Benzodiazepine addiction is signified by compulsive behaviors related to taking the drugs.
Benzodiazepines are depressant psychoactive drugs, classified as sedative-hypnotics. They are prescribed to treat a number of conditions, including anxiety, insomnia, and convulsant disorders.
While generally considered safe and effective, mainly when used short term or intermittently, benzodiazepines are highly addictive. Users can become dependent on their calming and tranquilizing effects. They can also quickly develop tolerance to these drugs, which makes them prone to abuse.
Because most benzodiazepine users start off using the drug in a safe and controlled manner — prescribed by their doctor to treat a condition — it may initially be harder to identify an individual who is struggling with abuse of benzodiazepines. Even when used appropriately, benzodiazepines may result in noticeable side effects like confusion or drowsiness, so these symptoms might just seem like part of normal use.
A user’s dependence on the drug may grow gradually over time. As the person begins using the drug outside the parameters of their prescription, abuse issues take hold.
Benzodiazepines were discovered in the 1930s by Leo Sternback at the Hoffman-LaRoche Company. Hoffman LaRoche didn’t release the product until 1957 when they put Librium (a medication mostly used to treat anxiety) on the market.
There was little discussion about benzodiazepine addiction until the 1980s when they became among the most popularly prescribed medications.
The use of benzodiazepines is widespread across the U.S. and has grown dramatically since the 1990s.
Perhaps due to the continued focus on opioid addiction, the rise in benzodiazepine use has garnered relatively little attention. This began to change in 2018, in part due to an editorial article published in the New England Journal of Medicine titled “Our Other Prescription Problem,” which highlighted the continued trend of benzodiazepine abuse.
To understand just how popular benzodiazepine use has become, one only has to look at the numbers.
The symptoms of benzodiazepine use may vary greatly, depending on a number of factors.
Higher doses of benzodiazepines may result in additional symptoms.
Individuals who have developed a dependency on benzodiazepines are likely to exhibit the above side effects. Because the dependency on benzodiazepines is likely to grow gradually, it may be hard to recognize when someone has become addicted.
Each addiction is unique as is each person who struggles with one. Benzodiazepine abuse is often unique from other types of substance abuse in the following ways:
Anyone can become dependent on benzodiazepines. Because of prescription trends and the pharmacology of the drugs, some populations seem to be especially vulnerable to a benzodiazepine abuse problem.
People who are addicted to benzodiazepines should never stop taking them suddenly. A physician-supervised tapered approach is required to be weaned off the drugs safely. Addiction therapy is needed to address issues related to substance abuse.
(April 2018) Benzodiazepines: America’s ‘Other Prescription Drug Problem’. John Henning Schumann. National Public Radio (NPR). Retrieved February 2019 from https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2018/04/26/602213172/benzodiazepines-america-s-other-prescription-drug-problem
(October 2013) Benzodiazepines. Center for Substance Abuse Research (CESAR). Retrieved February 2019 from http://www.cesar.umd.edu/cesar/drugs/benzos.asp
(January 2018) The Benefits and Risks of Benzodiazepines. Joseph Nordqvist. Medical News Today. Retrieved February 2019 from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/262809.php
(February 2018) Our Other Prescription Drug Problem. Anna Lembke M.D., Jennifer Papac M.D., Keith Humphreys Ph.D. The New England Journal of Medicine. Retrieved February 2019 from https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMp1715050
(October 2015) What are Benzodiazepines? Lynn Marks. Everyday Health. Retrieved February 2019 from https://www.everydayhealth.com/benzodiazepines/guide/
(March 2018) A Quiet Drug Problem Among the Elderly. Paula Span. The New York Times. Retrieved February 2019 from https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/16/health/elderly-drugs-addiction.html