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Benzodiazepine Overdose Signs and Symptoms

Benzo Overdose Facts

According to the CDC, in 2019 and 2020, for every 100,000 people who visited the emergency departments, 23.7% were cases of Benzodiazepine overdoses. Between April 2019 and April 2020, prescription (illicitly acquired) related Benzodiazepine deaths increased by 21.8% and 519.6% for nonprescription.

Benzodiazepines (Benzos) are anxiolytic (tranquilizers) classes of drugs that belong to a larger group of substances classified as central nervous system (CNS) depressants. Benzos work by increasing the inhibition of neurotransmissions in the brain. Benzodiazepine overdose is the ingestion of one of the drugs in the Benzodiazepine class in quantities more significant than what is generally prescribed.

What are Benzodiazepines?

Benzodiazepines are prescription medications used to treat anxiety, panic attacks, muscle spasms, alcohol withdrawal, seizures, and short-term management of insomnia and are rarely used for this medical purpose. Examples of these drugs include; Xanax, Valium, and Klonopin.

Misuse of Benzodiazepine can cause substantial harm and eventually result in a possible lethal overdose.

The calming and anxiety-reducing effect of these sedatives has made their use rampant. Benzodiazepines can be harmful since it is usually taken without a prescription or in ways other than prescribed. Non-medical use of Benzodiazepine is an increasing concern. For example, in 2014, the national survey on drug use and health (NSDUH) revealed that 8.8% of Americans reported abusing benzodiazepines at some point in their lifetimes.

Causes of Benzodiazepine Overdose

Fatal Benzodiazepine overdoses are rare when used on their own, but certain aspects can put users at higher risk of severe consequences in the event of an overdose. These factors include;

  • Injecting the drug.

  • Taking them in larger doses than what is recommended.

  • Taking the medication more times than prescribed.

  • Mixing Benzodiazepine with other CNS drugs such as alcohol, opioid painkillers, etc.

  • Frequent use or abuse of these substances can result in the accumulation of the drug in the body.

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Medically Reviewed:


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Expert Contributor

Dr. Williams presently serves on the board of Directors for two non-profit service organizations. He holds a Master’s degree in Human Services from Lincoln University, Philadelphia, Pa, and a Ph.D. with a concentration in Clinical Psychology from Union Institute and University. In Cincinnati, Ohio. He is licensed to practice addictions counseling in both New Jersey and Connecticut and has a pending application as a practicing Psychologist in New Jersey.

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Benzodiazepine Overdose Warning Signs

A Benzodiazepine overdose can not only occur when you take more than the prescribed dose. Combining these drugs with other substances such as alcohol, other antidepressants, or opioid painkillers is more dangerous. These signs will give you the foresight to save a loved one in case of an emergency:

  • Trouble breathing

  • Bluish fingertips and lips

  • Double or blurred vision

  • Stupor

  • Coma

  • Altered mental status

  • Confusion and disorientation

  • Extreme dizziness

  • Weakness

  • Cardiac arrest

  • Gastrointestinal symptoms such as nausea and vomiting 


What to do in Case of a Benzodiazepine Overdose

When you witness any of these symptoms in your loved one, please call 911 immediately for immediate medical intervention. A timely call differs between saving a life and the likelihood of fatal consequences and death.

Immediately make a 911 call and provide them with as much information as possible about the person, such as:

  • The person's age

  • Weight

  • The signs the patient is exhibiting

  • Time the person took the drug

  • The amount of the drug ingested.

  • Where the person obtained the drug

  • The person's location


Causes of Benzodiazepine Overdose


Deadly Benzodiazepine overdoses are rare when used on their own, but certain aspects can put users at higher risk of severe consequences in the event of an overdose. These factors include:

  • Injecting the drug

  • Taking the drug in large doses

  • Taking the medication more times than prescribed

  • Mixing Benzodiazepine with other CNS drugs such as alcohol, opioid painkillers, etc.


When you are an overdose victim, you will be transported to the hospital, where the first interventions include but are not limited to:

  • Respiratory support

  • Intravenous fluids

  • Medications to reverse or control the effects of an overdose


Usually, a specific benzodiazepine receptor antagonist (Flumazenil) reverses the results of the sedative overdose.

You will be given Flumazenil to help you regain consciousness or prevent you from falling into unconsciousness or a coma. In a few cases, your recovery may take longer depending on the extent of the overdose and how fast you receive treatment.

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Preventing Overdose

It is crucial to take precautions to reduce the risk of a benzodiazepine overdose. National surveys have discovered that 50% of high school adolescents reported obtaining prescription sedatives, including benzodiazepines, from relatives and family members.


The following steps will go a long way towards saving your life and those of loved ones:


  • Follow the instructions properly; use the correct dosage, frequency, and method of administering the drug.

  • Do not share other people's medications; they may be prescribed a higher dose due to differences in age or weight.

  • Avoid the use of other medicines with or without alcohol.

  • Discuss with your medical service provider any side effects you experience after using the prescription.

  • Discuss all the drugs, over-the-counter medications, and supplements you currently take with your medical provider.

  • Keep all sedatives away from children and teenagers.

  • Keep all prescription medications in a locked cabinet.

  • Repair expired drugs at U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) collection sites.

  • Enlighten your teens and children on the risks of prescription drug use.


Consider seeking medical treatment if you are struggling with Benzodiazepine addiction;


  • Inpatient Treatment; In this case, you must reside in the recovery facility and participate in therapy and counseling sessions for a part of the day. You can get user support and a structured environment that reduces the cravings for benzodiazepines. As it is an intensive treatment, if you are highly dependent on benzodiazepines, your risk of relapse is minimized, and you can become sober sooner.

  • Medically Supervised Detoxification; This mode of treatment will give you ready access to immediate help if you are highly dependent on Benzodiazepines because of the risk of withdrawal. These detox facilities have medical personnel who monitor and treat withdrawal and other symptoms that may arise during your stay. If you abruptly stop taking the drug, you can experience anxiety, insomnia, paranoia, and seizures.

  • Outpatient Therapy; You can opt to attend therapy sessions after inpatient treatment, ranging from hour-long sessions to several days per week while attending to other obligations.


Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) focuses on changing negative thought patterns and behavior into healthy coping skills. It incorporates both inpatient and outpatient treatment modes. In this case, you learn how to relate your thoughts, feelings, and behavior to how they might have contributed to or perpetuated your substance abuse.


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The Bottom Line

Benzodiazepines are among the most highly prescribed drugs and are often used for self-poisoning. Benzodiazepine overdose is an overwhelming concern as the number of people using nonprescription drugs increases.


It is vital to learn and understand the safe handling of prescription and nonprescription medications. Only use prescription drugs for the purpose for which they were prescribed. Seek treatment when you suspect an addiction to avoid the risk of an overdose. Let's work together to minimize the risks associated with benzodiazepines!

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Benzo overdose facts
What are benzodiazepines?
Cause of benzodiazepine overdose
Benzo overdose warning signs
Preventing overdose
The bottom line
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