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Symptoms and Signs of Benzo Addiction

The anti-anxiety and sedating effects of benzodiazepines are well established by numerous placebo-controlled studies. As a class of drugs, benzos share many clinical properties, but varying factors such as potency, half-life, duration of treatment, rate of dosage and co-occurring drug use determine side effects. When used alone, benzos have an extremely low risk of acute toxicity. However, benzos are frequently abused and taken with alcohol, illicit drugs or other types of medications with abuse potential. Overdoses in addicted patients often involve the combination of benzos and alcohol, with or without opioids. This type of abuse increases central nervous system depression, thereby causing respiratory suppression, which can lead to coma and death.1

While all drugs have side effects, high doses of benzodiazepines generally produce more serious symptoms due to heightened benzo addiction. Any of the following symptoms may occur.1,3

  • Varying degrees of drowsiness
  • Blurred vision
  • Lightheadedness
  • Dizziness
  • Fainting
  • Poor coordination, balance or unsteadiness
  • Muscle weakness
  • Amnesia
  • Confusion
  • Hostility
  • Irritability
  • Disturbing dreams
  • Reduced inhibition
  • Impaired judgment2

Chronic abuse of benzos can also elicit some of the same symptoms the drugs are intended to alleviate.3

  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Headaches
  • Weakness
  • Tremors

Nonspecific Signs of Addiction

Signs of chronic drug abuse may be nonspecific, including changes in appearance and behavior, and can  affect interpersonal relationships and work performance. Warning signs in children include sudden changes in mood or faltering school performance. If you suspect a friend or loved one is abusing benzos, the following may be potential signs of abuse.2

  • Odd detachment from life
  • Disinterest in matters that were once important to them
  • Abrupt cessation in attending family events
  • Pill bottles from multiple doctors
  • Plastic bags with pills or pill bottles with someone else’s name
  • Multiple visits to hospital emergency rooms

Symptoms in Older Adults

Benzodiazepine misuse in older adults is sometimes associated with an increased rate of falls that cause hip and femur fractures and a heightened risk of motor vehicle crashes. Cognitive impairment is common, although memory impairment may be reversible when benzos are discontinued. Cognitive deterioration associated with normal aging and dementia can be exacerbated due to benzo side effects.1,3

If you or someone you know is exhibiting any of the above symptoms, call The Right Step at 844-877-1781 for a confidential consultation.

  1. Longo LP, Johnson B. Addiction: Part I. Benzodiazepines – side effects, abuse risk and alternatives. Am Fam Physician. 2000 Apr 1;61(7):2121-8.
  2. Signs and Symptoms of Benzodiazepine Abuse. Narconon website. http://www.narconon.org/drug-abuse/signs-symptoms-benzodiazepine-use.html Accessed October 3, 2016.
  3. Benzodiazepine Abuse. eMedicineHealth website. http://www.emedicinehealth.com/benzodiazepine_abuse/article_em.htm Updated June 1, 2016. Accessed October 3, 2016.
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