Benzodiazepines, also known as “benzos,” are a class of prescription depressants that work in the body by depressing activity in the central nervous system.
When taken as prescribed, this can cause feelings of drowsiness, sedation, reduce anxiety, and slow down a person’s breathing. Unfortunately, these drugs are also sometimes misused.
Abusing benzodiazepines such as Xanax or Valium by taking them in ways other than prescribed can cause additional side effects, including:
- the rapid development of tolerance to benzodiazepines
- cognitive decline
Short-Term Side Effects Of Benzodiazepines
Physical and mental side effects can occur with the use of benzodiazepines, which are generally prescribed for the treatment of anxiety, panic attacks, and insomnia.
Short-term side effects of benzodiazepine abuse can include:
- nausea or vomiting
- reduced heart rate
- dry mouth
- mental confusion
- blurred vision
- slurred speech
Serious side effects, such as memory problems and delirium can also occur and may be more likely to develop when this drug is misused.
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Long Term Side Effects Of Benzodiazepines
Chronic use of benzodiazepines, particularly in high doses or in ways other than indicated, can have effects on mental, emotional, and physical health.
Long-term effects associated with chronic benzodiazepine abuse include:
- cognitive decline
- memory problems
- severe physical dependency
- pregnancy complications
- benzodiazepine withdrawal
Are Benzodiazepines Addictive?
Chronic use of benzodiazepines can cause physical dependence. Addictive effects have also been reported, generally as a result of drug misuse.
People who misuse benzodiazepines may become addicted to the sedative effects of benzodiazepines, or euphoric effects of combining benzodiazepines with other drugs.
What To Know About The Effects Of Benzodiazepines
Not all benzodiazepines affect people in the same ways.
Side effects of a benzodiazepine drug, including the onset of action and strength of effects, can vary according to the type of benzodiazepine and other personal factors.
Factors that can influence drug effects include:
- type of benzodiazepine drug (e.g. short-acting vs. long-acting)
- method of use
- duration and frequency of use
- dose taken
- mental health conditions
- overall health status
- use of other drugs
Benzodiazepine Side Effects FAQs
It’s common for individuals and loved ones affected by drug addiction to have questions about benzodiazepine abuse and addiction. Find answers to frequently asked questions here.
What Are The Most Common Side Effects Of Benzodiazepines?
The most common side effects associated with benzodiazepine use are drowsiness, dizziness, weakness, and dependence on chronic use.
What Are The Risks Of Benzodiazepines?
Benzodiazepines can cause physical dependence and be addictive in some people when used over a long period of time. They also carry certain mental and physical health risks.
Potential risks of chronic benzodiazepine abuse include:
- severe withdrawal
- cognitive decline
- impaired memory and coordination
- drug overdose
- thoughts of suicide
Chronic abuse of drugs like benzodiazepines can affect a person’s behavior, mood, and physical health.
Over time, this has the potential to impact virtually every area of a person’s life, including ability to work, attend school, or maintain healthy relationships.
Find Treatment For Benzodiazepine Abuse And Addiction
Millions of people in the U.S., including both teens and adults, report misusing prescription drugs like benzodiazepines. If this describes you or someone you know, you’re not alone.
To find treatment for benzodiazepine abuse, call our helpline today for more information about existing treatment options and where to find addiction treatment near you.
Published on June 16, 2021
Addiction Resource aims to provide only the most current, accurate information in regards to addiction and addiction treatment, which means we only reference the most credible sources available.
These include peer-reviewed journals, government entities and academic institutions, and leaders in addiction healthcare and advocacy. Learn more about how we safeguard our content by viewing our editorial policy.
- American Family Physician — Addiction: Part I Benzodiazepines - Side Effects, Abuse Risk and Alternatives
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) — Key Substance Use and Mental Health Indicators in the United States: Results from the 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health
- U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) — XANAX (alprazolam tablets)
- U.S. National Library of Medicine: PubMed — Management of benzodiazepine misuse and dependence