Benzodiazepine Overdose: Signs, Symptoms, & What To Do

A benzodiazepine overdose can cause severe fatigue, breathing problems, hypotension, and even death. If you or a loved one take benzodiazepines and show signs of overdose, call for medical help right away.

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Symptoms of a benzodiazepine overdose may include drowsiness, respiratory depression, low blood pressure, and abnormal vital signs.

You can see signs of a benzodiazepine overdose in a loved one by looking for difficulty concentrating, trouble breathing, a weak pulse, and slurred speech.

Benzodiazepines are prescription drugs used in the treatment of anxiety disorders or alcohol withdrawal symptoms. Proper use of benzodiazepines has a low risk of overdose.

However, benzodiazepines such as Xanax and Valium can be abused for their sedative side effects.

Taking benzodiazepines with opioids can greatly increase your risk of overdose compared to taking benzodiazepines alone. If you mix benzodiazepines and opioids together, you may be struggling with a substance abuse problem.

Warning Signs Of A Benzodiazepine Overdose

Taking high doses of benzodiazepines can have physical and mental side effects. These side effects may be visible to others. Signs that a loved one or family member has overdosed on benzodiazepines may include:

  • shallow breathing
  • clammy skin
  • difficulty staying awake
  • weak pulse
  • trouble concentrating
  • fatigue

Flumazenil can reduce the sedative effects of benzodiazepine toxicity. A doctor may check the victim’s airways before giving flumazenil. Intravenous (IV) fluids, breathing support and activated charcoal may also be given to an overdose victim.

Naloxone can manage breathing problems caused by a combined benzodiazepine and opioid overdose. Naloxone can be given by people who are not medical professionals, and you can get naloxone from local harm reduction programs.

Symptoms Of A Benzodiazepine Overdose

A benzodiazepine overdose can affect your well-being. Personal symptoms of a benzodiazepine overdose may include:

  • severe drowsiness
  • confusion
  • dry mouth
  • low blood pressure (hypotension)
  • slow or irregular heart rate
  • trouble breathing (respiratory depression)
  • loss of coordination or balance (ataxia)

If you experience these symptoms after taking benzodiazepines, call for medical help or inform a loved one right away.

Risk Factors For Overdosing On Benzodiazepines

Taking benzodiazepines on their own and as directed by your healthcare provider can greatly reduce your risk of overdose. Conversely, abusing benzodiazepines or not talking to your doctor about your history of drug use can increase your risk of overdose.

Mixing Benzodiazepines With Drugs Or Alcohol

Mixing benzodiazepines and opioids can greatly increase your risk of overdose.

In 2021, about 10,000 opioid overdose deaths in the U.S. involved benzodiazepines, or about 14 percent of all opioid overdose deaths. By comparison, about 1,000 fatal overdoses in 2021 involved benzodiazepines taken without opioids.

Other central nervous system depressants and sedative-hypnotics, such as alcohol, barbiturates, and some sleep medications, can cause serious adverse effects when taken with benzodiazepines.

You can talk to your doctor about your history of drug use before taking benzodiazepines. This can reduce your risk of harmful drug interactions and life-threatening drug overdoses.

Benzodiazepine Addiction

Benzodiazepines are habit-forming, especially if you take them in high doses, take them without a prescription, or mix benzodiazepines with other drugs.

If you cannot stop taking benzodiazepines or have health problems when you try to quit, you may be suffering from benzodiazepine addiction.

Benzodiazepine addiction is a type of substance use disorder defined by worsening mental health and a need to take benzodiazepines in your daily routine. If you take high doses constantly or relapse after quitting benzodiazepines for a short time, your risk of overdose may be high.

Benzodiazepine addiction can be difficult to treat on its own. You can improve your chances of recovery by enrolling in a substance abuse treatment program.

Bedrock Recovery Center

Benzodiazepines such as alprazolam (Xanax), lorazepam (Ativan) and diazepam (Valium) are widely available for illicit substance use in the United States. Even if you have a benzodiazepine prescription, you can be at risk for overdosing and other long-term health problems.

At Bedrock Recovery Center, we offer treatment options for patients struggling with benzodiazepine use. Our evidence-based treatment services can help you and your loved ones recover from high-risk benzodiazepine use.

For information on our medical detox programs, benzodiazepine withdrawal management services, mental health services, and other addiction treatment options, please contact us today.

  1. Food and Drug Administration - VALIUM (DIAZEPAM) Label
  2. National Institute on Drug Abuse - Drug Overdose Death Rates
  3. National Institute on Drug Abuse - Prescription CNS Depressants DrugFacts
  4. National Library of Medicine: StatPearls - Benzodiazepine Toxicity

Written by Bedrock Recovery Center Editorial Team

Published on: August 24, 2023

© 2024 Bedrock Recovery Center | All Rights Reserved

* This page does not provide medical advice.

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