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Why Are Benzos So Addictive?

Last Updated: October 23, 2022

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People who deal with anxiety, insomnia or alcohol withdrawal may be prescribed benzos to help alleviate their symptoms. While benzos may be effective at treating these disorders, they can also be highly addictive.

Formally referred to as benzodiazepines, these drugs act as depressants to the central nervous system (CNS). This class of drugs is typically sold under well-known brand names such as Valium, Xanax and Ativan. They work by binding to the gamma-aminobutyric acid (GAMA) of the brain. This, in turn, helps to reduce neuron activity and therefore minimizes feelings of both emotional and physical tension.

The problem with benzos is that they can lead to addiction if they are used in excess or are used improperly. The United States is currently undergoing a serious drug epidemic, and benzos are contributing to the problem.

What is it about benzos that makes people who use them vulnerable to drug misuse and addiction?

How Do Benzos Work to Cause Addiction?

To understand how the misuse of benzos can lead to addiction, it is helpful to understand the role that dopamine plays.

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that carries signals between cells in the brain. The release of dopamine tells the brain that a specific experience is pleasurable and drives the need to seek more of it. Such a situation encourages people to change their behaviors in order to help them to continue to achieve stimulating experiences.

When there are extreme levels of dopamine in the brain, people may repeatedly seek out the pleasurable experience. They can become obsessed with seeking that same level of pleasure, which is exactly what happens with addiction. Drugs can cause these spikes in dopamine and can, therefore, cause addiction as a result of drug misuse.

Benzos work a bit differently to cause addiction. The feelings of pleasure that make drugs attractive to people at risk for benzo addiction occur when dopamine levels spike. Benzos weaken inhibitory interneurons in a specific part of the brain, which is responsible for preventing dopamine levels from surging by minimizing the rate of firing of the neurons that produce dopamine.

These dopamine-producing neurons actually release more dopamine when benzos inhibit the influence of these firing neurons. Eventually, benzos and other addictive drugs can lead to long-lasting changes in the brain’s reward system, making it difficult to overcome the addiction without outside intervention.

Where Can a Person Go For Help For Benzo Addiction?

While benzos certainly are highly addictive, you can live benzo-free with the right help. There are treatment centers available that deal specifically with addiction to depressants like benzos. Such programs are tailored to deal with the detox of these drugs to get them out of your system. Detoxing on your own is not only less likely to work, but it can even be dangerous.

When detox in a medically supervised environment is successfully completed, you can then move on to a customized treatment program that will address the underlying issues of why benzo use got out of control and teach the appropriate coping mechanisms to deal with any negative feelings that may be associated with it.

There are many local treatment resources ready to help you deal with your benzo addiction for good.  Contact The Recovery Village Columbus to find a treatment center near you.


Our Recovery Advocates are ready to answer your questions about addiction treatment and help you start your recovery.