Benzodiazepines are psychoactive drugs that can treat anxiety and insomnia. Benzodiazepines are among the most widely prescribed medications, especially among older adults, in the United States. These medications are intended to be short-term treatments because there are risks associated with long-term benzodiazepine use, including addiction and dependence.

Benzodiazepines work by increasing the effects of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) which is a natural neurotransmitter that calms neural activity in the brain. When someone feels anxious or has insomnia, it may be because the neurons in their brain are overactive.

Benzodiazepines increase the effects of GABA and produce a sense of calm and relaxation.

Some of the common benzodiazepines a person may take include:

  • Alprazolam (Xanax)
  • Chlordiazepoxide (Librium)
  • Diazepam (Valium)
  • Temazepam (Restoril)

Possible side effects of benzodiazepines include:

  • Drowsiness
  • Confusion
  • Trembling
  • Dizziness
  • Coordination impairment
  • Changes in vision
  • Depression
  • Headache
  • Psychological addiction
  • Physical dependence

Increasing Benzodiazepine Abuse in Society

While benzodiazepines have therapeutic uses, they are widely abused. Their abuse results in addictions and overdoses. The number of outpatient health care visits leading to benzodiazepine prescriptions doubled from 2003 to 2015, according to a study published in JAMA Network Open.

Along with being prescribed for anxiety and insomnia, the same study indicated the biggest increases in the number of benzodiazepine prescriptions were related to back pain and other forms of chronic pain.

The study found that long-term benzodiazepine use also increased. From 2005 to 2015, continuing benzodiazepine prescriptions were up by 50 percent.

Increasing prescription counts and growing benzodiazepine abuse resulted in deadly consequences. In 1999, the death rate was 0.6 in 100,000 people. By 2016, that figure increased to 4.4 in 100,000 people.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that the death rate involving benzodiazepines for women ranging in age from 30 to 64 increased 830 percent between 1996 and 2017. Research also shows women are more likely to be prescribed benzodiazepines.

These studies highlight the growing danger of benzodiazepine abuse, which often goes under the radar because of the attention the opioid epidemic garners.

There is also an intersection between opioid and benzodiazepine abuse. Around 30 percent of overdoses that involve opioids also involve benzodiazepines. People who use opioids and benzodiazepines together are at a higher risk of visiting the emergency department as a result. One study found that the overdose death rate among people who received both opioids and benzodiazepines by prescription was ten times greater than among the people who only received opioids.

The Signs of Benzodiazepine Addiction

The signs of benzodiazepine addiction can look similar to addiction symptoms with other substances. Some of the potential signs of benzodiazepine addiction a person may have include:

  • The inability to stop using benzodiazepines, despite wanting to
  • Taking benzodiazepines only for certain effects, such as relaxation
  • Developing benzodiazepine tolerance and requiring higher doses for the same effects
  • Continuing to use benzodiazepines in spite of negative health effects or consequences
  • Maintaining a stash of benzodiazepines
  • Making benzodiazepines acquisition a top priority above almost everything else

How to Get Benzodiazepine Addiction Help

Due to the effects benzodiazepines have on the brain and function of neurotransmitters, it’s possible to become addicted to benzodiazepines. If someone finds that they developed a benzodiazepine addiction, they could consider seeking professional treatment.

The first step for treating addiction is a medical detox where patients receive care while toxins leave their system and their body adjusts. Once detox completes, a person can begin a formal addiction treatment program.

To learn about benzodiazepine addiction treatment, contact Orlando Recovery Center. Our representatives can explain different program options to you and help you decide what’s right for you. Begin your healthier future today.


Chatterjee, R. “Steep Climb in Benzodiazepine Prescribin[…]ary Care Doctors.” National Public Radio, January 25, 2019. Accessed March 25, 2019.

National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Benzodiazepines and Opioids.” March 2018. Accessed March 25, 2019.

Gresham, C. “Benzodiazepine Toxicity.” Medscape, June 13, 2018. Accessed March 25, 2019.

Nordqvist, J. “The benefits and risks of benzodiazepines.” Medical News Today, March 7, 2019. Accessed March 25, 2019.

Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.