Benzodiazepine addiction can come about quickly and without much warning. Many people first start taking benzos with a valid prescription for a condition such as insomnia, anxiety, or panic attacks. Benzo addiction can develop in as little as a few weeks, even when you have followed your prescription properly. Learning to recognise the signs and dangers can make all the difference.
What are benzos?
Benzodiazepines (benzos) are prescription drugs used to treat anxiety, panic, and other mental health disorders. Benzos are central nervous system depressants that slow down activity in the brain, making you feel calm and relaxed.
How does benzo addiction develop?
Benzos work by increasing the availability of a chemical messenger called GABA. It inhibits other chemical messengers, disrupting communication between different regions of your brain. This slows down your brain and body, reducing stress, anxiety, and panic.
These effects on the brain make benzos very addictive. This is partly due to people wanting to chase the feelings of calmness and euphoria it brings, but also down to the fact that the brain quickly became dependent on benzos to maintain normal GABA levels.
Using benzos increases dopamine levels in the brain and motivates you to take the drug again. Repeated use reinforces this sense of motivation, and you develop strong cravings for benzos. This can then lead to faking prescriptions or even buying street benzos, which can be cut or mixed with unknown substances.
What Underlies benzodiazepine Addiction?
Addiction is usually driven by underlying issues, such as mental illness or experiences of trauma. Substance abuse is often an attempt to cope with emotional distress. If this issue is left unaddressed, it can cause addictive behaviour to restart even after years of abstinence.
Recognising benzo addiction
Some signs and symptoms to look out for in yourself include:
- Benzo use becoming the priority in your life
- Neglect of home and work responsibilities due to benzo use
- Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when trying to quit benzos
- Trying to stop using benzos but being unable to
- Continuing to use benzos despite any negative consequences
This list is far from exhaustive and addiction can take many different forms. If you have any concerns about your benzo use, speak to us for expert advice.
What are some different types of benzos?
Xanax is a short-acting benzo with a half-life of around eleven hours. You usually feel the effects of Xanax within an hour, and they tend to peak one to two hours after taking the drug.
Ativan has a slightly longer half-life than Xanax, averaging around twelve hours. You can find Ativan in tablet or liquid form. Ativan usually has a slower onset than Xanax, but the effects tend to last for a couple of hours longer.
Valium (also known by the name Diazepam) is a long-acting benzo with a much longer half-life than Xanax or Ativan, averaging about forty-eight hours.
Klonopin is a medium-acting or long-acting benzo with a shorter half-life than Valium but a longer half-life than Xanax or Ativan.
Understanding enabling behaviours
Loved ones with good intentions may accidentally enable someone’s benzodiazepine addiction.
Enabling behaviours can include:
- Helping someone to acquire benzos
- Offering them financial support
- Hiding their addiction from others
- Calling in sick for them at work if they are ill from benzo abuse
- Taking on their responsibilities
While it can be difficult to take a step back, it’s important to remember that benzo addiction is a mental health condition that requires medical support to overcome. If you find yourself doing any of the above, we advise that you put in boundaries and instead encourage the person you are worried about to seek help through benzodiazepine rehab.
Overcoming benzo addiction
At Linwood House, we’re here to make the benzodiazepine recovery process as easy as possible for you. Our expert team can answer your questions and talk you through your next steps.
Our treatment plans teach you the skills you need to overcome benzodiazepine addiction while helping you to heal from within. Contact us today to make the change.