Benzodiazepines (“benzos”) are prescription drugs that first came to the market in the 1960’s. These medications are used to treat insomnia, anxiety, panic attacks, seizures, convulsions and other nervous system conditions. Today, these drugs account for about one out of every five prescriptions for controlled substances.

Two of the most popular and commonly known Benzos are Valium and Xanax. Introduced to the market in 1969, Xanax has become the fifth most commonly prescribed drug in America, accounting for 37.5 million prescriptions in 2006 alone – up from 29.9 million in 2002. A government survey conducted in 2000 found that approximately 5 million Americans abuse Xanax or other Benzodiazepines. Today, Xanax and other benzos are increasingly being used and abused by younger people seeking a “high.”


Benzos are a depressant to the central nervous system which seems to relax the user and chemically slows down the receptor cells and activity in the brain. Benzos have effects similar to what one would expect when consuming alcohol. Like alcohol, benzos impair mental alertness and physical coordination, significantly impairing response times, while compromising mechanical performance such as driving a vehicle or operating machinery.


Combining the use of benzos and alcohol can have fatal consequences. In addition, because of the effect created by benzos, a large percentage of people entering treatment for narcotic or cocaine addiction also report abusing benzos.

Benzos metabolize quickly and effect brain and physical function in shorter time frame than alcohol. The calming effect of Xanax starts quickly and this is one of the reasons that it becomes so addictive so fast. The effects fade rapidly as well, leading to the user taking more and higher doses to maintain the effect. After a few days to a few weeks, the use of Xanax will have to be increased to compensate for increased tolerance of the drug leading to physical dependence.

Many people who are addicted to Xanax start by taking small doses. Like heroin or cocaine users, they often begin taking more as tolerance builds and start craving the drug when the effects of the drug begin to lessen – which happens relatively quickly. Some reports suggest that people taking larger doses of Xanax become physically dependent in as little as two days. As with most drugs, the larger the dose, the faster one becomes addicted.

You may also be familiar with another benzo called Valium. You should know that .5 milligrams (that is half a milligram) of Xanax is equivalent to 10 milligrams of Valium. When someone says they are taking 5 milligrams of Xanax, that means that they are taking the equivalent of 100 milligrams of Valium, which is a very heavy dose. It also likely means that their tolerance to Xanax has increased markedly. Xanax is one of the two most frequently encountered benzodiazepines on the illicit market and can be found easily on the streets and in schools and colleges.


It can take a week or more before the body fully withdraws from Xanax and starts to return to normal levels of chemically balanced brain function. When the initial calming effects of the last Xanax dose wear off in a few hours, withdrawal starts.

Withdrawal from Xanax or any benzodiazepines is difficult and may require medical assistance as well as psychological counseling and support. Withdrawal symptoms include high blood pressure, rapid heart beat, tremors, uncontrollable movement of limbs, confusion, hallucinations, severe panic attacks and seizures that could lead to death depending on the severity.

Early detection of dug misuse and abuse is critical to managing and preventing more serious addictions and abuse of illegal drugs as well as prescription medications. Professional, affordable and confidential drug testing services are available through Carolina Testing. For more information, please call or text 843-972-3287.