Are Benzodiazepines Really That Addictive?

discussing benzo use

Benzodiazepines, or benzos, are a class of prescription medications commonly prescribed to treat anxiety, insomnia and other medical conditions. While these drugs can be highly effective when used under the discretion of a healthcare professional, they are not without risk. For some individuals, it can take just a matter of weeks before they become addicted to benzodiazepines. 

Let’s learn more about why benzos are prescribed - despite their risks - the addictive nature of the drugs and the importance of responsible use. It’s also important to know that if you or someone you know is dependent on benzos, a full recovery is possible with help from a benzodiazepine addiction treatment center in Lehigh Valley

What Makes Benzodiazepines Addictive 

Benzodiazepines work by enhancing the effects of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), a neurotransmitter that reduces brain activity. This calming effect can provide much-needed relief for individuals experiencing anxiety, panic attacks or sleep disorders. Common benzodiazepines include Xanax, Valium, Ativan and Klonopin.

The reasons why benzos are alluring to some are: 

  • Quick relief. Benzos offer rapid relief. When consumed, they can provide almost immediate relief from anxiety and panic, creating a strong psychological reward.
  • Tolerance and dependence. Over time, the body may build up a tolerance to benzos. As a result, individuals may find themselves needing higher doses to achieve the same effects. This can lead to physical and psychological dependence, making quitting difficult. 
  • Withdrawal symptoms. Attempting to quit benzodiazepines after prolonged use can lead to uncomfortable and sometimes severe withdrawal symptoms, including anxiety, insomnia, tremors and even seizures. These symptoms can further reinforce the addiction.
  • Co-occurring substance use. Benzodiazepines are sometimes abused in conjunction with other substances, such as opioids or alcohol, which can significantly increase the risk of addiction.

The Importance of Responsible Use

It's crucial to emphasize that benzodiazepines are not inherently evil. When prescribed by a healthcare professional and used as directed, they can be safe and effective tools for managing anxiety and sleep disorders. However, the risk of addiction underscores the importance of responsible use, particularly if you use the drug longer term. 

If your doctor feels that benzodiazepines can benefit your health, here are some tips to ensure safe use: 

  • Open communication. Be honest with your healthcare provider about your medical history, including any past issues with substance abuse. Once doctors know this, they may prescribe a different medication, such as an anticonvulsant or antidepressant. 
  • Follow prescribed guidelines. Always take benzodiazepines exactly as prescribed. Do not increase the dose or frequency without consulting your healthcare provider.
  • Regular monitoring. If you are on a long-term benzodiazepine regimen, your healthcare provider should periodically reassess your treatment plan to determine its continued necessity.
  • Alternative therapies. Explore alternative therapies and non-pharmacological approaches for managing anxiety and insomnia. These may include cognitive-behavioral therapy, relaxation techniques and lifestyle changes.

Benzodiazepine Addiction Treatment Center in Lehigh Valley 

Benzodiazepines can be beneficial for those who genuinely need them, but their addictive potential should not be taken lightly. Responsible use, honest communication with healthcare providers and a commitment to exploring non-pharmacological alternatives are essential steps in minimizing the risk of addiction. 

If you or someone you know is struggling with benzodiazepine addiction, contact Recovery Cove at 484-549-COVE. Our rehab facility treats benzo addictions using behavioral therapies, individual counseling and group therapy. We also teach our clients how to manage their anxiety using alternative therapies and practices. A full recovery from benzo addiction is possible with our treatment team!