Benzos (Xanax, Ativan, Klonopin)

Understanding Benzos and Benzodiazepine Addiction

Understanding Benzos and Benzodiazepine Addiction

Benzos: Understanding Benzodiazepines, Addiction, and Recovery

Welcome to Mountain’s Edge Recovery, a trusted resource for individuals and families seeking information and support for substance abuse and addiction issues. In this article, we will delve into the world of benzodiazepines, commonly known as benzos, including what they are, their effects on the brain, their role in substance abuse, causes and risk factors, the DSM-5 criteria for benzo addiction, side effects of benzo addiction, withdrawal symptoms, and available treatment options.

What Are Benzos?

Benzodiazepines, often referred to as benzos, are a class of prescription medications commonly used to treat anxiety, panic disorders, and insomnia. These drugs are known for their calming and sedative effects and are typically prescribed for short-term use due to their potential for tolerance and dependence. Common examples of benzos include Xanax, Valium, and Ativan.

Effects of Benzos on the Brain

Understanding how benzos affect the brain is crucial:

  1. Calming Effects: Benzos enhance the activity of a neurotransmitter called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), which has a calming effect on the brain, leading to relaxation and reduced anxiety.
  2. Muscle Relaxation: They also have muscle relaxant properties, making them effective in treating conditions like muscle spasms.
  3. Risk of Dependency: Prolonged or excessive use of benzos can lead to physical and psychological dependence, with cravings and withdrawal symptoms upon discontinuation.

Benzos and Substance Abuse

Benzos’ calming and sedative effects make them susceptible to misuse and addiction:

  1. Gateway to Addiction: Some individuals who are prescribed benzos for legitimate medical reasons may misuse them, leading to addiction.
  2. Dependency Risk: Long-term use of benzos can result in physical and psychological dependence, increasing the risk of addiction.
  3. Health Risks: Benzo addiction can lead to adverse health effects, including cognitive impairment, accidents, and overdose when combined with other substances.

Causes and Risk Factors

Several factors contribute to the development of benzo addiction:

  1. Prescription Medication: Benzo addiction can start with a legitimate prescription for anxiety or sleep disorders.
  2. Genetics: A family history of addiction can increase the risk of benzo dependence.
  3. Co-occurring Disorders: Underlying mental health issues, such as anxiety or depression, may contribute to benzo misuse as a form of self-medication.
  4. Social and Peer Influence: Peer pressure and a social environment where drug use is prevalent can encourage benzo abuse.

DSM-5 Criteria for Benzo Use Disorder

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) outlines criteria for diagnosing Benzo Use Disorder. A diagnosis may be made if an individual meets at least two of the following criteria within a 12-month period:

  • Taking benzos in larger amounts or for longer periods than intended.
  • Unsuccessful attempts to cut down or control benzo use.
  • Spending a significant amount of time obtaining, using, or recovering from the effects of benzos.
  • Craving or a strong desire to use benzos.
  • Failure to fulfill major role obligations at work, school, or home due to benzo use.
  • Continued benzo use despite social or interpersonal problems caused or exacerbated by its effects.
  • Giving up or reducing important social, occupational, or recreational activities because of benzo use.
  • Using benzos in situations where it is physically hazardous.
  • Continued benzo use despite knowing it is causing or worsening a physical or psychological problem.
  • Tolerance, as defined by needing more benzos to achieve the desired effect or experiencing reduced effects when using the same amount.
  • **Withdrawal symptoms when not using benzos.

Side Effects of Benzo Addiction

Benzodiazepine addiction can lead to numerous detrimental side effects, including:

  • Cognitive Impairment: Long-term use can result in memory problems, impaired judgment, and difficulties with concentration.
  • Psychiatric Symptoms: Users may experience mood swings, depression, and heightened anxiety.
  • Physical Health Decline: Benzo addiction can result in respiratory depression, dizziness, and increased risk of accidents.
  • Social Isolation: It can strain relationships and lead to social withdrawal.

Withdrawal Symptoms

When individuals with benzo addiction attempt to quit or reduce their use, they may experience withdrawal symptoms, which can be highly challenging to endure. These symptoms may include:

  • Cravings for benzos
  • Insomnia and sleep disturbances
  • Anxiety and restlessness
  • Nausea and gastrointestinal discomfort
  • Muscle tension and aches

Treatment for Benzo Use Disorder

Mountain’s Edge Recovery offers comprehensive, evidence-based treatment for individuals struggling with benzo addiction. Our programs address the physical, psychological, and social aspects of addiction and recovery.

Our treatment options may include:

  • Medically Supervised Detox: A safe and supervised detoxification process to manage withdrawal symptoms.
  • Counseling and Therapy: Individual and group therapy to address the underlying causes of addiction and develop coping strategies.
  • Medication-Assisted Treatment: Medications to manage cravings and withdrawal symptoms, when appropriate.
  • Holistic Approaches: Incorporating mindfulness, fitness, and nutrition into treatment plans.
  • Aftercare and Support: Ongoing support and relapse prevention strategies to promote long-term recovery.

If you or a loved one is struggling with benzo addiction, please reach out to Mountain’s Edge Recovery. We are here to provide guidance and support on your journey to recovery, offering hope and a brighter future. Contact us today to take the first step toward a healthier, addiction-free life.


(888) 635-1159



(888) 635-1159