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Can You Get Addicted to Benzodiazepines If You Take Them as Prescribed?

Written on December 8, 2023
Can You Get Addicted to Benzodiazepines If You Take Them as Prescribed?

Benzodiazepines, commonly referred to as ‘benzos’, are a class of psychoactive drugs known for their calming effect. They are often prescribed for conditions like anxiety, insomnia, and seizures. Despite their therapeutic benefits, benzos can be addictive even if you take them as prescribed. 

Fortunately, if you or someone you love has been struggling with a Benzo addiction, there is help available. At Flatirons Recovery, we understand how difficult it can be to come to terms with the fact that prescription drug addiction has developed over time. We are available to gently guide you through the early recovery process, helping you get back on track and regain your happiness and independence. 

What Are Benzos?

Benzos, including well-known drugs like Valium, Xanax, and Ativan, act on the central nervous system to produce sedative, hypnotic (sleep-inducing), anti-anxiety, anticonvulsant, and muscle relaxant effects. Doctors prescribe them for short-term relief of severe or disabling anxiety or insomnia.

Commonly Prescribed Benzos

  • Alprazolam (Xanax): Often used for the treatment of anxiety disorders, and panic disorders, and sometimes for short-term relief of severe stress.
  • Diazepam (Valium): Prescribed for a variety of conditions, including anxiety, muscle spasms, seizure disorders, and sometimes for alcohol withdrawal symptoms.
  • Lorazepam (Ativan): Commonly used for anxiety disorders. It’s also used for sedation before surgeries and to treat seizure disorders.
  • Clonazepam (Klonopin): Typically prescribed for panic disorder and certain types of seizure disorders.
  • Chlordiazepoxide (Librium): Used to treat anxiety disorders and withdrawal symptoms of acute alcoholism.
  • Triazolam (Halcion): Typically prescribed for short-term treatment of severe insomnia, especially if the difficulty is falling asleep.

Each of these benzodiazepines has its specific uses, dosage guidelines, and potential side effects. They are usually prescribed for short-term use due to the risk of dependence and other side effects. As with any medication, they should be taken exactly as prescribed.

The Scope of Benzo Use in the U.S.

In the United States, the use of benzodiazepines, commonly prescribed for anxiety and insomnia, has led to a concerning increase in dependence and addiction cases. Research suggests a benzodiazepine addiction rate as high as 30 to 45% of chronically treated patients with the development of tolerance and dependence as well as withdrawal symptoms. This trend highlights the addictive nature of benzos, which can lead to dependence even under medical supervision. 

Why Are Benzos Addictive?

The addictive nature of benzos lies in their impact on the brain’s reward system. By enhancing the effect of the neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), they produce a sense of relaxation and euphoria. This effect can be habit-forming, leading users to develop a psychological and physical dependence on the drug.

How Long Does It Take to Get Addicted to Benzos?

The rate at which benzodiazepine dependence and addiction develop varies depending on individual factors such as genetics, dosage, duration of use, and underlying mental health conditions. However, it’s essential to understand that benzodiazepines, commonly prescribed for anxiety and sleep disorders, have the potential for addiction and tolerance development.

How quickly does benzo tolerance develop? Research suggests that benzodiazepine addiction can develop rapidly, with tolerance to the drugs often occurring within a matter of weeks to months of regular use. Individuals may find themselves needing higher doses to achieve the same effects, leading to an increased risk of dependence and addiction.

In findings from the 2022 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), it was revealed that approximately 3.7 million individuals aged 12 and over, misused prescription benzodiazepines within the previous year. This highlights the significant benzodiazepines addiction rate and the importance of understanding the risks associated with their use.

It’s crucial for individuals prescribed benzodiazepines to use them as directed by their healthcare provider and to be vigilant for signs of dependence or addiction, such as:

  • Needing higher doses to achieve the same effects (tolerance)
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when attempting to stop or reduce use
  • Continued use despite negative consequences on personal or professional life
  • Spending a significant amount of time obtaining, using, or recovering from benzodiazepine use

If you or someone you know is struggling with benzodiazepine dependence or addiction, seeking professional help is essential. Treatment options, including therapy, medication-assisted treatment, and support groups, can help individuals safely manage withdrawal symptoms and work toward recovery. Help is available.

Taking Benzos as Prescribed

Benzodiazepines carry a risk of addiction even when used according to a doctor’s prescription. This risk stems from the way these drugs interact with the brain’s neurotransmitter systems, potentially leading to physical and psychological dependence. The likelihood of addiction depends on various factors, including the duration of use, dosage, individual biology, and history of substance abuse. 

Typically, the risk increases with prolonged use, even at therapeutic doses, and becomes more pronounced beyond a few weeks of regular intake. Therefore, it is crucial for both clients and healthcare providers to be vigilant about the duration and necessity of benzodiazepine therapy and to explore alternative treatments when possible to minimize the risk of addiction.

Recognizing Benzo Addiction

Signs of benzo addiction include:

  • Increased tolerance (needing more of the drug to achieve the same effect)
  • Withdrawal symptoms when not using (e.g., anxiety, insomnia, irritability)
  • Continued use despite negative consequences
  • Obsession with obtaining and using the drug

What To Do If Addiction Develops

If you or someone you know develops an addiction to benzos, it’s important to seek professional help. Addiction treatment may involve:

  • Gradually tapering off the drug under medical supervision to avoid severe withdrawal symptoms
  • Behavioral therapies to address the psychological aspects of addiction
  • Support groups and counseling

Treatment Options for Benzo Addiction

The best treatment options for benzo addiction depend on the individual. However, a multi-staged program of care is generally the most effective. 


When addressing benzo addiction, detoxification stands as the crucial first step. Clearing the body of benzodiazepines demands close monitoring due to the intense withdrawal symptoms that can present significant challenges. These symptoms typically manifest within 1-2 days after the last dose and may persist for 2-4 weeks or more. The duration and severity of these symptoms can vary dramatically from person to person, making the predictability of recovery timelines somewhat elusive.

We stress the importance of seeking a medical detox facility for a safe detox process. This environment provides trained medical staff who can administer necessary medications and monitor symptoms to mitigate discomfort and health risks. Attempting detox at home or through rapid detox methods often leads to relapse, as cravings during and after detox can overpower personal resolve.

Inpatient Rehabilitation

Once the body has been detoxified, the next stage in treatment typically involves inpatient rehabilitation. Here, clients benefit from daily interaction with professional medical personnel in a supportive setting. Access to 24-hour care ensures that each individual’s unique needs are met, particularly when addressing co-occurring disorders or protracted withdrawal symptoms such as cravings that may endure even after detox.

The length of stay will vary depending on the individual’s needs. This method of treatment allows for comprehensive care, including:

  • Structured daily routines
  • Intensive therapy sessions
  • Medication management as needed
  • Continuous emotional support

Our Recovery Ranch program provides inpatient treatment for Benzo’s addiction in Colorado.

Outpatient Rehabilitation

Outpatient Rehabilitation provides a flexible treatment alternative for those who cannot commit to inpatient care or are transitioning from it. Patients engage in regular therapy and counseling while living at home and managing daily responsibilities. This method offers a customizable balance of treatment with everyday life, ideal for individuals with work or family commitments. Outpatient rehab includes scheduled therapy sessions and continued medication for withdrawal symptoms, with personalized care plans designed to support each individual’s recovery journey and enhance their likelihood of success.

Learn More About Benzo Addiction Treatment in Colorado

While benzos can be effective when used correctly and for short periods, benzos can be addictive, even when taken as prescribed. It’s crucial to use these medications only under the guidance of a healthcare professional and to be vigilant about the signs of addiction. If you do develop an addiction, Flatirons Recovery is available to help. Our Colorado Benzo addiction treatment program offers individualized, holistic care.

Contact us today to begin your journey of healing.