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Short & Long-term Side Effects of Benzodiazepines

Benzo Side Effects from Use and Abuse

People take medications for many different reasons. Even if these pills are prescribed by a doctor, they are not always completely harmless. Benzos, for instance, can be used for various reasons, but they can still come with side effects. These symptoms can affect a person as they abuse the drug, while others may last for periods of time after the user has stopped. Banyan Treatment Center Palm Springs is breaking down the short and long-term side effects of benzodiazepines.

What Are Benzos?

Benzos, or benzodiazepines, are a class of drugs known as tranquilizers that depress the central nervous system. They are prescribed by doctors to treat insomnia, anxiety disorders, and even seizures because of their sedative effects. Some common benzodiazepines are alprazolam (Xanax), diazepam (Valium), lorazepam (Ativan), clonazepam (Klonopin), and triazolam (Halcion).

Benzodiazepine Side Effects

Like many medications, benzodiazepines can come with side effects. The severity and presentation of these effects will depend on the drug, the condition being treated, its use, and the person’s medical health.

Although these can vary, the short-term effects of benzodiazepines can include:

  • Lethargy
  • Decreased coordination or motor control
  • Weakened muscles
  • Slowed breathing
  • Blurred vision
  • Poor short-term memory
  • Mental confusion

The memory impairment that users experience is due to the fact that benzodiazepines enhance the activity of a neurotransmitter called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), which can impair the formation of new memories. Benzodiazepines can also cause paradoxical reactions, which are unexpected and have opposite effects to the intended ones. For example, instead of reducing anxiety, a benzodiazepine may cause increased agitation, hostility, and even aggression. This is more likely to occur in elderly patients or those with a history of substance abuse.

Another short-term side effect of benzodiazepines is rebound anxiety, which can occur when a person stops taking the medication abruptly. This can cause a rapid return of the anxiety symptoms that the medication was intended to treat, along with other symptoms such as insomnia, tremors, and sweating. It is important to taper off benzodiazepines slowly and under medical supervision to avoid these effects. Luckily, our California detox center is equipped to help patients currently addicted to benzos.

The Long-Term Effects of Benzos

While benzodiazepine side effects can occur for people taking their prescriptions as advised, not everyone taking these drugs is so careful. Some people may take more of these medications than directed. Other people may not have a prescription but take these drugs for their sedative effects. Because benzodiazepines can be addictive, with continued abuse, some people develop a dependence on them. Without benzo addiction treatment, there will likely be more severe benzo side effects.

The long-term side effects of benzodiazepines may include:

  • Higher risk of motor vehicle accidents
  • Increased risk of fractures
  • Chronic memory problems
  • Decreased visuospatial ability
  • Poor mental processing speed
  • Lower ability for verbal learning
  • Increased risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease 1,2,3,4

The negative impact of cognitive impairment, particularly in the areas of attention, memory, and executive function, can affect a person’s ability to work, drive, and engage in other activities that require proper brain functions. There have also been links made to depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts. Additionally, benzodiazepines can increase the risk of developing an addiction to other substances, such as alcohol or opioids.

Luckily, some of these benzodiazepine effects can be reduced with treatment. A drug detox can help someone quit their addiction to these medications and reverse some of these side effects. While some of the damage can be undone, a person’s cognitive functioning may never fully return back to pre-benzo levels.1 

Because of this limitation, it is important to get help sooner rather than later to avoid severe damage or serious injury as a result of the effects. If you or a loved one has a substance abuse problem, our Palm Springs drug rehab offers benzo addiction treatment programs that can help. At Banyan Treatment Centers Palm Springs, we work to provide the best options for drug addiction help in California. There is a beautiful light at the end of this tunnel, and we are here to aid you in reaching it. 

Call Banyan’s Southern California rehab today at 888-280-4763 to learn about the therapies and programs we offer and how they can help you achieve long-lasting recovery.


  1. NCBI – The effects of benzodiazepines on cognition
  2. Harvard Health Publishing – Benzodiazepine use may raise risk of Alzheimer’s disease
  3. NCBI – Psychoactive substance use and the risk of motor vehicle accidents
  4. NCBI – Risk of fractures requiring hospitalization after an initial prescription for zolpidem, alprazolam, lorazepam, or diazepam in older adults

Related Reading

How Long Benzos Stay in Your System

The Dangers of Mixing Benzos and Alcohol

Alyssa, Director of Digital Marketing
Alyssa, Director of Digital Marketing
Alyssa is the National Director of Digital Marketing and is responsible for a multitude of integrated campaigns and events in the behavioral health and addictions field. All articles have been written by Alyssa and medically reviewed by our Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Darrin Mangiacarne.
Short & Long-term Side Effects of Benzodiazepines
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