Understanding Benzodiazepine Use, Abuse, Addiction & Recovery

benzo doctor

Benzos are Prescribed for Good Reason but Can be Addictive!

Facts About Benzodiazepines

  • Benzodiazepines are among the most commonly prescribed medications in the U.S.
  • “Benzos” are usually prescribed to help with anxiety disorders, insomnia, and seizures
  • Benzodiazepines are considered major drugs of abuse because of their habit forming qualities
  • Benzodiazepines can have significant side effects, especially when they are used for extended periods of time

Benzodiazepines are prescribed in pill form. Usually they are prescribed for legitimate reasons, such as the relief of short-term stress such as a major life change or the death of a loved one. However, benzos have become one of the most frequently abused prescription drugs in the U.S. Some people abuse prescriptions they obtain for themselves, while other get the drug through illicit means.

Long-term use of benzodiazepines leads to tolerance and addiction, often with powerful and dangerous withdrawal.

Benzodiazepines are Called

  • Benzos
  • Downers
  • Tranqs
  • Quaaludes
  • ‘Ludes
  • Z Bars (for “Xanax”)
  • Sleepers
  • Zannys (for “Xanax”)

Benzodiazepines may be called by their brand names, as well.

Brand Names for Various Benzos1

  • Ativan
  • Valium
  • Xanax
  • Ativan
  • Restoril
  • Librium
  • Klonopin

Different drugs have different names overseas and street names will vary by region.

Symptoms/Signs of Benzodiazepine Abuse

Benzodiazepines are sedatives, and often a person who is abusing a Benzo will often appear sedated to others. They may slur their words or fall asleep easily. They may have blurry or double vision. A person who abuses benzos may seem confused or “slow” in their speech2 or reaction times. Some users may not remember what happened while they were on the drug.

A person who is abusing benzos may keep stashes of pills around the house or ration them by cutting them in half.

Dangers of Long-Term Effects Benzodiazepine Use

Benzo abuse is dangerous, especially because users can often develop a tolerance to the drug, risking overdose. Some users who take other drugs or drink while abusing Benzos can experience serious issues with their heart, lungs or liver. They often risk overdose, which can lead to comas, respiratory arrest, and death.

Long-term, chronic users of benzodiazepines may have a weakened immune system, experiencing increased respiratory infections, vertigo and headaches. They may have trouble sleeping or eating. They often develop an addiction that can really turn their life upside down.

Signs and Symptoms of Benzodiazepine Dependence/Addiction

Many Benzo users become dependent on the drug and begin to take it in higher doses to get high. They will often exhibit “drug-seeking behavior,” such as:

  • doctor shopping
  • forging prescriptions
  • buying the drug on the internet or off the street

As a user becomes addicted, their life may seem like it’s spinning out of control. They may spend more time to themselves. They may have trouble maintaining their friendships and family relationships. Addicted people often experience financial problems or job losses, as the drug takes over more and more of their life. They will spend a lot of time trying to get and use the drug, often letting other responsibilities fall by the wayside.

As with many drugs, we like to point out that sometimes the most striking evidence that someone is addicted is their behavior when they can’t get the drug. A person who is dependent on benzos often becomes irritable, angry, or explosive when they are prevented from taking the drug. They may suffer from anxiety attacks or severe depression without their “medication.”

Long-term benzodiazepine users can experience dangerous and painful withdrawal symptoms when they try to quit using the drug. For this reason, addiction professionals recommend that a doctor should medically supervise detox or tapering off of benzodiazepines. A trained clinician can monitor the user for any symptoms and can even prescribe medication to help with any painful side effects.

How to Get Help with a Benzodiazepine Addiction

If your are concerned that you or someone you love is addicted to  benzos, you’re in the right place. You can learn to reclaim your life and find a new way to live. We’d love to help you start your path to recovery! Please give us a call. It’s 100% confidential and we’ll do our best to answer any questions you may have.


1.Drug Fact Sheet: Benzodiazepines, available here.
2.Benzodiazepine Pharmacology and Central Nervous System–Mediated Effects, available here.