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What is Benzodiazepine (Benzo) Abuse?

Benzodiazepines, also known as benzos, are tranquilizers – a class of medications used to treat anxiety, insomnia, seizures and muscle tension. They’re also used to help people relax before surgery and other medical procedures.

This class of medications is one of the most commonly prescribed in the United States. Because they’re so common, and because they’re habit-forming for many patients, they’ve become some of the most widely abused prescription drugs. Physicians avoid prescribing them for more than one month because of the high risk of users developing physical dependence on them.

Although the abuse of benzodiazepines alone does not usually lead to serious immediate medical problems, people who abuse them often take them along with other drugs, especially alcohol, making the risk of serious harm or overdose more likely. Long-term use of benzodiazepines is linked to serious medical issues such as brain damage, kidney damage, and the onset of Alzheimer’s Disease.

If you, a friend or family member are misusing benzodiazepines, it’s important to get help.

Types of Benzos: Xanax, Valium, Ativan and More

There are several different types of benzodiazepines. Because these medicines are prescribed so often, they are also widely available for abuse. Common street names for benzos include:

  • Tranks
  • Downers
  • Goofballs
  • Nerve pills
  • Vallies
  • Moggies
  • Xannies / Zannies
  • Bars / Z-Bars
  • Footballs
  • Bennies
  • Pins / K-Pins
  • Super Valium
  • Blue Bombs / Blues
  • Control
  • Rugby Balls
  • Up Johns

There are many types of benzodiazepines. Some of the most common are:

  • Alprazolam (Xanax)
  • Chlordiazepoxide (Librium)
  • Clobozam (Onfi)
  • Clorazepate (Tranxene)
  • Lorazepam (Ativan)
  • Oxazepam (Serax)
  • Diazepam (Valium, Diastat)
  • Temazepam (Restoril)
  • Triazolam (Halcion)
  • Clonazepam (Klonopin, Rivotril)

Although the abuse of benzodiazepines alone does not usually lead to serious immediate medical problems, people who abuse them often take them along with other drugs, especially alcohol. This is very dangerous, as the combined depressant effects of benzos and alcohol poses a high overdose risk.

Side Effects of Benzodiazepines

Medical professionals often prescribe benzos because they produce relaxation, sedation and a feeling of calm. But they can have negative effects as well. Short-term effects of benzodiazepines include:

  • Drowsiness
  • Breathing problems
  • Dizziness
  • Lack of coordination
  • Vision impairment
  • Headache

Withdrawal and Other Risks Associated With Benzodiazepines

The use of benzodiazepines involves serious risks for the user’s long-term health. Firstly, they post a high addiction risk. A recent study found that 44 percent of long-term benzodiazepine users become physically dependent. Also, once someone decides to stop using benzodiazepines, the withdrawal symptoms can be serious and even life-threatening.

Benzodiazepines Withdrawal Symptoms

  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Insomnia
  • Headaches
  • Body aches
  • Sweating
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart palpitations
  • Depression
  • Seizures
  • Delirium

Because these symptoms are frequent among people who stop using benzos, users should not attempt to quit cold-turkey or on their own. It’s important that they gradually reduce their use of the drug under medical supervision.

Long-term risks of benzodiazepine use include:

  • Cognitive problems
  • Lack of coordination
  • Drowsiness
  • Increased risk of car accidents

How Benzos Are Misused

Teens and young adults often self-medicate with benzos because they provide temporary relief from anxiety and stress. Also, the fact that they’re prescribed by a doctor gives the impression that they’re safe – though this is certainly not the case.

Where do teens and young adults get benzodiazepines? Often, these drugs are obtained from their parents’ or caregivers’ medicine cabinets. They can also purchase them from illicit websites such as fake pharmacies. Many times, they simply get these drugs from peers.

Signs of Benzo Addiction

If you’re concerned that your teen or young adult is using benzodiazepines, you should watch for the following signs of abuse.

• Missing pills, pill bottles or other forms of medicine:

If you find that pills are missing or that you need to refill your prescription earlier than you expected, your child may be using these drugs.

• Significant changes in behavior:

You may notice your child hanging out with a new set of friends, developing changes in their personality, letting their grades slip or changing their appearance. They may also lose interest in activities they used to enjoy.

• Changes in sleeping patterns:

Since benzos cause drowsiness, young people who use them often sleep significantly more.

• Symptoms of the physical or psychological effects of benzodiazepine use:

These can include weakness, drowsiness, lethargy, vision issues, poor judgment and mood swings.

What to do if You Think Your Child is Misusing Benzos

If you suspect that your teen or young adult is misusing benzos, keep these points in mind:

• Early intervention is essential:

Because the risk of addiction is so high, it’s important that someone who’s struggling with them gets the treatment they need as soon as possible.

• Cold-turkey withdrawal has major risks:

By immediately discontinuing use, your child could experience serious symptoms of withdrawal, such as seizures. If you’re planning to help your child stop using these drugs, it’s critical to do so with professional guidance.

Because of the mental and physical severity of Benzo addiction, it’s important to seek addiction treatment as soon as possible if you’re concerned about your teen or young adult. Sandstone Care has a medical detox program in Colorado and Virginia along with a full continuum of care in Colorado and Maryland.

We are available seven days a week to explain your options and answer any questions you may have at (888) 850-1890.

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