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Why Are People Using Benzodiazepines More?

Written by Steve Carleton | Updated on Jan 28, 2023

Medically reviewed by Dr. Patrick J. Gallus, DO

Benzodiazepines, or “benzos,” are a relatively common class of drugs that have seen a steady increase in use over the years. Unfortunately, as use has gone up, misuse of this drug has gone up as well. In fact, a study conducted in 2019 found that 16% of overdose deaths that involved opioids were in conjunction with benzo use. Due to the increasing misuse of benzos, it is important to be educated upon what the drug is, what it is intended to be used for, and what potential risk factors an individual faces if they use it incorrectly.

What Are Benzodiazepines Used For?

Benzodiazepines are a common prescription opioid used to help with various symptoms, though commonly used to help individuals relax. This sedative effect can be essential for those suffering from severe panic, allowing them to feel more at ease mentally and physically. Because of this relaxing quality, they have been used to treat sleep disorders like insomnia. They are also commonly used to prevent seizures and can be life saving when used properly.

However, this increase in usage also has numerous risks, as benzodiazepines are highly addictive. Those who may receive prescriptions for these drugs may continue to seek their effects after their prescription has concluded. If an individual continues to use benzos after their prescription has concluded or uses them over an extended amount of time, they run the risk of continued anxiety.

Increasing Anxieties Lead to Increasing Prescriptions

There is no shortage of anxiety in almost any facet of life. Workplace stresses and expectations, financial concerns, social media, and self-image, as well as a volatile political and social climate, can all lead to dangerous levels of anxiety. The continued lockdown and pandemic precautions can further induce fears of uncertainty and frustration as “cabin fever” persists. These generalized sources of anxiety and an increase in alcohol consumption through the course of the pandemic may also lead individuals to misuse benzodiazepines. This is a cause for concern because this drug is only to be used in extreme cases of panic, not for general everyday anxiety.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, prescriptions are not always needed to continue fueling one’s misuse or abuse of these addictive opioids, as “most misusers obtained benzodiazepines from friends or relatives, with only 20% receiving them from their doctor.” A study further compounds this issue reported on through the American Psychiatric Association, stating that “misuse of the prescription drugs accounted for 17% of overall use [of the drug.]” Increased anxiety and demand for the remedy have seen an increase in the prescription and recreational use of benzodiazepines.

Risks Involved with Benzodiazepines

However, especially with their use in addiction recovery, these prescription drugs pose substantial risks when combined with other substances. Benzos and alcohol together can make for a dangerous combination, with both substances compounding the other’s effects. This can lead to further sedated states that affect the body to an unhealthy level, leading to significant health concerns such as respiratory failure and trouble breathing. The body becomes too sedated, or the nervous system is too depressed to carry out essential basic functions.

The side effects of benzodiazepines can also be more intense, with a greater chance of feeling muscle weakness, confusion, or memory issues when combined with alcohol use, making their use with those in detox from an addiction to alcohol and drugs a risky, individualized case. These effects compound and lead to an increased risk for overdose and the development of addiction and various mental health disorders as a result of their use. With the increase of both the use of benzos and alcohol as a result of ongoing stresses and limited social or personal outlets, the potential for using these substances in combination is a risk that needs to be acknowledged for the health and safety of each individual.

Because these risks are so serious, someone who is struggling with benzo misuse should seek medical help as soon as possible. While life without this drug may seem impossible now, you can recover from dependency upon it. The first step is a medical detox which should take place under medical supervision. At Gallus, we can assist you step by step throughout the detox process and manage your withdrawal symptoms so that you are as comfortable as possible. We pride ourselves in the Gallus Method which we will believe is the safest and most effective method of detoxing.

Benzodiazepines are an addictive drug and those suffering with dependency upon it require caring, specialized attention. Especially mixing benzos and alcohol, can be extremely dangerous and post substantial risks. At Gallus Medical Detox Centers, we understand the complicated nature of taking the first step towards sobriety. We strive to provide professional, educated, and comfortable care for you as you begin your journey. We provide individualized attention and  are continuously updating our caring, safe practices. We pride ourselves on our evidence-based medical protocols to help each person through their detoxification journey.

If you or a loved one are struggling with your use of benzodiazepines and are looking for a caring, proven community to take your first step, Gallus can help you today. Our focus on established techniques and comfort is designed to create an atmosphere that can help guide you through a successful detox based on your needs and goals. For more information on how we can help you, or to speak to a trained professional about your unique situation, call us today at (720) 669-8178.

Steve Carleton

Steve worked in the Department of Veterans Affairs for 10 years. He is a PTSD and substance use disorder expert with over 14 years of experience in and around addiction. Steve is also an Adjunct Professor at the University of Denver’s Graduate School of Social work. He teaches cognitive behavioral therapies, Motivational Interviewing, assessment skills using DSM-5, amongst others.

Last medically reviewed on April 14, 2021

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If you or a loved one is struggling with substance use, call Gallus at
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