orange and white medication pill

Recent data 2015-2016 survey on drug use and health suggest that over 12 percent of the American population uses a form of drug referred to as benzos. This number equates to over 30 million people, with a very small percentage abusing their medication due to addiction. Of the people who did abuse the medication, only around 20% of them reported actually having a valid prescription, meaning that many abusers did not have a prescription at all for the benzos they were taking.

If you are asking, “What are benzos?” read on to find some enlightening information on the topic of benzos and other pertinent facts.

What Are Benzos?

Benzodiazepines, also commonly referred to as benzos, are a class of drugs termed depressants. The first benzo created was lithium (chlordiazepoxide), and it was actually discovered by accident in 1955 and was available on the market in 1960. By 1977 benzos were prescribed more than any other medication around the world.

Today there are many different drugs, with the most popular being Xanax (alprazolam). Valium (diazepam) and Klonopin (clonazepam) along with others are popular options. Most often, for home use, patients are prescribed these medications in pill form, while injectables are available for clinical inpatient use.

How Do Benzos Work?

What are benzos, and how do they work? Benzos work by attaching themselves to the GABA receptors in the brain, which results in a calming effect, thereby reducing anxiety. There are short-term, intermediate, and long-acting benzodiazepines available. They are generally considered to have at least one of the following qualities, sometimes having more than one: Anxiolytic, muscle relaxant, hypnotic, anticonvulsant, or amnesic. There are a variety of conditions that use these classifications of benzos for common medical and psychiatric issues.

Short-term uses of benzos, such as Valium (diazepam), is a long-acting benzo and sometimes indicated for high-stress situations that are temporary, such as dental visits with patients who suffer from treatment anxiety. Midazolam is commonly prescribed for ophthalmic procedures due to its sedative action and short recovery time. Longer-term use of long-acting benzodiazepines would be considered ideal for the treatment of anxiety disorders. Both short and intermediate-acting benzos are used for the treatment of insomnia, with some being classified as hypnotics and used for sleeping pills such as Ambien (zolpidem), amongst others.

How Are Benzos Used?

There is a very long list of benzodiazepines useful in treating a variety of conditions, both long and short-term. Benzos are regularly prescribed for patients in need of medical help to combat legitimate conditions on a daily basis. These drugs are typically prescribed to combat anxiety, and insomnia, along with many other medical conditions including, but not limited to, muscle spasms and seizures in the case of serious issues such as cystic fibrosis. Conditions requiring treatment for repeated seizure activity are often treated with benzodiazepines.

Librium (chlordiazepoxide) is the most commonly used benzodiazepine there is for alcohol detox, helping to prevent dangerous complications such as seizures. Using Librium short-term allows for detox support without potentially becoming addicted to benzodiazepines.

Abuse Potential

One of the biggest problems we are facing today with benzos is addiction. With long-term benzo use, there is the potential for addiction, both physically and psychologically. With physical addiction to benzos, you will require more and more of the drug to achieve the desired effect. There are many people using benzodiazepines with legal prescriptions that do not become addicts, but the potential over time is of great concern.

For those who do become addicted to benzodiazepines, there are addiction treatments consisting of combination therapies, sometimes including behavioral therapy.

Side Effects

There are varying physical and emotional side effects that come along with the use of benzos other than addiction. Drowsiness, increased falls, injuries from impaired coordination, and slowed motor functions, along with loss of cognitive function, are concerns with benzos, especially when taken alongside other medications that could possibly slow down the central nervous system.


Benzos are contraindicated in some patients with comorbid conditions such as myasthenia gravis, severe sleep apnea, and lung issues or cardiopulmonary conditions along with other serious conditions. Alcohol is contraindicated in the use of benzos, with respiratory depression being a very real consequence. The use of non-prescribed opioids or barbiturates should be avoided with benzo use as the risks could be life-threatening.

The potential for accidental overdose is real, and all medications, both prescribed and obtained illicitly, should be checked against a drug database for interactions. Your local pharmacist can go over possible contraindications with you.

Benzo Addiction

The list of side effects of withdrawal from benzodiazepine addiction is long and far-reaching. Most people who go through withdrawal experience feelings of not being able to continue on without the drug. Some of the symptoms of withdrawal include anxiety, insomnia, depression, hypersensitivity, and seizures, along with very real muscular aches and actual pain. It has been reported that young people seem to be more sensitive to self-harm and suicidal attempts.

Benzodiazepine addiction is a serious problem in the US and other countries around the world. The dependence on benzodiazepines is a common complication seen if taking the drugs on a regular, daily basis long term. If you are here asking, “What are benzos,” or you are seeking help for addiction, there are trained professionals who can help you find the right therapy for you or your loved one. The Department of Health recommends monitoring for mood disorders for people suffering from benzo withdrawal.

Treatment For Addiction

Sometimes lifestyle and behavior modification is enough to break the habit of benzos, but when it isn’t, there is help available. With proper medical and emotional support, there is successful treatment for the addiction to benzos.

If you or someone you know is addicted to benzos, try searching online for information on “what are benzos” and the help that is available for dependency. There are many viable options today for detoxing safely. Finding a skilled professional is imperative to the successful treatment of benzodiazepine addiction.