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Signs of Benzo Addiction

Your teen daughter has been taking medication for anxiety for years. She had some traumatic experiences as a child that you blame yourself for, but she really has come a long way with therapy and these medications. Her doctor told you that the anxiety medication – what he called a benzodiazepine – does carry the risk of dependence and to keep an eye on your daughter. Despite what she has been through, you are not too worried about this happening.

signs of benzo addiction

Your teen daughter has been taking medication for anxiety for years. She had some traumatic experiences as a child that you blame yourself for, but she really has come a long way with therapy and these medications. Her doctor told you that the anxiety medication – what he called a benzodiazepine – does carry the risk of dependence and to keep an eye on your daughter. Despite what she has been through, you are not too worried about this happening.

Over the next few months, you notice changes in her. She is more irritable and becomes easily angered over what you think are little things. Asking her why the dishes are not done can lead to a full meltdown and doors slamming. But other times, she almost acts as if she is drunk, stumbling and slurring her words. In these moods, she is carefree and relaxed. Is she taking her medicine how she is supposed to? Is she taking more than she should be?

In Florida, 437 deaths were caused by benzodiazepines between January and June in 2022. Clean Recovery Centers understands that benzodiazepine addiction does not happen overnight, and there are many causes that can lead to it. All of our facilities have a certified rapid-resolution therapist onsite to help heal past traumas that may be contributing to addiction. Today, we are going to discuss the signs of benzo addiction, and how to recognize them in a loved one.

Signs of Benzo Misuse

It can be hard to see the signs of benzo misuse as it is a prescription medication. The person taking it can hide that they are taking more than they should or that they are getting more from other sources. While it can be difficult to confront the reality that a loved one may be misusing their medication, catching the warning signs can help to save their life.

Physical Symptoms of Benzo Use Disorder

Physical symptoms of a benzo use disorder can mimic alcohol use. Slurred speech, impaired coordination, and dizziness are common with benzo use. Conditions such as vertigo can develop both when using and between uses. These symptoms can lead to injuries from falls as well as possible accidents when driving. Not only do these pose risks to yourself, but they also can cause harm to others.

Similar to alcohol, long-term benzo use can cause liver damage and even liver failure. Benzos also slow heart rate, and over time the heart can become weakened from not pumping as much as it should. This can lead to blood clots that can cause strokes.

Psychological Symptoms of Benzo Use Disorder

help for addiction to benzos in hillsborough countyBenzodiazepines are commonly used to treat anxiety. However, when dependence occurs, anxiety can actually increase. The brain becomes used to having benzos in the system and will send signals between uses that it needs more. When the medication is not available, mood swings can become intense and erratic. Irritability, depression, and anxiety can all cycle between uses.

While taking benzos, impulsivity can increase. The person may be more likely to engage in reckless behaviors such as shoplifting, driving erratically, and having unprotected sex with different partners. These can lead to legal troubles, relationship strain, and possibly contracting an STD such as HIV/AIDS. When combined with alcohol or other substances, bouts of recklessness can increase and also occur during a blackout. The person may not remember the events that happened or what they did, furthering depression and anxiety.

Recognizing Benzo Addiction

Recognizing benzo addiction is the first sign that it is time to seek help. Seeing the physical and psychological toll benzos take can be difficult to see, but understanding that help is out there is the first step.

When addressing benzo addiction with a loved one, try to do so when they are calm and in a safe space. Bring up the signs you have seen such as coordination impairment and mood swings. Be supportive and understanding, but also be firm, and don’t be afraid to set boundaries. Work together to decide the next steps and how you both want to handle the situation.

Exhibiting Benzo Withdrawal Symptoms

As we talked about earlier, the brain becomes used to having benzos in the system. When the brain does not have benzos for a certain amount of time, it sends signals that it needs more. This is known as withdrawal. Benzo withdrawal symptoms can vary in severity, and typically occur within 24 hours after the last dose. Symptoms of benzo withdrawal include:

  • Anxiety
  • Headaches
  • Restlessness
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Sweating
  • Depression
  • Confusion
  • Paranoia
  • Seizures
  • Psychosis

Because there are different doses of benzodiazepines, some will cause longer withdrawal timelines than others. It is possible to experience withdrawal symptoms for weeks or even months after the last use. It is never recommended to stop taking benzos “cold turkey” as withdrawal symptoms can be severe. The best way to stop benzo use is to consult a medical professional and discuss a tapering schedule, or go to a detox facility where they can ensure comfort and safety during the process.

Experiencing Benzo Overdose

It is uncommon to overdose on benzos alone, however, it is possible. Benzos work by slowing the central nervous system. They are depressants, like alcohol and opioids. When too many benzos are taken at once, extreme sedation effects occur. This can lead to breathing slowing to a halt, causing oxygen deprivation. If breathing is not restored, organ damage, coma, and death may occur.

The mental effects of a benzo overdose are just as dangerous as the physical. Confusion and paranoia can make it difficult to recognize where you are or who you are with. Increased anxiety can cause you to want to hurt yourself or those around you. Paired with poor coordination, injuries can result from falls or fights. If you or someone you know is experiencing a benzo overdose, move them to a calm, quiet space.

Always call for help if you suspect an overdose, even if the person says they are okay. If benzos were mixed with stimulants such as cocaine, the person may not know that they are experiencing an overdose. Be honest with all substances taken so medical professionals can treat them properly. Flumazenil is a medication that can reverse the effects of benzodiazepines. It is only available by prescription, so a medical professional will use their discretion before giving it.

Find Help for Addiction to Benzos in Hillsborough County

Seeing someone you love show the signs of benzodiazepine addiction can be a scary road to navigate. The good news is that help is available and taking the first step to recovery can make a world of difference. Benzodiazepine addiction treatment can help your loved one address the root causes of their addiction while developing healthy coping and life skills needed to take back their life. With the support of their family, your loved one will be able to break free from benzos and rediscover their passions for a fulfilling life in recovery.

If you or someone you love is facing benzodiazepine addiction, help is available. Clean Recovery Centers has only one goal: to help you get clean, live clean, and stay clean. Our program treats mental health conditions as a primary diagnosis and can guide you in the course of finding what works for you. By treating your mental health alongside your addiction, we are able to provide all the care you need in one place. Call us today at (888) 330-2532 to learn more about our program offerings.

Sources:

  • https://www.fdle.state.fl.us/MEC/Publications-and-Forms/Documents/Drugs-in-Deceased-Persons/2022-Interim-Drug-Report-FINAL.aspx

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