Commonly abused benzo prescription pills

Benzodiazepines: Ativan, Xanax, Valium, Klonopin

Frequently Asked Questions
What Are Benzodiazepines?

Benzodiazepines, often referred to as simply “benzos,” are depressants prescribed primarily to treat anxiety. They are sometimes used to treat muscle spasms and reduce seizures.


Which Are Most Commonly Abused?

Ativan, Xanax, Valium, Halcion, Klonopin, Librium

What Are Common Street Names?

Benzos, Downers, School Bus, White Girls, Ludes

What Do They Look Like?

Benzodiazepines are available in pill and capsule form. Color, size, and shape vary depending on the specific prescription medication.

How Are They Used?

Benzodiazepines are taken either orally or crushed and snorted.

What Are the Short-Term Effects of Benzodiazepines?

Benzodiazepines are often taken by individuals who suffer from insomnia or epilepsy, as they can cause drowsiness and reduce seizures. Individuals suffering from muscle spasms and anxiety may take benzodiazepines to alleviate their symptoms as well. Though they provide temporary comfort for some, benzodiazepines are easily misused as they are a factor in approximately 30 percent of overdoses across the United States.

Why Are Benzodiazepines Harmful?

Benzodiazepines’ potential for harm is often underestimated because they are typically prescribed. Unfortunately, though they are intended for short-term use, many individuals unintentionally develop a tolerance to the drug, taking higher doses to produce the same calming effect, and become addicted. Benzodiazepines can have a fatal impact on users when combined with opioids, as each drug suppresses breathing and brain function.

Long-Term Effects of Benzodiazepine Abuse

Repeated misuse can lead to benzodiazepine addiction and various health problems, such as:

Individuals who overdose require immediate medical attention, as health complications such as pneumonia, muscle damage, brain damage, and even death may occur after an overdose.

Recognizing Benzodiazepine Addiction

Over time, benzodiazepine abuse can cause neurological dependence on the depressant. Signs of benzodiazepine addiction may include:

Psychosocial Symptoms

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Mood swings
  • Irritability and hostility

Physical Signs

  • Vertigo
  • Double vision
  • Muscle weakness
  • Increased respiratory infections
What Does a Benzodiazepine Overdose Look Like?

Benzodiazepine overdoses are responsible for many prescription drug overdoses. They occur when an individual takes a toxic number of benzodiazepines or combines them with alcohol or other drugs. Slowed breathing and deep sleep are common signs of a benzodiazepine overdose.

Signs of Overdose
  • Slurred speech
  • Confusion
  • Lack of muscle coordination
  • Profoundly altered mental state
  • Extreme drowsiness
  • Tremors
  • Trouble breathing
  • Bluish nails and lips
How Do You Treat Benzodiazepine Addiction?

Benzodiazepine Detox

Like addiction to any abused substance, the first step to overcoming a benzodiazepine dependency is to rid the body of all traces of the drug. This process is known as detoxing. As the drug leaves the body, individuals may experience a certain level of discomfort known as withdrawal. Benzodiazepine withdrawal symptoms can be both physically and emotionally painful and, in some cases, life-threatening. Because of this, it is strongly recommended that individuals seek a medically-monitored detox under the supervision of professionals. This ensures the individual’s safety and reduces the risk of relapse.


  • Agitation
  • Restlessness
  • Numbness, itching, or skin crawling
  • Tension
  • Difficulty walking
  • Perceptual distortions

Benzodiazepine Addiction Treatment

Once the body has been stabilized, individuals should continue with a comprehensive treatment plan that can provide them with the necessary drug counseling and substance abuse education to properly address the behavioral issues that have developed because of their use. Treatment offerings available for benzodiazepine addiction include inpatient (residential), extended care, and outpatient programs.


Because addiction is a disease that impacts the entire body ⎼ mentally, physically, and spiritually ⎼ it is important that individuals pursue holistic forms of therapy.

Those recovering from benzodiazepine addiction can particularly benefit from activities that promote relaxation and positivity. Individuals who took benzodiazepines for the anxiety relief they provided may find solace and a sense of accomplishment through Horticultural Therapy, which quiets the mind by encouraging it to focus on nurturing plant life. Former benzodiazepine users can alternatively achieve a state of tranquility through Qi Gong, which calms the mind and body through coordinated movement and breathwork. Those who relied on benzodiazepines to deal with feelings of hopelessness can develop a more upbeat attitude and a greater sense of control over negative feelings through Personal Empowerment.

Horticultural therapy at Mountainside treatment center in CT.

Horticultural Therapy

Therapy that uses gardening to encourage a deeper bond with nature, allowing you to nurture a healthy mind and feel calm and connected with your environment.

Mountainside treatment center patients doing Qi Gong for holistic healing.


Combination of movement, meditation, and breathing to enhance energy flow, improve blood circulation, and stimulate immune function.

Woman smiling with group of rehab patients engaging in holistic therapy

Personal Empowerment

Dynamic coaching that creates a more positive mindset for the future by helping you gain clarity on your true desired feelings and identify strengths to achieve your goals.

Read our Wellness page to learn about other holistic therapies to inspire and strengthen your mind and body.

An estimated 44 percent of individuals who take benzodiazepines become dependent on them. Know the signs of abuse. If you or a loved one is struggling with prescription drugs, reach out for help. Our compassionate team of experts is here to help.