Can you develop a benzodiazepine Addiction?

Benzodiazepines are man-made medications that belong to the class of psychoactive drugs used to treat various psychological and neurological disorders including Insomnia, Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), Seizures, Alcohol withdrawal and Panic attacks. The effectiveness of these medications are attributed to their ability to enhance the effect of the neurotransmitter Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid (GABA). When a person feels anxious, the brain goes into overdrive, tranquilizing transmitters (GABA) send messages to brain cells, slowing activity in the brain and reducing anxiety (Nordqvist, 2019). Given that these medications are so effective at what they do, it comes with little surprise that the risk for developing a benzodiazepine addiction is high.

There are a variety of benzodiazepines on the market, 15 of which are FDA approved for use in the United States (WebMD, 2019). Classification is determined by how long their effects last ranging from:

  • Ultra-short acting
    • Midazolam (Versed) triazolam (Halcion)
  • Short-acting
    • Alprazolam (Xanax), lorazepam (Ativan)
  • Long-acting
    • Chlordiazepoxide (Librium), diazepam (Valium)

Depending on the strength, speed at which the drug is absorbed into the body and the intended use, a doctor will determine the most appropriate benzodiazepine to prescribe for a patient. While use of these medications is relatively safe, ideally for short durations, long-term usage or combining these medications with other medications or alcohol can have devastating results, including the development of a benzodiazepine addiction.

Nordqvist, J. (2019 March 7) The benefits and risks of benzodiazepines. Retrieved from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/262809.php Nordqvist, J. (2019 March 7) The benefits and risks of benzodiazepines. Retrieved from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/262809.php
WebMD (2019) Benzodiazepine Abuse. Retrieved from https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/addiction/benzodiazepine-abuse#1