What Are Benzodiazepines?

Benzodiazepines are a class of prescription medications most commonly used to treat panic attacks, anxiety disorders, and insomnia. Benzodiazepines provide a pleasurable experience of relaxation and calm. However, benzodiazepines are extremely addictive and have potentially lethal withdrawals.

Independent of their addictive qualities, physiological damage from abuse of benzodiazepines and long-term use even as prescribed are considerable. Benzodiazepines are often used in alcohol detoxification facilities for their anti-convulsant properties, to prevent a patient from dying of seizures during alcohol detox.

Benzodiazepines are considered safe to ingest for no longer than two weeks.

What Are the Most Common Types of Benzodiazepines?

Household name benzodiazepines include Xanax, Valium, Ativan, and Klonopin.

All benzodiazepines operate on the physiology in an essentially similar way, though there are variations in the ways that benzodiazepines act on the central nervous system, in terms of which GABA-A receptor sub-types are acted upon.

In general, the way that benzodiazepines interact with the GABA-A receptors in the brain explains the sedative effects of these drugs, as benzodiazepines force an inhibitory use of available GABA, leading to an anxiolytic effect (anti-anxiety).

Some forms of benzodiazepine are stronger than others, or have a slightly different feeling and profile in terms of how long it takes to detoxify from them.

The most commonly abused types of benzodiazepines, such as Xanax and Valium, are those which act specifically as anxiolytics, though benzodiazepines may be prescribed for their antidepressant, anticonvulsant, and muscle relaxant effects as well.

What Happens When an Individual Becomes Addicted to Benzodiazepines?

Benzodiazepines are extremely habit-forming and may cause cravings after even a short period of use. After multiple doses, and especially the longer one uses them, the body indicates that it has accustomed to the previous dosage and will signal a desire for more. This is experienced subjectively as needing a higher and/or more frequent dosage to achieve and maintain the same sought-after anxiolytic (calming) or relaxant effect.

As with all addictive substances, through exposure to benzodiazepines, the neural synapses of an addicted person change through the drug’s operations on the nervous system. On the one hand, sensitivity to the presence of the drug changes, and on the other hand, the part of the brain responsible for restraining oneself from destructive behaviors is gradually disabled.

Due to a spike of pleasurable sensations triggered by the substance, the patient feels compelled to keep ingesting higher and higher levels of the medication. At the same time, someone who has become addicted to benzodiazepines will experience increasing levels of anxiety, nightmares, amnesia, and aggression.

Owing in part to depletion of dopamine levels, detoxification from benzodiazepines is extremely dangerous and should only be undergone in a supervised medical setting, due to the risk of death during the withdrawal process.

What Are Benzodiazepines Used for and Why Are They So Popular?

Benzodiazepines are prescribed clinically for a few different purposes, but they always have a sedative effect alongside whatever other effects they have.

Some benzodiazepines are amnestic, which means they are used for starting general anesthesia before surgeries or otherwise given to patients undergoing medical procedures. Some benzodiazepines are of the hypnotic class and these are prescribed for sleep disorders such as insomnia.

Anxiolytic benzodiazepines are frequently prescribed for anxiety problems, such as those associated with a diagnosis of social anxiety disorder or panic disorder. When prescribed for their sedative effects, benzodiazepines are used in the treatment of muscle spasms, epilepsy, or the catatonia associated with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

What Are Some Common Prescription Medication Brand Names?

The most commonly prescribed benzodiazepines and their brand names are alprazolam (Xanax), lorazepam (Ativan), clonazepam (Klonopin), and diazepam (Valium).

The benzodiazepine class of drugs exists in many forms, with dozens of prescription medications listed under this profile. Some other common benzodiazepines include triazolam (Halcion), chlordiazepoxide (Librax), and temazepam (Restoril).

Shocking Benzodiazepine Abuse Statistics

A 700% increase in benzodiazepine overdose deaths was recorded in the time between 1996 and 2013, according to the National Institute of Health (NIH). According to data shared by the CDC, both fatal and nonfatal deaths by benzodiazepine overdose are on the rise, with more than 7,000 overdose deaths logged for the year 2019, representing nearly 20% of all drug overdose deaths (prescription and nonprescription combined).

According to the watchdog site World Benzo Day, from which the above statistics are also cited, the rate of benzodiazepine prescription, as well as drug deaths by benzodiazepine, has significantly increased in the last decades, with the death rate nearly quadrupling between 1999 and 2010.

Despite these concerning deaths, benzodiazepine prescriptions occur with more and more frequency and are almost twice as commonly prescribed to women as to men. Diagnoses of anxiety are the cited cause for about 50% of the prescriptions for Xanax, Valium, Klonopin, Ativan, or similar drugs, and the prescription rate of these drugs was recorded as having doubled between 1996 and 2013.

According to findings collected by the Harvard/Brown Anxiety Research Project (HARP), a joint project investigating the topic of anxiety, benzodiazepines are prescribed to about half of all patients diagnosed with GAD, or generalized anxiety disorder, a diagnosis which is itself on the rise. Summaries state further, that around 30% of people prescribed benzodiazepine class prescriptions for their anxiety stay on them for as long as twelve years.

What Are Adverse Interactions of Benzos With Other Drugs and Alcohol?

Through Deep Mind, Body, and Spirit Changes, You Can Conquer AnxietyBenzodiazepines are commonly used in conjunction with other substances. The most common pairing is between benzodiazepines and opioid pain medications, or benzodiazepines and alcohol. The disastrous pairing of these substances has contributed to a meteoric rise in hospital ER admissions.

These substances are used in combination due to their mutually enhancing effects. They are also often used together out of a misperception that prescribed medications are less dangerous than illegal drugs, which is not necessarily the case.

Alcohol’s widespread availability and social acceptance can also easily lead to someone already on a high dose of benzodiazepines easily mixing the two in a hazardous way accidentally when participating in a social event or family gathering.

There are many adverse reactions recorded that correspond to combining benzodiazepines with other substances, including alcohol. Typically the mixing of substances creates a synergistic effect, with greater or lesser degrees of sedation and euphoria, and also a synergy of side effects, with a greater chance of brain damage and comatose states.

Two important side effects of benzodiazepine use, aggression, and cognitive impairment, are both made worse when the drugs are taken in combination with other drugs or alcohol. Sudden outbursts of anger and irritability, as well as memory lapses, disorientation, and brain fog, are more likely to occur when mixing drugs. The toll on the liver and kidneys is likewise exponentially increased, as is the burden on the cardiovascular and respiratory systems.

Mixing benzodiazepines with other addictive substances also increases the chance of developing chemical dependence and becoming addicted.

What Short-Term Term and Long-Term Side Effects of Benzo Abuse?

Since benzodiazepines operate by depressing the central nervous system, and slowing activity in the brain, one of the most common side effects of abuse of benzos is drowsiness, along with loss of motor coordination. This state of under-alertness and dampened muscular reflexes creates a risk of getting into car accidents for people who drive under the influence.

Otshort-termterm side effects of benzodiazepine use include:

  • Nausea
  • Slowed breathing
  • Vision problems
  • Impaired memory

When taken in higher doses, benzodiazepines will lead to:

  • Mood swings
  • Erratic behavior
  • Very slow reflexes
  • Dilated pupils
  • Clammy skin
  • Weak pulse
  • Memory

Long-term term side effects of benzodiazepine abuse are significant. Over a relatively short period, benzodiazepines create tolerance, dependence, addiction, and withdrawal upon discontinuation.

Other negative impacts associated with long-term use include:

  • Slurred speech
  • Cognitive decline
  • Confusion
  • Impaired judgment
  • Physical weakness
  • Damage to the memory, language, information processing, and learning centers of the brain

What Is the Effect of Benzos on Pregnant Women and New Mothers?

There are many risks for mother and baby when taking benzodiazepines during pregnancy and new motherhood. Associated risks include:

  • Birth defects
  • Abnormalities
  • Fetal respiratory problems
  • Preterm birth
  • Low birth weight

It’s important to understand that benzodiazepines cross the placenta and the blood-brain barrier. Using benzodiazepines during pregnancy can affect the delivery, and the physical and cognitive health of the newborn, and may result in infants having symptoms of neonatal benzodiazepine withdrawal, including seizures, intestinal problems, and tremors, upon leaving the mother’s womb.

Negative impacts on mother and baby are compounded in the case of using benzodiazepines together with other substances like alcohol or opioids.

Why Are Benzodiazepines So Addictive?

Benzo Withdrawl Must Be SupervisedBenzodiazepines are addictive because they hijack the natural reward system of the brain, resulting in a surge of dopamine.

Dopamine is one of the neurotransmitters involved with positive feelings of peace and pleasure, and normally the body naturally rewards us with moderate dopamine releases when we are engaging in life-affirming behaviors, like exercise, connection with others, healthy amounts of sleep, and creativity.

A surge of dopamine is experienced subjectively as an overwhelming flood of positive sensations that affect physical body states, emotions, and perceptions (thereby altering mood).
The dopamine spike induced by drugs is excessive compared to “natural highs”, and the brain immediately begins adapting to the imbalance.

The nervous system changes itself by reducing sensitivity to the presence of the benzodiazepine, at the same time coming to expect it as a factor when attempting to balance the equation of bodily neurochemistry.

In as short a time as two weeks, the body may be so accustomed to the chemical agent as a trigger of dopamine release that in the absence of the drug, a person will go into the opposite state, of not experiencing enough basic pleasure. This is experienced as unease and unhappiness, discomfort and pain.

The withdrawal state of any drug is essentially the opposite of what the drug does. In the case of benzodiazepines, the user experiences anxiety, dysphoria, and several physiological impacts such as:

  • Nausea
  • Tremors
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Perceptual shifts

These negative withdrawal symptoms further drive the mechanism of wanting to use benzodiazepines to make the withdrawal symptoms go away so that one feels “normal” again, thus beginning a cycle of addiction.

What Are Detox Options for Benzo Addiction?

If you have been using benzodiazepines, it is highly recommended that you check yourself in a medical setting for detoxification. Benzodiazepine withdrawals may be life-threatening, due to the risk of seizure and other medical complications. This is especially the case if you have been using benzodiazepines mixed with opioids and/or alcohol.

Medically supervised detox ensures that withdrawal goes as smoothly as possible. Tapering off in a supervised setting with professional monitoring is the safest and least painful way to go.

Villa Kali Ma Provides Benzodiazepine Addiction Treatment for Women

Villa Kali Ma Provides Benzodiazepine Addiction Treatment for WomenBenzodiazepine addiction disproportionately affects women, who are twice as likely to be prescribed a benzodiazepine than men. The benzodiazepine addiction, ER admissions, and overdose death numbers indicate that women are especially vulnerable to this particular problem.

At Villa Kali Ma, we work with women from all walks of life to recover lives of meaning and dignity, and to retrieve themselves from the clutches of benzodiazepines and any/all other substances.

We are equipped to provide you with medically supervised detox, residential treatment, and a complete package of outpatient and aftercare services. Everything you need from start to finish will be provided as part of your treatment.

We are a unique healing environment that combines the best of the Western medical model with alternative health, indigenous practice, and wisdom teachings from around the world. Through deep lifestyle changes of body, mind, and spirit, we help put you back on your feet ready for a new, different way of living your life.

Women who become addicted to benzodiazepines got sucked into the nightmare because they were looking, consciously or unconsciously, for peace of mind and basic feelings of safety. That need for deep peace and safety is valid. At Villa Kali Ma we’ll show you a natural, life-affirming path to finding the wellbeing you were looking for all along.

Villa Kali Ma Outpatient Treatment for Women

3790 Via De La Valle # 313
Del Mar, CA 92014

(760) 903-5758


Call Villa Kali Ma at (760) 350-3131 or contact us to learn about our Intensive Outpatient Program for women.


It was the best 30 days of my life.


Villa Kali Ma provides a holistic, supportive, therapeutic retreat for women to recover from trauma & substance disorders. The intensive and comprehensive approach provides a compassionate path of learning, awareness, and self-love for healing. I am grateful for the sacred space provided for my reflection, my mind-body-spirit work, and my opportunity to connect with other women in this process.


Villa Kali Ma changed my life in every single aspect. Not only did the experience help me get sober and stay sober for over a year now, but I was finally able to work on my past trauma in a safe and stable environment. Not a day goes by that I’m not using a healthy tool they taught me. I am forever grateful to the staff and strong women I spent my time with there. Truly the most profound life changing month of my life.





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Licensed by the State of California: Department of Health Care Services

Villa Kali Ma is an in-network provider with Anthem BCBS, Multiplan, First Health, Healthnet, and currently accepts most
PPO plans with out-of-network benefits. Call (760) 350-3131 for information on cost and payment options.