How Do Benzos Affect Your Brain Chemistry?

Long term use of benzodiazepines has long been linked to brain damage, but it was not until recently that more about their effects became known. Drugs such as Xanax and Valium are prescribed by doctors for anything ranging from panic attacks to fear of flying. While an occasional dose as needed will not cause significant changes in the brain, continued use or abuse leads to detrimental effects. Benzos are prescribed more often than almost any other class of drug, and if you do not fully understand their effects, you may be putting yourself at risk.

How Do Benzos Work?

How Do Benzos Affect Your Brain Chemistry?

Benzos are very effective short-acting drugs, but long-term use can lead to changes in brain chemistry

While benzodiazepines have high potential for abuse and long-term use can carry negative consequences, benzos are highly effective at what they do. When you take Xanax, it affects gamma receptors in your brain, causing neurons not to fire as often in areas of the brain tied to anxiety and fear.[1] Reducing activity in these areas of the brain makes the subject feel relaxed and calmer, less likely to feel agitated. Benzos are fast-acting drugs, so symptoms may be relieved within 30 minutes or an hour after taking medication.

Benzos are the most effective when you first start taking them regularly, but over time your body builds a tolerance, and the effects become less pronounced. Your doctor may increase your dose or change drugs, but as long as you take benzos regularly, you will build a tolerance. Most doctors recommend that patients only use benzos for a short period of time to reduce the buildup of tolerance or the onset of withdrawal symptoms.[2] Withdrawal symptoms are uncomfortable and can actually be dangerous to the user, so if you are considering quitting you must seek medical help. Benzodiazepine withdrawals can lead to sweating, tremors, seizures and death. The only safe way to combat benzo withdrawals is to enter a professional detox program where you can receive medical supervision.

Getting Off Benzos

If you notice benzos having a negative impact on your life, you should find healthier ways to cope your anxiety. Benzos may help at first, but in the long run it is better to learn to manage anxiety and stress without drugs.[3] If you are a light user, you may be able to quit on your own, but if you have become addicted, you should seek professional treatment. It is dangerous to quit cold turkey once you are addicted, but a rehab clinic will help you come up with a plan to progressively lower your dose so you can minimize the severity of withdrawals. If you notice cravings or effects such as headaches or nausea when you go a few hours without a dose, you may be dependent on benzos. Dependence may develop into an addiction if untreated, so the sooner you get attention the better.

Spotting Benzo Abuse

The effects of benzodiazepines are normally mild, and it is hard to spot a normal dose, but high doses result in more severe side effects that are easier to notice. Symptoms that indicate benzodiazepine abuse include the following:

  • Drowsiness
  • Slurred speech
  • Confusion
  • Dizziness
  • Loss of coordination
  • Trouble breathing

Chronic benzodiazepine abuse leads to more pronounced effects and more side effects are introduced. Many chronic benzo users complain about the same symptoms that caused them to use benzos in the first place like anxiety, insomnia, headaches and mood swings. Most people do not experience side effects with short-term use. If you use benzos and begin experiencing withdrawals or other side effects, discuss your dosage and alternative treatment options with your doctor or psychiatrist. Symptoms normally last three or four days after your last dose, but the severity and duration differ greatly on a case-by-case basis.

Protect Your Brain: Quit Benzos Today

Using benzos may have helped you feel better at first, but is the long-term cost worth the short-term relief? When side effects start interfering with your life, it is time to reconsider your options. If you have been using benzos for more than a few weeks and your dosage has increased since you began, you are at risk for dependence or addiction to benzos or other drugs like LSD. Call our toll-free helpline today to learn more about the signs of benzodiazepine addiction and to find out how addiction treatment can help. Our trained addiction experts are standing by 24 hours a day to answer your call and let you know if health insurance will help pay for rehab. Have your policy information on-hand, and we will let you know if a treatment center accepts your coverage. Let us answer your questions about benzodiazepine addiction treatment and direct you to an effective treatment facility where you can start your recovery. Continuing benzo use causes more brain damage and a stronger addiction. Stop now before things continue to get worse. Call us today, and find the treatment you need to get well.


[1] Well-Known Mechanism Underlies Benzodiazepines’ Addictive Properties

[2] Brain Damage from Benzodiazepines: The Troubling Facts, Risks, and History of Minor Tranquilizers

[3] Benzodiazepines Information