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Benefits of Benzo Rehab: Signs, Symptoms, and Treatments

Last Medical Review On: July 14, 2024
Updated On: July 14, 2024
6 min read
Written by:

Amanda Stevens, B.S.

Medical Review by:

Dr. Po-Chang Hsu, M.D., M.S.

Benzodiazepines (benzos) are a class of drugs known for their sedative, hypnotic, and anxiolytic properties.[1] Initially prescribed for the treatment of anxiety, insomnia, and seizure disorders.

Despite their therapeutic benefits, benzos carry significant risks of dependence, addiction, and overdose, especially when used outside of medical supervision. Benzos can produce a euphoric high and a sense of calmness, leading individuals to misuse them for recreational purposes or to enhance the effects of other substances.

Benzodiazepine Addiction

Key Points

  • Benzodiazepines are used to treat anxiety, insomnia, and seizure disorders.
  • Benzos can induce euphoria and calmness, leading to misuse for recreational purposes or to enhance the effects of other substances.
  • Benzodiazepines are classified as Schedule IV substances by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), indicating their recognized medical utility but also their potential for abuse and dependence.
  • Addiction treatment for benzos can involve various levels of care, including medical detox, medically managed care, and residential inpatient treatment.
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    What Are Benzos?

    Benzodiazepines, which include well-known medications such as Xanax (alprazolam), Valium (diazepam), and Ativan (lorazepam), exert powerful effects on the central nervous system, leading to an increase in sedation.[2] Every year, approximately 30.6 million adults, representing 12.6% of the adult population, report using benzodiazepines within the past year. Among them, 25.3 million individuals (10.4%) use benzodiazepines as prescribed, while 5.3 million individuals (2.2%) admit to misusing them in the USA in 2015 and 2016.[3]

    While benzodiazepines can be effective for treating legitimate medical conditions when used as prescribed, they are also prone to abuse, especially when taken in higher doses or combined with other substances like alcohol or opioids.

    Illicit trafficking of benzodiazepines has become a significant concern in recent decades, with these drugs being sold on the black market in various forms. Counterfeit benzodiazepines are often manufactured with little regard for quality control, leading to variability in potency and composition. This lack of consistency increases the risk of accidental overdose and other adverse reactions among users.

    Benzodiazepines are classified as Schedule IV substances by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), indicating their recognized medical utility but also their potential for abuse and dependence.[4]

    Benzodiazepine Addiction and Abuse

    Benzodiazepines are addictive due to their impact on the brain’s neurotransmitter system, particularly the gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) neurotransmitter.[5] GABA helps regulate brain activity by reducing the activity of neurons, resulting in feelings of calmness and relaxation.

    The wide availability of benzodiazepines in multiple formulations, such as pills and tablets, increases the likelihood of misuse and abuse. Additionally, the prevalence of counterfeit or illegally manufactured benzodiazepines exacerbates the problem, as individuals may unknowingly consume substances with unpredictable potency and composition.

    Benzodiazepine Quick Reference Chart

    Drug Category Anxiolytic
    Commercial & Street Names Bars, Benzos, Blues, Downers, K-Pin, Planks, Tranks, Zannies
    DEA Schedule Schedule IV
    Administration Ingested, snorted


    Statistics on Benzodiazepine Use, Misuse, and Addiction

    Benzodiazepines have become increasingly widespread in the United States, with over 5% of the adult population being prescribed these medications.[6]

    Analysis of emergency department (ED) visits spanning from 1999 to 2006 revealed an upward trend in poisonings related to opioids, sedatives, and tranquilizers.[7] Notably, the largest absolute growth in poisoning cases was attributed to benzodiazepines. Moreover, benzodiazepine-related overdose mortality experienced a five-fold increase from 1996 to 2013.

    The highest rates of misuse of benzos were observed among young adults aged 18 to 25, with 5.2% reporting misuse, while adults aged 65 and older exhibited the lowest rates at 0.6% in the USA in 2015 and 2016.[8] There is a strong association between benzodiazepine misuse and the misuse or dependence on prescription stimulants or opioids, highlighting the interconnected nature of substance abuse issues within certain demographics.

    Benzodiazepine Addiction and Abuse

    Benzodiazepine addiction can severely impact your physical and mental well-being. Long-term misuse of benzodiazepines may result in a range of adverse effects, including disrupted sleep patterns, changes in appetite, gastrointestinal issues, and psychological symptoms like irritability and aggression.[9]

    Additionally, the cessation of benzodiazepine use can trigger withdrawal symptoms, which can be severe and debilitating. Withdrawal can be physically and emotionally challenging—and, in some cases, even fatal—presenting significant obstacles to recovery and making it difficult for individuals to discontinue use without professional support and intervention.

    Effects of Fentanyl Abuse

    Physical Health Effects

    Benzodiazepine use can lead to various physical health effects when abused, including:[10]

    • Respiratory depression, especially when combined with other depressants like alcohol or opioids
    • Drowsiness, sedation, and impaired coordination
    • Muscle weakness
    • Gastrointestinal disturbances like nausea and constipation
    • Headaches and dizziness
    • Memory impairment and cognitive difficulties
    • Tolerance, dependence, and withdrawal symptoms upon discontinuation

    Risks and Complications

    The use of benzodiazepines carries the risk of developing tolerance and dependence over time, necessitating higher doses to achieve the desired effects. Dependence on benzodiazepines can lead to compulsive drug-seeking behavior and difficulties in controlling use despite negative consequences.

    Moreover, benzodiazepine overdose can have fatal consequences, particularly when individuals consume doses exceeding therapeutic limits

    Benzo Rehab, Addiction, and Mental Health Interventions

    Benzodiazepine use often intersects with co-occurring issues, exacerbating the complexity of benzo rehab and addiction management.[11] Individuals who misuse benzodiazepines frequently experience concurrent mental health disorders or substance use disorders, complicating their clinical picture and treatment approach.

    One common co-occurring issue with benzodiazepine use is the presence of anxiety disorders. While benzodiazepines are often prescribed to alleviate symptoms of anxiety, their long-term use can paradoxically worsen anxiety symptoms and lead to dependence. Untangling the interplay between benzodiazepine use and underlying anxiety disorders is crucial for effective treatment planning.

    Similarly, individuals with mood disorders such as depression may turn to benzodiazepines for relief of symptoms like agitation or insomnia. However, benzodiazepines can also dampen mood and exacerbate depressive symptoms, potentially leading to a cycle of worsening mental health.

    Benzodiazepines Addiction Treatment

    Benzo rehab typically involves a holistic, multifaceted approach. In addition to gradual tapering (detox) under medical supervision to minimize withdrawal symptoms and prevent relapse, engagement with ongoing counseling and support groups can help individuals address underlying issues contributing to benzodiazepine misuse and develop coping strategies for managing cravings and triggers.

    Benzodiazepine Addiction Treatment Levels of Care

    If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, then it’s important to seek out the appropriate care. Benzo addiction treatment requires a personalized approach tailored to your individual needs and circumstances:

    • Medical Detoxification (Detox): Detoxification, often referred to as detox, is the process of removing toxic substances, such as drugs or alcohol, from the body. It typically involves supervised withdrawal from the substance of abuse in a controlled setting, such as a medical facility or specialized detox center. The goal of detox is to manage the physical symptoms of withdrawal safely and comfortably while preparing individuals for ongoing treatment and rehabilitation.
    • Medically Managed Care: Medically managed care integrates medical expertise with therapeutic interventions to optimize patient outcomes and promote recovery. Medical professionals closely monitor patients’ progress, adjust treatment plans as needed, and coordinate care with other treatment team members to provide comprehensive and individualized support.
    • Inpatient Residential Treatment: Residential inpatient treatment offers individuals an organized setting that fosters recovery. Clients reside at the treatment facility full-time, benefiting from comprehensive care from a diverse professional team. Through a meticulously planned regimen of therapy sessions, group engagements, and support networks, inpatient treatment empowers individuals to concentrate solely on their path to recovery, shielded from external distractions or triggers.

    Therapies Used in Benzodiazepine Addiction Treatment

    Alpas offers several evidence-based treatment approaches to treat addiction and co-occurring issues:

    • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a widely employed therapeutic method centered on recognizing and tackling detrimental thought patterns and behaviors linked to addiction. In CBT sessions, individuals acquire coping mechanisms, problem-solving abilities, and strategies to handle cravings and triggers.
    • Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT): DBT integrates cognitive-behavioral methods with practical tactics to assist individuals in regulating emotions, enhancing interpersonal connections, and fostering distress tolerance skills. Within addiction treatment, DBT targets the emotional dysregulation frequently associated with substance abuse, aiming to address underlying issues.
    • Motivational Interviewing (MI): Motivational Interviewing (MI) is a person-centered method to bolster innate motivation for transformation. In addiction treatment, MI assists individuals in navigating their mixed feelings about substance use and recovery. Therapists engage in empathetic dialogue and collaborative discussions to help clients uncover their core values, objectives, and dreams.
    • Contingency Management: Contingency management is a behavior therapy method employing positive reinforcement to promote desired behaviors, such as abstaining from substance use. This approach incentivizes individuals to accomplish treatment objectives, like attending therapy sessions, refraining from drug use, or reaching milestones in their recovery process.
    • Motivational Enhancement Therapy (MET): MET is a purpose-driven therapeutic strategy crafted to amplify individuals’ inherent motivation and dedication to transformation. Using organized discussions and tailored feedback, MET endeavors to probe into uncertainty surrounding behavior modification, pinpoint personal values and aspirations, and fortify self-assurance. Diverging from traditional therapies, MET doesn’t extensively investigate the origins of addiction; rather, it concentrates on nurturing a robust internal impetus for constructive transformation.
    • Experiential Therapy: Experiential therapy employs hands-on activities and immersive experiences to foster emotional processing and individual development. Rather than relying solely on verbal communication, experiential therapy involves individuals in diverse activities like role-playing, art therapy, and outdoor excursions. These activities offer individuals opportunities to delve into and articulate their emotions, tackle obstacles, and build new coping strategies within a supportive and accepting atmosphere.
    • Relapse Prevention: Relapse prevention involves identifying and managing triggers, devising coping strategies, and establishing a structured plan to avert relapse. Participants are educated to identify early warning signs of relapse, such as stress or negative emotions, and equipped with skills to manage these challenges effectively. By enhancing self-awareness and providing practical tools, relapse prevention therapy empowers individuals to navigate difficult circumstances and sustain long-term sobriety.
    • Twelve-Step Facilitation: Twelve-step facilitation involves active participation in programs like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Narcotics Anonymous (NA) to support recovery from addiction. Individuals engage in group meetings, work through the Twelve Steps, and receive encouragement from peers with similar experiences, fostering a sense of community and accountability.

    Alpas Wellness is among the standout addiction treatment centers Maryland offers. We provide evidence-based therapies and holistic care. Our tranquil surroundings and empathetic team provide an ideal atmosphere for healing and restoration.

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    Frequently Asked Questions About Benzodiazepines


    How long does benzodiazepine withdrawal typically last, and what are the common withdrawal symptoms?


    Benzodiazepine withdrawal duration can vary depending on factors such as the individual’s dosage, duration of use, and overall health. Withdrawal symptoms typically begin within hours to days after discontinuing or reducing benzodiazepine use and may last for several weeks or even months. Common withdrawal symptoms include anxiety, insomnia, irritability, tremors, sweating, and muscle spasms.


    Are there any medications or strategies that can help with benzodiazepine withdrawal or cravings?


    Medications such as diazepam (Valium) or other long-acting benzodiazepines may be used during benzodiazepine withdrawal to taper off the drug gradually and reduce the severity of withdrawal symptoms. Additionally, certain medications like antidepressants or anticonvulsants may be prescribed to manage specific withdrawal symptoms or co-occurring conditions. Behavioral therapies and support groups can also be beneficial in providing coping strategies and emotional support during the withdrawal process.


    How can I support a loved one who is struggling with benzodiazepine abuse or addiction?


    Supporting a loved one struggling with benzodiazepine abuse or addiction involves offering non-judgmental support, encouraging them to seek professional help, and assisting them in accessing treatment resources. It’s important to educate yourself about benzodiazepines and addiction, listen to their concerns without judgment, and provide emotional support throughout their recovery journey. Encouraging healthy lifestyle choices, such as regular exercise and stress management techniques, can also be helpful. Additionally, setting boundaries and seeking support from friends, family, or support groups can be crucial in maintaining your well-being while supporting your loved one.


    [1] Cleveland Clinic. (2023, March 1). Benzodiazepines: What They Are, Uses, Side Effects & Risks. Cleveland Clinic. on April 3, 2024

    [2] Bounds, C. G., & Nelson, V. L. (2023, January 7). Benzodiazepines. National Library of Medicine; StatPearls Publishing. on April 3, 2024

    [3] Maust, D. T., Lin, L. A., & Blow, F. C. (2019). Benzodiazepine Use and Misuse Among Adults in the United States. Psychiatric Services, 70(2), 97–106. on April 3, 2024

    [4] Drug Enforcement Administration. (n.d.). Benzodiazepines. on April 3, 2024

    [5] Edinoff, A. N., Nix, C. A., Hollier, J., Sagrera, C. E., Delacroix, B. M., Abubakar, T., Cornett, E. M., Kaye, A. M., & Kaye, A. D. (2021). Benzodiazepines: Uses, Dangers, and Clinical Considerations. Neurology International, 13(4), 594–607. on April 3, 2024

    [6] Maust, D. T., Lin, L. A., & Blow, F. C. (2019). Benzodiazepine Use and Misuse Among Adults in the United States. Psychiatric Services, 70(2), 97–106. on April 3, 2024

    [7] Tadros, A., Layman, S. M., Davis, S. M., Davidov, D. M., & Cimino, S. (2015). Emergency Visits for Prescription Opioid Poisonings. The Journal of Emergency Medicine, 49(6), 871–877. on April 3, 2024

    [8] Maust, D. T., Lin, L. A., & Blow, F. C. (2019). Benzodiazepine Use and Misuse Among Adults in the United States. Psychiatric Services, 70(2), 97–106. on April 3, 2024

    [9] Johnson, B., & Streltzer, J. (2013). Risks Associated with Long-Term Benzodiazepine Use. American Family Physician, 88(4), 224–225. on April 3, 2024

    [10] Bounds, C. G., & Nelson, V. L. (2023, January 7). Benzodiazepines. National Library of Medicine; StatPearls Publishing. on April 3, 2024

    [11] Jessell, L., Stanhope, V., Manuel, J. I., & Mateu-Gelabert, P. (2020). Factors associated with benzodiazepine prescribing in community mental health settings. Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, 109, 56–60. on April 3, 2024

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