tolerance increases the risk for addiction and misuse. 

Types of Benzodiazepines

Different benzodiazepines may be used to treat different conditions. For instance, short-acting benzos like temazepam and triazolam are used to manage insomnia. Long-acting benzos like lorazepam and alprazolam are used to treat general anxiety. 

In addition, certain benzodiazepines come in different formulations to treat seizures. For example, Diastat is diazepam prepared as a rectal gel delivery system. Medications for seizure treatment require a fast onset of action, and this form of diazepam allows the drug to enter the body quickly and treat seizures. 

Common benzodiazepines and their brand names include: 

  • Alprazolam (Xanax)
  • Clonazepam (Klonopin)
  • Lorazepam (Ativan)
  • Diazepam (Valium)
  • Chlordiazepoxide (Librium)
  • Temazepam (Restoril)
  • Triazolam (Halcion)
  • Flurazepam (Dalmane)
  • Midazolam (Versed)
  • Clorazepate (Tranxene)
  • Oxazepam (Serax)

Why Are Benzodiazepines So Addictive?

Anxiety is the most common mental disorder in the United States. In today’s society, individuals deal with a substantial amount of stress, and symptoms of anxiety and insomnia are becoming more widespread. The calming and sedative effects that benzos produce are an attractive quality for many in our culture. However, benzos are classified as a Schedule IV controlled substance by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency. This indicates that they have a potential for abuse and risk for dependence. 

Tolerance to these medications can also develop fairly quickly. For instance, patients taking a benzo for sleep will generally obtain relief immediately; however, the sedating effects will decrease over time. This requires a person to take higher doses to achieve the same effect. The higher the dose and the longer the duration of use, the more likely benzodiazepine use will lead to addiction. 

Signs of Benzo Addiction

It is important to recognize if an individual is addicted to benzodiazepines so they can receive the proper care. Signs and symptoms involved with benzodiazepine addiction may include

  • Irritability
  • Aggression
  • Hostility
  • Impulsivity
  • Antisocial behavior

Benzo Withdrawal

If a person decides to stop taking these types of medications, the dose must be reduced slowly. This is especially true for someone who is taking high doses or has been on the medicine for a long period of time. 

Stopping these medicines abruptly can lead to withdrawal symptoms, which can be uncomfortable and even dangerous in some cases. It is also important for the dose to be tapered under the direct supervision of a licensed medical professional. This ensures the patient will be appropriately weaned off the medication in a safe manner. 

Benzo Withdrawal Symptoms

Symptoms and risks associated with withdrawal from benzodiazepines include: 

Benzo Withdrawal Timeline

There are two types of withdrawal that can occur when stopping benzodiazepines: acute (short-term) withdrawal and protracted (long-term) withdrawal. Acute withdrawal can occur within several hours to several weeks after stopping a benzo. This time frame will depend on which particular benzo a person is taking. The most serious short-term withdrawal symptom is a seizure, which is common if someone abruptly stops taking the drug. 

Protracted withdrawal typically involves symptoms of anxiety, depression and insomnia. These symptoms may occur within the first week and can persist for many months. This type of withdrawal is generally more prevalent in individuals who have been taking a higher dose of a benzo for a long period of time.

Benzo Detox

Benzo detox is the process of allowing the body to remove benzodiazepines from its system. This should always be done under the supervision of a licensed medical professional, a program called medical detox. Detoxification can involve the gradual tapering of the medication to avoid or minimize withdrawal effects, or may focus solely on treatment to reduce or address withdrawal symptoms as they occur. 

How quickly the dose is tapered depends on the person’s daily dose and how long they have been taking the drug. If someone has been taking the recommended dose provided by the drug manufacturer for a period of one to eight months, then detox occurs over a four-week period. If a person has been taking over 40 mg per day for more than eight months, the medication should be decreased at a rate of 10% per day

Common Questions About Benzos and Benzo Addiction

What Is Benzo Belly?

Benzo belly refers to the gastrointestinal effects associated with benzodiazepine withdrawal. These reactions involve nausea, vomiting, retching, upset stomach and increased saliva in the mouth. 

How Many Days Do Benzos Stay In Your System?

The length of time a benzodiazepine stays in your system depends on the specific drug’s half-life. This is the time it takes for half of the drug’s initial concentration to be eliminated from the body. Drugs with longer half-lives will stay in the body longer. 

Generally, the half-lives of benzodiazepines range from approximately two to 50 hours. Depending on which benzo you are using, this means it can take anywhere from 15 hours to about 10 days for a benzo to completely leave your body. Other factors, such as dose, age and weight, will also affect this. 

How Do Benzodiazepines Work?

Benzos are central nervous system depressants that work by binding to GABA receptors in the brain. When benzodiazepines attach to these receptors, nerve excitability is lowered, which provides a calming and relaxing effect. 

What Is the Strongest Benzodiazepine?

How strong a benzodiazepine is depends on a variety of factors. In general, if it has a longer half-life and is available in lower strengths compared to other benzos, it may be stronger. Alprazolam, clonazepam and lorazepam are considered high-potency benzodiazepines. These three medications have longer half-lives and are available in lower doses than other drugs in this class. 

Benzo Addiction and Abuse Statistics

The use of benzodiazepines has increased dramatically over the years. Between 1996 and 2013, the amount of benzo prescriptions increased by a staggering 67%. Many individuals combine a benzodiazepine with alcohol or an opioid, which increases the risk of abuse and overdose. Addiction and abuse of benzos in Atlanta, Georgia, is also becoming a major problem:

  • In Fulton County, benzos were among the top five drugs involved in drug-related deaths.
  • Out of 94 drug-related deaths in 2010, 11 included the use of a benzo.
  • From 2014 to 2015, the amount of benzodiazepine drug poisoning calls in Atlanta increased by 10%.

Benzo Addiction Treatment

When someone is dealing with benzodiazepine addiction, receiving proper treatment is essential for healing. The type of treatment a person receives will depend on the severity of the addiction, but The Recovery Village Atlanta is equipped to provide all levels of care. 

The treatment process typically begins with medical detox, which provides professional support and 24/7 monitoring for clients withdrawing from benzos. Inpatient rehab allows clients to live onsite while receiving individual therapy, group counseling, medication management and recreational therapies like meditation and yoga. 

The partial hospitalization program provides the same therapies, but clients have more independence and free time. Patients in the intensive outpatient program maintain a rigorous treatment plan, then return home at the end of the day instead of staying overnight. Outpatient rehab allows clients more flexibility with work, school and family obligations as they receive treatment, and is generally recommended for those with milder substance use disorders. 

Get Help Today

Recovering from a benzodiazepine addiction can be difficult to do on your own, but The Recovery Village Atlanta is here to help. Our full-service addiction rehab center is dedicated to helping those with addiction begin a healthier, substance-free life in recovery. Our treatment team includes a range of empathetic health care professionals, each with the credentials and expertise necessary to accommodate the full spectrum of a client’s needs. Contact us today to learn how our addiction treatment programs can help you.

The Recovery Village - Atlanta
By – The Recovery Village Atlanta
The Recovery Village Atlanta builds tailored treatment plans with an understanding that addiction is a mental health disorder and a chronic disease. Read more
Jonathan-Strum
Editor – Jonathan Strum
Jonathan Strum graduated from the University of Nebraska Omaha with a Bachelor's in Communication in 2017 and has been writing professionally ever since. Read more
Jenni-Jacobsen
Medically Reviewed By – Jenni Jacobsen, LSW
Jenni Jacobsen is a licensed social worker through the Ohio Counselor, Social Worker and Marriage and Family Therapist Board. She has seven years of experience working in the social work field, working with clients with addiction-related and mental health diagnoses. Read more
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Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village Atlanta aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.