Benzodiazepine (Benzo) Addiction: Signs, Symptoms and Treatment

Benzo Addiction

The risk of benzo addiction is one of the main reasons that benzodiazepines are only recommended for short-term use.

Benzos are prescription medications used for the treatment of panic disorders and anxiety disorders.

Benzodiazepines work by decreasing activity in the brain and the CNS (central nervous system). This induces a pronounced sense of calm as the effects of a naturally occurring brain chemical called GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) are intensified.

This guide highlights how benzodiazepine addiction can rapidly develop, even with legitimate medical use. You can also discover the safest and most effective detox for benzo addiction, and how to engage with benzo addiction treatment.

What Are Benzos?

Benzodiazepines, frequently abbreviated to benzos, are sedatives and depressants used to treat a variety of conditions, such as:

  • Anxiety
  • Panic attacks
  • Insomnia
  • Seizure


The DEA classifies benzos as schedule IV controlled substances. This means that benzodiazepines have a low potential for misuse and addiction if they are only used short-term and as prescribed. This does not apply in the event of sustained benzodiazepine use.

Medications like Xanax and Klonopin induce calming and sedative effects much like those delivered by opioids. There is much less chance of overdose with benzos than with opioid-based alternatives.

Benzodiazepines have a different mechanism of action to opioids, too. Benzos directly target GABA receptors in the brain.

If you take high doses of benzodiazepines, you could experience vertigo, impaired coordination and balance, and extreme drowsiness.

The effects of benzos last for anywhere from a few hours to the entire day, depending on your tolerance, the type of benzodiazepines, and the dosage.

Some of the most common types of benzodiazepines are as follows:

  • Xanax (alprazolam)
  • Klonopin (clonazepam)
  • Valium (diazepam)
  • Ativan (lorazepam)
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Are Benzos Addictive?

If you use benzodiazepines long-term, they have a strong potential for abuse and addiction.

Tolerance to benzos rapidly forms. As this happens, you will need to take more of the medication or more frequent dosages to get the same effects. With the potency of the medication diminishing as tolerance continues to build, many people continue this vicious cycle and become physically dependent on benzos. If you become dependent on benzodiazepines, intensely uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms will manifest if you discontinue use.

Tolerance and withdrawal symptoms are both diagnostic criteria for benzo addiction.

Abusing any type of benzo long-term will bring about structural and functional changes to areas of the brain governing reward. In time, you will need the medication just to feel normal.

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How Long Does it Take To Get Addicted to Benzos?

The greater the dose of benzos you take, the higher the risk you will develop a benzo addiction. Tolerance forms almost from the onset of treatment, and physical dependence can develop in as little as two weeks, even when small doses of benzodiazepines are used as prescribed.

The risk of addiction is higher for individuals who:

  • Use benzos for an extended period.
  • Take higher doses of benzos than prescribed.
  • Use benzos in combination with other substances like alcohol or opioids.
  • Have a history of substance abuse or addiction.


Once you are addicted to benzodiazepines, you will almost certainly need a supervised and tapered medical detox followed by inpatient or outpatient rehab.

Signs of Benzo Addiction

These are some of the most common benzo addiction signs:

  • Using benzodiazepines for longer than prescribed.

  • Taking higher doses of benzos than prescribed.

  • Continuing to use benzodiazepines despite negative consequences, such as impaired professional performance, strained relationships, or legal issues.

  • Increasing social isolation and avoiding activities that were once enjoyable.

  • Becoming defensive or angry when confronted about benzodiazepine use.

  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when trying to stop or cut back on benzodiazepine use.

  • Engaging in doctor shopping or seeking prescriptions from multiple doctors.

  • Using benzodiazepines in combination with other substances like alcohol or opioids.


If you are concerned about your use of benzodiazepines and the risk of addiction, consult your prescribing physician.

Side Effects of Benzodiazepines

In most cases, people use benzodiazepines to alleviate the symptoms of anxiety disorders.

Less frequently, benzos are prescribed for the treatment of panic disorders.

Many people often misuse benzodiazepines for its calming side effects, often unaware of the consequences of abusing this class of medication.

When medications like Xanax or Klonopin are abused, this can trigger the following side effects:

  • Aggression
  • Impulsive behavior
  • Depression
  • Psychosis


Taking benzodiazepines triggers many short-term effects. These side effects usually present at the start of benzo therapy and subside when you discontinue the medication.

These short-term effects can include any of the following:

Short and Long-Term Side Effects of Benzos

If you abuse benzodiazepines like Xanax or Valium long-term, this leads to changes in the function and structure of the brain. Over time, the brain’s ability to operate without benzodiazepines is impaired.

The long term side effects of benzodiazepines disrupt the following:

  • Consciousness
  • Emotional responses
  • Thought processes
  • Memory
  • Muscular coordination


Beyond this, the primary risk of long-term benzo use is addiction that requires a medical detox and ongoing rehab.


The first benzo was identified and approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1955, which was chlordiazepoxide (Librium) and Valium was identified and approved in 1963. Benzos were created after drug manufacturers realized that antipsychotic drugs had undesirable side effects, and opioid medications distributed in the 1800s were highly addictive and problematic.

In the 1970s, researchers noticed that benzo users were increasing their dosage and found it hard to get off the drugs. In the 1980s, researchers warned against long-term benzo use. Benzos are typically prescribed for 2 to 4 weeks. Then, from 1999 to 2010, deaths that resulted from an overdose of benzos quadrupled.

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Percentage of overdose deaths from benzos and opioids in 2019.


percentage of drug misuse by benzos among adults in the United States.


Of constant benzo users become addicted to their drug.

Benzo Addiction Treatment

The most effective treatment for benzodiazepine addiction usually involves a combination of different interventions that may include:

  • Medical detoxification: A supervised medical detoxification allows you to purge benzos drug from your system while managing withdrawal symptoms. Access to medications and continuous clinical and emotional care will minimize the chance of complications or relapse disrupting your early recovery from benzo addiction. A tapered reduction in dosage will mitigate most withdrawal symptoms.

  • Inpatient or outpatient treatment: While detox addresses the issue of benzodiazepine dependence, you will require ongoing treatment to tackle the psychological component of benzo addiction.

  • Counseling: Individual counseling allows you to work closely with a therapist to probe the underlying causes of your addiction. In group therapy sessions, you can benefit from the support of peers with lived experience of benzo addiction.

  • Psychotherapies: Psychotherapy or talk therapy like CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) can help you to identify your personal triggers and show you how to use healthy coping mechanisms rather than benzodiazepines when confronted by stressors in your recovery.

  • Peer support groups: Peer support groups like NA (Narcotics Anonymous) can provide a sense of community and support during your benzo recovery process.


We can help you achieve this at Gratitude Lodge in Long Beach and Newport Beach. We also have a treatment facility near San Diego.


Benzos are commonly paired with stimulant drugs, such as cocaine and meth, to relieve the anxiety and edge that comes with the comedown of those drugs. Opioids, including heroin and painkillers, are often combined with benzos because it enhances the “high” received from opioid abuse. Realistically, benzos shouldn’t be taken with any other drugs because it can cause coma, seizures, or death.

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Drug and alcohol rehab should be accessible to everyone. At Gratitude Lodge, we work with most insurance plans to cover the costs of treatment.

Gratitude Lodge’s Benzo Detox & Addiction Treatment Center

If you are addicted to benzos, we can help you initiate your long-term recovery safely with benzodiazepine addiction treatment  at Gratitude Lodge in Southern California.

The most effective treatment for benzos addiction begins with a supervised medical detox. Take advantage of a tapered withdrawal with medications and around-the-click clinical and emotional care at our luxury pet-friendly benzo addiction treatment center.

Many people find that inpatient rehab offers the most structured and efficient route to recovery. Engage with evidence-based treatment delivered from addiction specialist and mental health professionals in an environment free of triggers and distractions.


For those who feel outpatient treatment is the best fit, we offer regular outpatient programs, virtual rehab, and intensive outpatient treatment for benzo addiction.

After scheduling an appointment with your prescribing doctor, you can detox from benzodiazepines as comfortably as possible in a secluded and luxurious setting. Kickstart your recovery today by calling 888-861-1658.