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photo of different types of benzo pills

Developed as an alternative to barbiturates that are less likely to result in overdose, benzodiazepines, commonly known as benzos, still have addictive qualities that can result in users falling into the trap of benzo addiction. Common benzos include the brand name drugs Xanax, Valium, Ativan or Klonopin. In addition to the potential for benzo addiction, these drugs also carry a strong potential for overdose when combined with other substances such as alcohol or barbiturates. Unfortunately, these overdoses can sometimes lead to death, making these “safer” drugs quite dangerous both in the short and long term. Benzo addiction and overdose are very real possibilities for anyone who takes these drugs over the long term, particularly without a doctor’s monitoring and supervision.

Benzo Withdrawal Can Be Life-Threatening

When an individual with benzo addiction stops taking their drug of choice, they will enter into benzo withdrawal which is often characterized by extreme versions of many of the exact symptoms that they sought to relieve by taking the drug in the first place. Individuals in benzo withdrawal experience a hyper-aroused and agitated state, oftentimes with difficulty in concentration and thought processing. In its most severe form, convulsions, heart attack, and stroke can occur. Because of this, it is important that a person who is addicted to benzodiazepines, such as Xanax or Ativan receive treatment in an inpatient drug detox. Medically assisted detox will provide the monitoring and support needed, as well as provide medication, nutritional, and emotional support.

Benzo Withdrawal is Long-Lasting

Furthermore, the withdrawal from benzos tends to be more prolonged than that of many other drugs, making professional treatment in an appropriate setting such as a drug rehab an important measure to avoid relapse treat problems associated with withdrawal. Both insomnia and anxiety can be very common side effects of benzo addiction withdrawal, and licensed treatment centers have the resources and training to help recovering addicts through these issues by other means than returning to benzo use.

Benzo Withdrawal Can Cause Seizures

Seizures are a complication that can occur during benzo withdrawal, even for those who do not have an underlying seizure disorder. So, if you or your loved one is considering entering treatment for a benzo addiction and have a seizure disorder, an inpatient or residential drug detox is likely to be the best and safest option. The facility should have the ability to provide stellar medical care and have access to a neurologist. The physicians responsible for your care in the inpatient drug rehab should access to all the necessary medical information from the neurologist, or other medical provider, who is treating the seizure disorder.

Common Benzos That Can Lead to Benzo Addiction

Benzos are commonly referred to by their brand names; the following list describes some of the most common ones that can lead to benzo addiction.


This drug was the first commercially available benzodiazepine and is typically prescribed for alcohol withdrawal and for anxiety (rarely). Because Librium is long-acting and has an intermediate onset, it is less sought-after for benzo addicts. It also has a less favorable side-effect profile and does not induce as much euphoria as some other benzos.


The second benzodiazepine that was commercially available, diazepam, is considered the standard to which other benzodiazepines are compared and is prescribed for anxiety, alcohol withdrawal, seizures, and for muscle relaxation. It is available to be delivered intravenously, so it is commonly used in inpatient settings. It is also available to be taken by mouth, is long-acting, and has a rapid onset of action. Because Valium creates more euphoria (sense of well-being) and has a rapid onset of action, it is more commonly abused than Librium.


This benzo is available intravenously and in a pill form and is prescribed for anxiety, seizures, alcohol withdrawal and irritable bowel syndrome. It has an intermediate onset of action when taken by mouth and is intermediate acting. Because of the intense euphoria created, the relative lack of undesirable side-effects, and its wide-availability, Ativan is a commonly abused drug that can often result in benzo addiction.


Serax, or Oxazepam, does not create as much euphoria as does Ativan and is less commonly abused. It is also less commonly prescribed, so it is generally less available to those who are in the throes of a benzo addiction, but is still prescribed rarely for anxiety and can be used to treat alcohol withdrawal. Serax has a slow onset and an intermediate duration of action, which also makes it less likely to be abused.


The generic name for Xanax is alprazolam, which is highly euphorigenic (creates euphoria), has an intermediate duration of action and onset, and is commonly abused, especially by teenagers and those who are addicted to opiates and club drugs (Ectasy, Crystal Meth). Xanax is often prescribed for mood disorders (anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder), and panic disorder and can lead to dual-diagnosis benzo addiction in these cases.


This highly-potent, longer-acting benzo has an intermediate onset of action. It may not be as euphorigenic as some of its benzodiazepine sisters, but once addicted, the withdrawal syndrome can be prolonged, and potentially dangerous. This drug is used to treat seizures, but can also be used to treat sedative withdrawal, panic attacks, and anxiety.

Benzos as a “Partner Drug”

Another common path to benzo use and subsequent addiction is the use of benzos as a “partner drug” to other illicit drug use. Many individuals who begin using benzos without a prescription do so to help them “treat” negative symptoms of other drugs’ abuse or withdrawal. Common “partner drugs” to benzos include: club drugs such as MDMA, opiates, and stimulants such as methamphetamine or cocaine. In these cases, benzos are used to:

  • Gradually “come down” from a high
  • Prevent the nervousness that is a frequent side effect of stimulants and club drugs
  • Combat the insomnia often caused by stimulants
  • Increase the “high” produced by an opiate
  • Moderate the withdrawal symptoms or “crashes” associated with these drugs

From Treating Mental Illness to Benzo Addiction

Many people begin taking benzos as a result of a doctor’s prescription to treat a number of mental health conditions. These include anxiety disorders, panic disorder, seizure disorders, sleep disorders, and alcohol and sedative withdrawal. Taken under a doctor’s supervision, these drugs can be very effective at treating these conditions. However, they can also lend themselves to abuse and eventual benzo addiction.

Users can begin to take more of the drug than recommended (particularly as they develop a tolerance to them), search for “street” sources once prescriptions dry up, or start “doctor shopping” to find multiple sources to feed their growing benzo addiction. These individuals can then find themselves suffering from “dual-diagnosis” benzo addiction, where their underlying mental health disorder and the growing addiction become intertwined, making the path to recovery that much more difficult, particularly without highly skilled professional treatment of both conditions simultaneously.

infographic showing a person with their head in their hands with information about how easy it is to develop benzo addiction

Get Help for Benzo Addiction

If benzo addiction has gotten a grip on you or someone you love, BWR can help you find a way out. Our operators are available day or night, seven days a week, to help to start the journey to recovery from benzo addiction. Call us at 800-683-4457 before this disease can claim another victim.


Behavioral Wellness & Recovery is a Joint Commission accredited program. The Joint Commission recognizes excellence in health care organizations and programs.


Behavioral Wellness & Recovery is a Joint Commission accredited program. The Joint Commission recognizes excellence in health care organizations and programs.

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