Benzos vs Opiates: What You Need to Know and How to Recognize a Problem

benzos vs opiates

You’ve read the news about the rising addiction to both benzos and opiates in the United States and the rest of the world. 

You know there’s a serious problem — but you’re not certain you have a grasp of what these pills are and what they can do. You’d like to learn more about the differences between benzos vs opiates. 

Perhaps you’re curious because you or someone you love has become dependent on these life-threatening drugs. 

This article is here to help. 

Read on to learn more about benzo addiction and opiate abuse. We’ll also let you know where you can go to get the best possible treatment

Benzos vs Opiates: The Basics

The biggest difference between benzos vs opiates is the issues that they’re designed to treat. 

Opiates are primarily used to help you to manage physical pain. Often, your doctor will give you a limited prescription for opiates after you’ve had a serious surgery to help you get through the recovery process with limited pain. 

Additionally, opiates are sometimes used as a solution to help those who suffer from chronic pain, persistent migraines, severe back pain, and more. In some cases, they are prescribed to help you during the recovery period after a severe injury or fall. 

They are even given to patients who need relief from the physical pain of cancer.

So then, what do benzos do, and when are they prescribed? 

If you’re a part of the over 18% of the population who deals with severe anxiety, your mental health provider may have talked to you about the possibility of using benzodiazepines temporarily to relieve your symptoms. 

In other words? 

Opiates are usually used to help you manage physical pain, while benzos are usually prescribed to those who need mental health treatment. Yes, in some cases, benzos are given to patients before surgery. 

But this is to help calm these patients down if they’re feeling nervous — not to numb the physical pain. 

Benzos can also help those who suffer from panic attacks and Panic Disorder, as well as those struggling with insomnia. 

Benzos, like opiates, are not meant to be used in the long-term. Instead, they’re prescribed to help patients achieve mental stability while they wait for antidepressants to take effect. Additionally, talk therapy is meant to help people suffering from anxiety overcome their issues. 

How Benzos and Opioids Work

Now that you know the main differences between benzos vs opiates, let’s talk about how addiction can happen — and why it does. 

In order to do this, you need to understand how both of these types of prescriptions work.

Both opiates and benzos are designed to impact the neurotransmitters in the brain.

Opiates are designed to trigger the brain’s opioid receptors. It’s important to understand that our body naturally produces pain-relieving chemicals. However, if you’re dealing with chronic pain or the aftereffects of surgery, you may not have enough of these natural chemicals. 

Opiates latch on to these receptors in your spinal cord, your brain, and elsewhere to offer you serious pain relief. In fact, what they actually do is block your ability to feel pain. 

Many people who use opiates also report feelings of extreme bliss/euphoria.

Now, let’s talk about how exactly benzos work. In some ways, the process is fairly similar to that of opioids. However, instead of latching onto your opioid receptors, benzos are designed to stimulate your GABA neurotransmitters. 

If you’re struggling from severe anxiety, then chances are you deal with an imbalance in these GABA receptors. This leads to feelings of anxiety and depression. 

GABA slows down the amount of communication between these neurotransmitters so that you’ll feel much calmer and in control. 

Let’s quickly close by discussing some of the more common benzos and opioids. 

Common benzos include Clonazepam/Klonopin, Lorazepam/Ativan, and Alprazolam/Xanax

Some of the most well-known opioids include Codeine, Hydrocodone, Morphine, and, of course, Fentanyl. 

Now that you can better answer the question, “What do benzos do?”

Let’s take a hard look at some of the realities surrounding addictions to these powerful medications. 

Developing an Opioid and Benzo Addiction

You’ve heard the statistics, like the fact that about 70% of deaths from drug overdoses happen as a direct result of opioid abuse.

You’ve had friends or family members tell you of their own struggles with an addiction to painkillers or benzos. 

Still, you just don’t think it could ever happen to you. 

Those addicts — past and present — likely had the very same attitude. 

There is certainly no denying the fact that both of these medications are effective. When used correctly, and for a short period of time under a doctor’s frequent supervision, they can greatly help people. 

However, they’re also much more addictive than you might think. 

This is because your body builds up a tolerance to both of these medications incredibly quickly. This means that, in order for you to feel the same effects as you did when you first started taking them, you’ll need to take a higher dose. 

You’ll also need to take them more often than just once per day. 

The hard truth is that, even if you use these medications as directed, there is still at least some level of risk of developing an addiction. In some cases, you can even develop an addiction to either of these prescriptions in as little as one month. 

There are also some serious health risks associated with abusing these medications. Now, let’s take a look at what can happen if you do. 

The Consequences of Addiction

As with any medication, when you use either benzos or opioids, you’ll experience some side effects. 

But when you abuse them, you’re no longer talking about “side effects.”

Instead, you’re talking about putting yourself and your health and safety at serious risk in both the long and the short-term.

Of course, you also put yourself at high risk of benzodiazepines overdose, or an overdose from opioid abuse.  

This is even more likely if you abuse these medications at the same time, something that’s become more common in recent years. 

The same thing goes if you attempt to combine opioids and alcohol or benzos and alcohol. You put your life in jeopardy if you do so. In fact, this very combination has claimed the lives of many celebrities, including Whitney Houston.

However, even if you abuse these medications on their own, there are still serious risks involved. 

You may deal with severe nausea and vomiting, muscle spasms and cramps, or even feel dizzy. Some people say they experience blurred vision or double vision. 

Others notice a loss of coordination. They may trip, fall, or stumble more often than usual, injuring themselves or others. 

Of course, these are mild consequences compared to what else can happen. You put yourself at high risk of having a seizure, a heart attack, dealing with respiratory problems, and memory loss with addiction. 

In some cases, you may even enter into a coma. 

But how can you tell if you’ve developed an addiction? Read on to find out. 

Common Signs of Addiction 

It can be a challenge to be honest about the signs of addiction in yourself, or even in someone that you love. 

That said, knowing the most common signs to watch out for may help you to save a life. Let’s take a closer look at the physical and mental signs of an addiction now. 

Physical Signs

Some of the most common physical signs of addiction include tremors, clumsiness, and even slurred speech. 

You may notice that the person you’re concerned about has been suffering from bizarre sleeping habits. Perhaps they sleep all the time or barely sleep at all. They’re up at all hours of the night, and they frequently complain of insomnia. 

They may also talk about headaches or even digestive problems.

In some cases, you may notice that they’ve dropped a serious amount of weight — or put more on. This is also a sign of a potential problem. 

Emotional Signs

There are also behavioral and mental signs of addiction to be on the lookout for. 

You should look for an increase in depressive behaviors, like hopelessness or even threats of suicide or talk of self-harm. 

They may also isolate themselves socially. This, in most cases, is their attempt to hide their addiction from others. Of course, this intense level of isolation only serves to compound the depression they already feel. 

You may also notice some serious mood swings in someone you suspect has an addiction. They may be overly aggressive one minute, and then lighthearted again the next. 

Sometimes, it can feel like you no longer know the person once they’ve developed an addiction to benzos or opiates. 

You want to make sure they’re safe, but you’re beginning to feel like an enabler. This is especially true if they ask you for money, even if you know that they’re likely to spend it on drugs. 

You want to set boundaries to keep yourself and others around you safe. Most of all, however, you want them to be able to get the help they so clearly need. 

Why Professional Treatment Is Needed

The biggest reason why you should seek professional treatment for both benzo addiction and an addiction to opioids? 

Your safety. 

There is no safe way to “taper off” of these drugs on your own, especially once you’ve developed a full-blown addiction. If you attempt to quit these drugs cold turkey on your own, you could have a seizure or even die. 

In most cases, if you try to quit on your own, the pain and mental suffering will be so great that you’ll likely use again just to get a bit of relief. A medical team of experts will be there to help you to safely get off of the drugs and to guide you through the detox process as a whole. 

If needed, they can also prescribe certain safe medications to help you get through it.

Plus, addiction is not just a physical thing.

In many cases, it’s also part of a larger mental health issue. The combination of mental health problems and addiction is known as dual diagnosis. 

In fact, if you have any kind of mood disorder, you are ten percent more likely to struggle with substance abuse. You may even feel that these medications were a form of self-medication. 

When you find the right treatment program, you’ll learn how to address what caused you to develop an addiction in the first place. You’ll learn how to heal from these issues, and how to correct your behavior for a healthier future. 

This will vastly improve your chances of sticking to your sobriety down the line. 

Of course, this also means that you need to find the best possible treatment program for your needs. 

Are You Ready to Overcome Opioid and Benzo Addiction?

We hope that this article has helped you to understand the main differences between benzos vs opiates, as well as the similarities between these two powerful and highly addictive medications. 

Remember that addiction doesn’t discriminate. If you or someone you love is struggling with an addiction to benzos, opiates, or even both, help is available to you. 

Our treatment programs will help you to relearn how to live a happier and healthier life without dependency on drugs and alcohol. Our goal is to support you through every part of the recovery process. 

Are you ready to take back control of your life? 

If so, then reach out to us today to get started on making it happen. 

Article Reviewed by Jacklyn Steward

Jacklyn StewardJacklyn is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC) and an EMDR trained trauma therapy specialist with over 6 years of experience in the field of addiction. She has a Masters Degree in Mental Health and Substance Abuse Counseling from Nova Southeastern University.