What Are Benzos?
Many people aren’t as familiar with the term benzodiazepines as they are with some of the drug class’s brand names, namely Xanax and Valium. Like many opioids and stimulants, benzos are legally prescribed by doctors to treat specific conditions, including anxiety and insomnia. The drugs act on the nervous system, decreasing anxiety and muscle tension, while also causing dopamine surges. People will abuse benzos to chase that happy and relaxed sensation.
Popular Benzodiazepine Brand Names:
How Dangerous Are Benzodiazepines?
Benzos make up more than 1/3 of all drug-related emergency room visits.
Benzos themselves rarely lead to death, but they can be fatal when mixed with alcohol. The major concern behind benzos is that they have the capacity to create a very strong physical dependence. That dependence is likely to lead to severe withdrawal symptoms, including:
- Heart palpitations
- Increased anxiety and tension
- Muscular pain
Withdrawal from higher doses of these drugs can lead to seizures and psychosis.
What Makes Benzos So Addictive?
Benzodiazepines are incredibly addictive. Researchers have found that benzos hold a similar addictive power to opioids, cannabinoids, and GHB. When a person takes a benzo, dopamine levels surge and flood the brain with a rewarding feel-good sensation. As benzos — along with those consequential dopamine surges — accumulate in the body, the brain’s reward center is actually altered as addiction forms.
It’s estimated that more than 44% of benzo users will eventually become dependent.
Danger: Combining Benzos and Opioids
23% of people who died of an opioid overdose in 2015 also tested positive for benzos.
In 2016, the CDC issued new guidelines for prescribing opioids, recommending that doctors avoid prescribing benzodiazepines concurrently with opioids whenever possible.
Both benzos and opioids suppress breathing and sedate users, both of which are causes of fatal overdoses. Taking both drugs together only increases that risk