Benzodiazepines (or “benzos” for short) are a class of drug that includes Xanax, Klonopin, Librium, Valium, Ativan, and Rohypnol, among many others. They are central nervous system depressants, or “downers”, that are frequently used for psychiatric purposes. These include treating insomnia, anxiety, panic attacks, seizures/convulsions, muscle spasms, and also symptoms of alcohol withdrawal. At the same time, benzodiazepines are one of the most addictive substances that exist, having a powerful potential for abuse and a severe physical dependence.
The Effects of Using Benzodiazepines
Whether abused or used for legitimate medical purposes, the short-term effects of using benzos are likely to include:
- Muscle relaxation
- Strong sedation and euphoria
- Drowsiness & dizziness
- Short-term memory loss
- Impaired motor skills
- Decreased alertness & concentration
- Decreased libido
- Decreased appetite
When using benzodiazepines, it is highly advisable to abstain from alcohol, opiates and other central nervous system depressants. These have a potentiating effect on each other, which means they increase the power of each other.
In a medical setting, benzos are most often used as a short-term solution. The reason for this is their extremely addictive potential. Sustained use or abuse of benzodiazepines will inevitably result in physical dependence. The first sign of dependence is developing a tolerance, which means you require higher doses in order to achieve the same effect.
When treating an addict, it is extremely dangerous to cut them off from benzodiazepines immediately. Doing so can result in withdrawal, which can be life-threatening. In fact, withdrawal from benzos is akin to alcohol withdrawal, the most dangerous of all drug withdrawals. Its symptoms include:
- Delirium tremens (similar to those experienced by alcoholics)
- Depression & suicidal behavior
- Gastric distress
- Muscle spasms
Due to the dangers of these symptoms, the method of detox should be gradual. An addict is weaned off of benzodiazepines at progressively lower doses. This should then be assisted by ongoing therapy, psychiatry and medically-managed treatment.
How Do I Know if My Loved One is Abusing Benzodiazepines?
There are a number of tell-tale indicators of benzo abuse, foremost of which is the mood and behavior of the individual in question. Users are said to become “zombie-like” when under the influence, showing little to no emotion in their face or body language. Fatigue and drowsiness, lack of coordination, decreased motivation, and impulsivity are also common warning signs.