Is it easy to develop a benzodiazepine Addiction?

Taking a benzodiazepine for longer than 4 weeks puts the user at risk for developing an addiction.

Benzodiazepines are a class of medications used to treat conditions such as anxiety and insomnia. Commonly prescribed benzodiazepines include Xanax, Valium, Klonopin and Ativan. Today, more than one in eight adults in the United States report using a benzodiazepine in the past year, which accounts for 12.6 percent of the U.S. population (American Psychiatric Association, 2018). Belonging to the class of depressants, benzodiazepines slow down the activity of the central nervous system (CNS) and the messages travelling between the brain and the body. By enhancing the effect of the neurotransmitter Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid (GABA), messages to brain cells slows, resulting in reduced anxiety and a calming effect (Nordqvist, 2019).

There are a variety of benzodiazepines on the market, 15 of which are FDA approved for use in the United States (WebMD, 2019). Classification is determined by how long their effects last ranging from:

Long-term usage of benzodiazepines puts patients at risk for developing an addiction to the medication.
  • Ultra-short acting
    • Midazolam (Versed) triazolam (Halcion)
  • Short-acting
    • Alprazolam (Xanax), lorazepam (Ativan)
  • Long-acting
    • Chlordiazepoxide (Librium), diazepam (Valium)

Depending on the strength, speed at which the drug is absorbed into the body and the intended use, a doctor will determine the most appropriate benzodiazepine to prescribe to a patient. While use of these medications is relatively safe, ideally for short durations, long-term usage or combining these medications with other medications or alcohol can have devastating results. Additionally, people who take benzodiazepines for longer than 4 weeks, risk developing a benzodiazepine addiction.

American Psychiatric Association (2018, December 17) Increasing use, and misuse, of benzodiazepines. Retrieved from https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/12/181217081756.htm
Nordqvist, J. (2019 March 7) The benefits and risks of benzodiazepines. Retrieved from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/262809.php