Massachusetts Center for Addiction

Benzodiazepine Addiction and Abuse


Benzodiazepines, commonly prescribed for anxiety and sleep disorders, can be a double-edged sword. While they provide relief to those in need, misuse of these sedatives can lead to benzodiazepine addiction and severe health consequences.

Misusing benzodiazepines at high doses or in combination with other substances like opioids or alcohol elevates the risk of developing a sedative use disorder. Concerns about abuse potential and safety have raised red flags among healthcare professionals.

By recognizing the risk factors and understanding the potential consequences of benzodiazepine abuse, we can take proactive steps toward promoting safer medication practices.

How Common is Benzodiazepine Misuse?

In 2021, around 1.4% of people in the United States, or about 3.9 million people, misused benzodiazepines in the last 12 months, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. This shows a growing misuse problem.

Among adults who used benzodiazepines, 17.1% misused them, and 1.5% had benzodiazepine use disorders, as per a study on PubMed. This suggests a need for better monitoring of benzodiazepine prescriptions and use.

Benzodiazepine misuse often goes hand in hand with opioid misuse. In 2021, nearly 14% of overdose deaths from opioids also involved benzodiazepines, as noted by the National Institute on Drug Abuse. This points to a dangerous interaction between these substances, highlighting the importance of addressing both opioid and benzodiazepine misuse to reduce overdose deaths.

A bottle of benzodiazepine medication lying on its side on a blue background.

Commonly Abused Benzodiazepine Drugs

Benzodiazepines, also known as “benzos,” are a class of prescription drugs commonly used to treat anxiety, insomnia, and certain seizure disorders. However, some individuals misuse benzodiazepines for their sedative effects.

Others may use benzos to enhance the effects of other substances like alcohol or opioids. Let’s take a look at some of the most frequently abused benzodiazepine drugs:


Xanax is one of the most widely recognized and commonly abused benzodiazepines. It is often prescribed for anxiety disorders and panic attacks but can be misused due to its calming and euphoric effects.


Valium, also known by its generic name diazepam, is another benzodiazepine that is frequently misused. It is prescribed for anxiety, muscle spasms, and seizures.


Ativan, or lorazepam, is often prescribed for short-term treatment of anxiety disorders. However, it can also be misused to induce relaxation or as a sleep aid.


Klonopin (clonazepam) is primarily used to treat seizures and panic disorder. Its long-lasting effects make it attractive to individuals seeking a prolonged sedating effect.

Each benzodiazepine drug has its own unique set of effects and potential for abuse. Being aware of these commonly abused benzodiazepines can help healthcare professionals identify potential cases of misuse and provide appropriate interventions.

Signs and Symptoms of Benzodiazepine Abuse

Knowing the signs of benzodiazepine abuse can help stop bigger problems before they start. Recognizing these signs early can lead to getting the right help sooner.

Physical Signs

Physical signs such as drowsiness, slurred speech, and impaired coordination may indicate benzodiazepine abuse. People who misuse these drugs might appear excessively tired or have difficulty staying awake during the day.

Their speech might be slow or difficult to understand, almost like they’re mumbling. They may also have trouble with balance and coordination, stumbling or bumping into things more often.

Psychological Symptoms

Misusing benzodiazepines can also lead to various psychological symptoms.

One of the unsettling effects of benzodiazepine misuse is the occurrence of memory gaps. Individuals may be unable to recall chunks of time or specific events, almost as if parts of their memory have been erased. This can be distressing not only for the individuals experiencing these memory gaps but also for their loved ones.

Mood swings can also occur, causing sudden shifts in emotions from extreme happiness to profound sadness. Increased anxiety is another potential symptom, where a person constantly feels on edge or experiences panic attacks more frequently.

You should not ignore any concerning behaviors related to drug abuse, including benzodiazepines. If you notice any of these signs in yourself or someone you know, it’s important to seek professional help promptly.

Risks and Side Effects of Benzodiazepine Addiction

Prolonged use or high doses of benzodiazepines can lead to physical dependence and addiction. If you take these medications for a long time or in large amounts, your body can become reliant on them. Once you develop a dependence, it may be difficult to stop using them without experiencing withdrawal symptoms.

Withdrawal from benzodiazepines can be severe. This causes symptoms such as seizures or rebound anxiety. When someone tries to quit using these drugs abruptly, their brain and body may react negatively due to the sudden absence of the substance they have become dependent on.

It’s important to seek medical guidance when discontinuing benzodiazepines to ensure a safe and comfortable withdrawal process.

Long-term use of benzodiazepines also increases the risk of cognitive impairment. In addition to memory issues, these medications can affect attention and overall cognitive function.

Respiratory depression is another potential side effect, where breathing becomes slow and shallow. Overdose is another serious concern with benzodiazepine abuse, which can lead to coma or even death.

Remember, addiction is a complex issue that requires professional assistance for effective treatment.

Find Recovery From Benzo Addiction with the Massachusetts Center for Addiction

If you or someone you know is struggling with benzodiazepine addiction, the Massachusetts Center for Addiction is here to help. Our dedicated team of professionals understands the challenges you face and is committed to providing compassionate care and effective treatment options. We believe in your ability to overcome addiction and are ready to support you every step of the way.

Recovery from benzodiazepine abuse is possible, and we offer a range of evidence-based treatments tailored to meet your individual needs. From medication-assisted treatment programs to therapy sessions, our comprehensive approach focuses on addressing addiction’s physical and psychological aspects. Don’t wait any longer – take the first step towards a healthier, happier life by contacting us today at 844-486-0671.