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Medically Reviewed

Medically reviewed by Jennifer Strong, LMHC

Written by Tampa Bay Recovery staff
Updated on August 13, 2023


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Benzodiazepine addiction, also known as benzo addiction, is a grave and prevalent issue that affects people of all demographics worldwide. Benzodiazepines are potent medications that, while highly effective for their intended purposes such as anxiety, insomnia, or seizures, can lead to dependence and addiction when misused. Understanding the complexities of benzo addiction is essential for helping those struggling which includes identifying the signs, understanding the causes, and knowing what treatment looks like.

At Tampa Bay Recovery Center, our benzo addiction treatment program in St. Petersburg, can help you or a loved one find the strength needed to create a new life free from addiction.

What are Benzodiazepines?

Benzodiazepines, often called “benzos,” are a class of psychoactive drugs designed to slow down the body’s central nervous system. This slowing effect induces sedation, muscle relaxation, and anxiety reduction, which is why benzos are primarily used to treat conditions like anxiety disorders, panic disorders, insomnia, and seizures. Some of the most commonly prescribed and abused benzos include:

  1. Xanax (alprazolam)
  2. Valium (diazepam)
  3. Ativan (lorazepam)
  4. Klonopin (clonazepam)

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Signs and Symptoms of Benzo Addiction

Identifying the signs of benzo addiction is crucial for early intervention. The symptoms can be physical, psychological, or behavioral and may vary depending on the individual and the severity of the addiction.

Physical Signs of Benzo Addiction

  • Increased Tolerance: Needing larger doses of the medication to achieve the same effects that were once accomplished with smaller doses.
  • Withdrawal Symptoms: Experiencing physical withdrawal symptoms when usage is reduced or stopped. This can include things like tremors, sweating, heart palpitations, muscle pain and stiffness, and seizures in severe cases.
  • Physical Dependence: Feeling unwell or unable to function without the drug, which can lead to a cycle of misuse and addiction.
  • Changes in Physical Appearance: These may include changes in weight (gain or loss), pale or flushed skin, bloodshot or glassy eyes, dilated or constricted pupils, and poor personal hygiene.
  • Changes in Sleep Patterns: Experiencing insomnia or, conversely, excessive sleepiness.
  • Decreased Coordination: Unsteady gait, clumsiness, and lack of coordination are common physical signs of benzo abuse.
  • Slurred Speech: Slurred or incoherent speech can be a result of excessive or prolonged benzo use.
  • Physical Health Issues: Frequent or recurring health problems may arise due to benzo misuse, such as digestive issues, persistent cough or other respiratory issues, or liver problems.

Psychological Signs of Benzo Addiction

  • Anxiety: Despite being used to treat anxiety, prolonged misuse of benzos can actually lead to increased feelings of anxiety, including panic attacks.
  • Depression: Chronic benzo misuse can lead to symptoms of depression, including persistent sadness, loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities, and feelings of hopelessness.
  • Mood Swings: Unpredictable and rapid changes in mood, ranging from euphoria to irritability and aggression, can be a sign of benzo addiction.
  • Cognitive Difficulties: This can include memory problems, confusion, and difficulties with concentration and decision-making.
  • Obsession with the Drug: Spending a lot of time thinking about the drug, obtaining it, and recovering from its effects, to the point where it interferes with other aspects of life.
  • Loss of Interest: A general lack of interest in activities once enjoyed can be a sign of addiction. This might be due to an increasing focus on drug use, or it may be due to the mood-altering effects of the drug itself.
  • Denial or Minimization: Individuals struggling with addiction often deny or minimize the severity of their drug use, as well as its impact on their life.

Behavioral Signs of Benzo Addiction

  • Increased Usage: Taking larger amounts of the medication over time or using it more frequently than prescribed.
  • Neglecting Responsibilities: Neglecting work, school, family responsibilities, or personal care as a result of drug use.
  • Doctor Shopping: Visiting multiple doctors to obtain additional prescriptions of the drug, often with overlapping usage periods.
  • Social Isolation: Withdrawing from social activities or relationships to hide drug use or due to the effects of the drug.
  • Financial Problems: Having unexplained financial problems or sudden needs for money, which might be used to purchase drugs.
  • Changes in Routine: Significant changes in daily routines or habits that revolve around drug use.
  • Risky Behaviors: Engaging in risky behaviors, like driving under the influence or using other substances, when using the drug.
  • Defensiveness: Becoming overly defensive when questioned about their behavior or drug use.
  • Legal Problems: Encountering legal issues related to acquiring or using the drug.

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Tampa Bay Recovery Center is a premier leader in the provision of addiction treatment services. If you or someone you love is in need of professional care to address a substance use disorder, reach out to us right now at (813) 733-8774 to speak with an admissions specialist who can get you started on the road to recovery.

How Do I Know I Need Benzo Addiction Treatment?

Recognizing the need for benzodiazepine (benzo) addiction treatment can be a challenging yet crucial step toward recovery. Here are some key indicators that it might be time to seek professional help for benzo addiction:

Inability to Quit or Control Use: You’ve tried to cut down or stop using benzos multiple times but have been unsuccessful.

Increased Tolerance: You need to use more of the drug to achieve the same effect, indicating that your body has developed a tolerance to the substance.

Experiencing Withdrawal Symptoms: If you try to stop or reduce your usage, you start to experience withdrawal symptoms such as restlessness, anxiety, insomnia, and in severe cases, seizures.

Neglecting Responsibilities: Your use of benzos has started to interfere with your ability to meet your responsibilities at work, school, or home.

Social and Relationship Problems: Your drug use is causing problems in your relationships or leading you to isolate yourself from others.

Engaging in Risky Behaviors: You’ve begun to take risks, like driving under the influence or mixing benzos with alcohol or other drugs.

Obsession with the Drug: You spend a lot of time thinking about benzos, obtaining them, using them, and recovering from their effects.

Continued Use Despite Negative Consequences: You continue to use benzos even though you’re aware they’re causing physical or psychological harm.

Neglect of Hobbies and Interests: You’ve lost interest in activities that you once enjoyed because of your drug use.

How is Benzo Addiction Treated?

Benzo addiction is a complex condition that requires a comprehensive, individualized treatment plan. The treatment usually incorporates different levels of care to address all aspects of the addiction, from physical dependence to psychological and behavioral factors.

Detox: The first step in treating benzo addiction is detoxification. This involves the safe elimination of the drug from your system under medical supervision. This stage is crucial due to the potentially life-threatening withdrawal symptoms associated with benzos, such as seizures and intense anxiety. During a medically-assisted detox, medical professionals monitor these symptoms and may provide medications to ease discomfort and manage complications.

Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP): After completing detox, individuals often transition into a Partial Hospitalization Program. This level of care typically involves attending treatment services at a facility for several hours a day, five to seven days a week, while living at home or in a sober living facility. PHPs provide intensive therapy sessions, including individual counseling, group therapy, and family therapy, to address the underlying causes of the addiction.

Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP): Following a PHP, or for individuals who require less intensive care, an Intensive Outpatient Program might be the next step. IOPs allow individuals to continue their recovery therapies with a more flexible schedule, designed to accommodate work and family life. These programs provide similar therapies as PHPs but on a less intensive schedule, often three days a week for a few hours per day.

Sober Living: After completing a PHP or IOP, transitioning to a sober living home can be beneficial. Sober living homes provide a drug-free environment that promotes recovery and offers peer support. They enforce rules such as curfews and mandatory meeting attendance and often encourage residents to engage in school, work, or volunteer activities during the day. These homes serve as a bridge between treatment programs and returning to everyday life, helping individuals solidify their recovery skills and gain confidence.

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How Long Do Benzos Stay In Your System?

The length of time benzos stay in your system depends on various factors, including the specific type of benzo, the dosage, frequency of use, the user’s metabolism, age, weight, and overall health.

Most benzos are detectable in urine for up to a week after last use, but some long-acting benzos, like Valium, may be detectable for up to a month. In hair tests, benzos may be detectable for up to 90 days.

Begin Benzo Addiction Treatment in St. Petersburg, Florida Today

Overcoming benzo addiction may feel daunting, but with the right support, it’s entirely possible. If you or a loved one is struggling with a benzo addiction, seeking help sooner rather than later can be crucial. Tampa Bay Recovery Center can help you and your loved one find the help you need. Learn more about our admissions process today.

Our Philosophy

We believe that getting help for substance use disorders is about much more than just trying to get through another day of not drinking or using drugs. Our mission is to help people reclaim their lives by teaching them how to effectively deal with the stress, trauma, and anxiety that contribute to their addictions. 

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Our staff has over 60 years of combined experience in treating behavioral health disorders. Our compassionate and empathetic approach has helped hundreds.