Drug and Alcohol - Sobriety

What Are the Risks of Benzo Use?

Benzodiazepines can cause severe injury, physical dependency, overdoses, and addiction, especially when abused. The Edge treats benzo addiction.

What Are the Risks of Benzo Use?

Table of contents

Written by

Brian MooreBrian Moore

Content Writer

Reviewed by

Jeremy ArztJeremy Arzt

Chief Clinical Officer

May 27, 2022

The Edge Treatment Center

Benzodiazepines (also called “benzos”) can effectively treat anxiety, insomnia, panic disorders, and seizures.

But they’re also highly addictive, which is why patients and doctors should proceed with caution when considering this line of treatment. Due to the many dangers related to benzo consumption, doctors should only prescribe them for a short period after exhausting all other major options.

Even when taking them at the recommendation of doctors, patients must understand the risks of taking benzos.

Driving Impairments

With the sedating and muscle-relaxing effects, it is risky to drive while on benzodiazepines. A sedated driver will not be capable of reacting quickly to their environment. What happens if a child runs out onto the road? Half a second of response time might save a life.

If a driver is not paying attention to a stoplight, they may run a red light and hit another car. The capability of responding to outside factors is critical to safe driving.

An individual may find their cognitive abilities impaired by benzodiazepines too. The choice to speed could make sense at the moment, but the individual is not necessarily thinking about the possibility of a cop pulling them over. They might miss an important appointment because they do not think to factor in traffic conditions.

A person could hit another car when changing lanes due to a miscalculation of distance.

Additionally, benzos can cause blurred vision and dizziness. This creates difficulty focusing on the road, increases the likelihood of swerving into other lanes, and creates a hazard for the driver and everyone else on the road. These symptoms make driving a vehicle nearly impossible.

Individuals should discover how benzos impact them before getting behind the wheel. If it is not safe to drive under the influence of alcohol, one should not drive with blurred vision and dizziness either.

Withdrawal After Long-Term Use

Physical dependence creates problems for patients prescribed benzodiazepines. A person recognizes dependence when their body reacts to the lack of medication. With benzo dependence, a person often feels tremors, headaches, cramps, and insomnia.

Unfortunately, whether a person abuses their meds or not, long-term use frequently causes acute withdrawal symptoms upon cessation.

When a patient decides to end their use of benzos, they need medical supervision. If mental addiction is not present, a person can slowly taper off the medication over a couple of months. Their doctor will instruct them on how much to take and when. If a person experiences psychological dependence and cravings, they might need to attend a medical detox facility and treatment program. 

If a person cannot taper slowly, they will likely experience acute withdrawal. This can include the following symptoms:

  • Difficulty concentrating

  • Increased anxiety

  • Insomnia

  • Loss of appetite

  • Muscle stiffness

  • Abdominal cramps

  • Nausea and/or vomiting

  • Depression

  • Psychosis

  • Dissociation

  • Delirium

  • Seizures

Patients can take this calculated risk when engaging in long-term benzodiazepine use. Doctors often do not inform patients of this possibility, though. If patients do not know the risks of using benzos, it takes away the aspect of informed consent.

Benzodiazepine Overdose

Benzodiazepines pose a high risk for overdose. As Dr. Anna Lembke, chief of the Stanford Addiction Medicine Dual Diagnosis Clinic, stated in Our Other Prescription Drug Problem, “Just like with opioids, people overestimate the benefits and underestimate the risks of benzodiazepines.” The numbers support this statement. In 1999, 1,135 recorded deaths included benzodiazepine overdose as a cause. In 2015, the number was 8,791. This shows a nearly 775% increase in benzo overdose deaths. Compare this to the 67% increase in benzodiazepine prescriptions between 1999 and 2013. The difference is significant. This does not even account for non-fatal benzo overdoses. 

A CDC report from 2021 indicates that illicit benzodiazepines now pose considerable danger throughout the United States. From 2019 to 2020, illegal benzo overdose deaths increased by approximately 520%. Almost all of these included the consumption of opioids. This should sway individuals away from self-medicating with illegal drugs. A person can easily mix the wrong substances without a doctor monitoring prescriptions, dosages, and interactions. The overdose risk is simply too high to ignore.

Are They Worth the Risk?

When it comes to addictive substances, each person needs to ask themselves, "Is it worth the risk?” Benzodiazepines offer relief for patients with anxiety, insomnia, panic disorder, and seizures. Yet, the consumption of benzos poses an inherent risk.

Doctors and patients should all perform their due diligence before starting anything in this class of medication. All parties need to know about the addiction and dependence that can form. Patients should research the side effects. Medical professionals should recommend non-addictive substances first. The danger of driving should be discussed.

Ultimately, though a doctor must agree, it is up to each patient whether they believe the benefits outweigh the risks. They have autonomy over what they put inside their body. If they think benzodiazepines are too risky, they can request that the doctor goes in a different medical direction. 

If you are struggling with benzodiazepine addiction, sobriety may seem like an unattainable dream. There is a path to a better life, though. Drug rehab can help you rebuild your life physically and mentally, where you’re no longer abusing or even taking tranquilizers.

The Edge Treatment Center provides effective, evidence-based care for benzodiazepine abuse. Contact us today to learn more.

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