Signs and Symptoms of Benzodiazepine Abuse

prescription drugs benzos

Benzodiazepines are a large class of drugs that are broadly prescribed for problems with anxiety, stress, panic attacks or sleep. They are central nervous system depressants and are addictive after long-term use. While the prescribing instructions are clear about not prescribing benzodiazepines for lengthy use, many people use them long enough to become addicted and many more become addicted after abusing the drugs over a long period.

Fifteen benzodiazepines are used in the United States and another 20 are marketed in other countries. Short-acting benzos are used to help a person fall asleep or to calm a person down before surgery. These benzos include ProSom, Restoril, Halcion or Versed. Those who are anxious during the day and can’t sleep at night will get a long-lasting benzo like Xanax, Librium, Valium or Ativan.

In low dosages, these drugs are sedatives. In moderate dosages, they counter anxiety. In high doses they are hypnotics. Those abusing the drugs will generally develop a tolerance for the drugs and will get to extremely high dosages.

Symptoms of Use

A person abusing benzos may manifest:

  • Drowsiness
  • Unsteadiness while walking or moving around
  • Blurred vision
  • Poor coordination
  • Amnesia
  • Hostility
  • Irritability
  • Disturbing dreams
  • Reduced inhibition
  • Impaired judgment

An older person abusing these drugs may also experience:

  • Confusion
  • The appearance of dementia
  • Benzodiazepine overdose

If a person takes too much of a benzo, they are likely to experience severe drowsiness, confusion, poor balance, lack of coordination, light-headedness, fainting and muscle weakness. Mixing benzodiazepines with alcohol increases central nervous system depression that can cause respiratory suppression that can lead to death.

unconcious person

A coma is a possible result of a benzodiazepine overdose. Many drug users, particularly heroin or cocaine users, abuse benzodiazepines along with other drugs, which means that benzos can be involved in deaths resulting from the combination of drugs.

Looking for Signs of Abuse and Addiction

In addition to the symptoms listed above, it is possible to note changes in a person’s life when they become addicted to benzodiazepines. Since these drugs are tranquilizers, the person may seem oddly detached from life and sedated and may not care very much about matters that were important to them before the drug use.

The addict generally loses interest in life and stops setting goals. Most withdraw from family events and interaction, either because of the effect of the drugs or because they know they are committing harm to themselves and others.

Persons abusing benzos must get them somehow. They may find a cooperative doctor who will prescribe them or visit more than one doctor to get multiple prescriptions. They may get the drugs from friends or drug dealers or buy them from the Internet. They may forge prescriptions. As more and more states implement computer tracking systems and laws to counter prescription drug abuse, some of these channels for obtaining the drugs will be drying up.

If the drugs are obtained from prescriptions, you may find pill bottles, sometimes from multiple doctors. If they are coming from a dealer, you may find either plastic bags with pills or pill bottles with someone else’s name.

A highly visible sign of benzodiazepine abuse is the user going to a hospital emergency room. In 2009, there were 363,000 visits to emergency rooms for reactions to central nervous system depressants.

Rohypnol, a Benzodiazepine from Mexico or Other Countries

Rohypnol is a benzodiazepine that is not marketed or legally sold in the United States. It is called a date-rape drug as it tends to overwhelm a person’s ability to resist a sexual assault and will often cause amnesia of the attack as well. Because it has no taste, it can be put in a drink without the victim being aware of it. Rohypnol is easily obtained in Mexico.

Benzodiazepine Names

Here are the names you might find on pill bottles.

Short-acting (generic names and brand names):

  • Estazolam (ProSom)
  • Flurazepam (Dalmane)
  • Temazepam (Restoril)
  • Triazolam (Halcion)
  • Midazolam (Versed)


  • Alprazolam (Xanax)
  • Chlordiazepoxide (Librium)
  • Clorazepate (Tranxene)
  • Diazepam (Valium)
  • Halazepam (Paxipam)
  • Lorazepam (Ativan)
  • Oxazepam (Serax)
  • Prazepam (Centrax)
  • Quazepam (Doral)
  • Clonazepam (Klonopin)

Finding Recovery After Addiction

One of the key ways Narconon helps people find lasting freedom from drugs and alcohol is through the phase of the addiction treatment program called the New Life Detoxification Program. This phase utilizes a low-heat sauna, a regimen of nutritional supplements and moderate daily exercise to flush out the drug residues left behind after drug or alcohol abuse. When these residues are gone, a brighter attitude and clearer thinking may follow. Those completing this step often talk about how their cravings for drugs are gone. This is just one phase of this comprehensive addiction recovery program.