Addiction, also known as a substance use disorder, is a chronic condition characterized by uncontrollable drug use and other destructive behavioral patterns. Substance use disorders are considered a diagnosable disease by the DSM-V and is recognized as such by medical professionals around the world. Millions of people in America struggle with addiction to drugs and alcohol, and the condition costs the United States billions of dollars annually. 

Despite being a lifelong issue, it is possible to manage a substance use disorder and get it under control. This requires proper diagnosis, treatment, and maintenance to prevent the condition from progressing further. Without taking the steps necessary to stop active addiction, many addicts and alcoholics face continuous physical and mental degradation and ultimately death.

This is particularly true with the newly revitalized fascination and subsequent spike in sedative addiction. Sedative addiction requires prompt attention and treatment in order to prevent serious physical injury. It’s important to both understand and identify a sedative addiction before it’s too late. 

What are Sedatives?

Sedatives are an entire classification or category of drugs as opposed to a singular, specific substance. Much like opioids including prescription painkillers and heroin, there are many different drugs that can be considered sedatives.

Some of the different, more commonly abused sedatives are:

  • Alcohol
  • Benzodiazepines
  • Barbiturates

There are many different drugs that fit into each of the sedatives listed above, making sedatives a massive group of substances and very common among people of all ages.

Pills from a bottle and in packets

Sedatives interact with the brain and body in the same way. Whenever a sedative is ingested, whether it’s taking a shot of tequila or swallowing a Xanax, the sedative will infiltrate the system in a specific way. Sedatives affect the neurotransmitter (brain chemical) known as GABA.

Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) is responsible for sending chemical messages through the brain and nervous system while also regulating communication between brain cells. GABA is directly responsible for the behavior of an individual, their cognitive abilities, and the body’s overall response to stress. They also help to manage anxiety and fear.

Whenever a sedative enters the system, it binds to the GABA receptors on the nerve cells. By doing so, they mimic GABA’s calming effects. This is what makes sedatives desirable. People who indulge in sedative abuse experience feelings of euphoria and relaxation, which is the desired effects.

The main issue with sedatives is their highly addictive nature. Developing a sedative addiction is not only extremely easy, but also very dangerous. Sedatives alter the very chemical makeup of your brain, and a physical tolerance and dependence can develop, even if taking prescribed sedatives properly. Since sedative addiction is a serious condition that can easily result in overdose, it’s important to see the red flags as soon as possible.

What are the Signs of Sedative Addiction?

Do you think you or a loved one may be suffering from a sedative addiction? There are a few different sedative addiction symptoms to be on the lookout for. By noticing the signs sooner rather than later, you or your loved one can receive a proper diagnosis and undergo the life-saving sedative addiction treatment you need. 

While addiction manifests itself differently in everyone, there are a number of different sedative addiction symptoms that commonly are observed in most sedative addicts. Most, all, or only a few of these signs may be present.

However, These are the Usual Tell-Tale Signs of a Sedative Addiction:

  • Drowsiness
  • Slurred speech
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Lack of coordination
  • Slow, shallow breathing
  • Risky behavior
  • Memory problems
  • Aggression
  • Inability to keep work, family, or social obligations
  • Loss of interest in social activities
  • Preoccupation with acquiring sedatives
  • Loss of appetite
  • Drug cravings
  • Developing a tolerance to the drug
  • Continually using the drug despite negative consequences

Sedative addiction symptoms may vary from addict to addict, but these are the most common. It’s important to remain vigilant and keep an eye out for any sudden behavioral changes. Time is of the essence when dealing with sedative addiction, as sedative abuse can easily result in accidental overdose.

Sedatives also have severe, sometimes life-threatening withdrawal symptoms, meaning it’s important to get professional help when trying to stop. It is not recommended to attempt to tackle sedative withdrawal alone. Getting involved in sedative addiction treatment is the only way to overcome your addiction in a safe manner. 

What is Involved in Sedative Addiction Treatment?

If you or a loved one is currently struggling with a sedative addiction and has decided to take action, the next step is getting into sedative addiction treatment. Complete sedative addiction treatment requires following the full continuum of care, which maximizes success in long-term recovery.

The full continuum of care involves completing every level of treatment beginning with detox and finishing outpatient. Each level has different amounts of medical and clinical intervention. The idea is that by following through with the full continuum of care, patients can slowly acquire more personal responsibilities and freedoms overtime without overwhelming themselves and risking relapse.


The first step in sedative addiction treatment is detox. Undergoing medical detox for a sedative addiction is crucial since some of the withdrawal symptoms associated with the cessation of sedative use can prove to be fatal. At a medical detox, you’ll receive the highest level of medical and clinical intervention.

Upon your arrival, you’ll meet with the medical team who will assess the severity of your sedative addiction as well as your overall physical health. With both of these factors taken into account, a personalized detox plan will be provided along with different detox medications. These medications will not only make your detox more tolerable, but also safer.

You will also be given access to a clinical staff. Therapists, case managers, and other support staff will be at the detox. Since not all withdrawal symptoms are physical, the clinical team will be there to provide emotional support. You will also begin some therapy sessions while at detox to begin working through the psychological aspect of addiction.

While at detox, you’ll be under 24 hour medical supervision. Your progress throughout detox will be closely monitored to make sure you’re responding well to treatment. Your vitals and other medical conditions will be constantly checked and you will be made as comfortable as possible. Since the primary focus of detox is medical stabilization, your health is made the top priority by staff.


After detox you’ll be given the opportunity to continue your sedative addiction treatment. When you complete detox, you will be fully through with your withdrawals and ready to focus on the clinical aspect of addiction. Since substance use disorders affect both mind and body, it’s important to continue on in treatment in order to work through the underlying causes of addiction in order to prevent relapsing in the future.

At an inpatient or residential level of care, you’ll live onsite at the treatment center. You’ll still be under 24/7 surveillance; however, medical intervention is lessened. This level of care primarily focuses on the therapeutic portion of treatment.

Despite varying amenities and addiction therapies between different facilities, clients will undergo full-time therapy sessions. You will learn different coping mechanisms, life skills, and get to the root causes of your addiction and other emotional issues. The “heavy-lifting” of addiction treatment occurs at this stage, so making sure you complete this level of care is vital to your success in recovery.

Intensive Outpatient

Intensive outpatient follows inpatient. At this level, clients should be fairly stable in their recovery and they step down to only part time therapy. Clients must also find alternative housing, as they no longer live onsite. Many people opt for halfway houses or sober living facilities, as they offer a stricter level of structure than merely returning home.

Therapy sessions will usually occur multiple times a week for several hours at a time. Clinical intervention is still fairly intense at this level, but clients do have more freedoms as well. In order to help clients transition from a sequestered inpatient environment to living on their own in recovery, drug tests are administered to ensure abstinence from drugs and alcohol.


The final level of care is outpatient. Groups and therapy sessions occur even less frequently, usually for about an hour a week or so. At this stage, the majority of the responsibility to maintain recovery is on the client. Still providing minimal clinical support allows clients to transition into their new lives in sobriety.

Drug testing is still performed at this stage to keep patients on track. However, they still maintain a point of contact of a clinical nature to turn to if they feel themselves struggling. Outpatient is a great means of relapse prevention, as it gives clients the freedom to work and live their lives, but also still providing a place for them to go if they ever need help.

How Dangerous are Sedatives?

Sedatives are one of the most dangerous categories of drugs. Since sedatives are highly addictive, many people who are prescribed sedative medication find themselves inadvertently developing a dependence on the medication.

Sedatives are dangerous in the sense that you cannot simply stop using them cold turkey. Due to the intense and life-threatening withdrawal symptoms that could be encountered, receiving medical intervention is a must. Psychosis and even seizures are among the withdrawal symptoms reported during sedative withdrawals.

Sedatives are also fairly easily accessible. Benzodiazepines are among the most frequently prescribed prescription medications on the market. Xanax, a popular benzodiazepine used in the treatment of anxiety and sleep disorders, has over 50 million prescriptions written for it each year.

Alcohol is another dangerous sedative. Both legal and its use/abuse encouraged in American culture, alcohol accounts for tens of thousands of deaths each year alone. It is one of the leading causes of preventable death in the United States.

Sedative Abuse Statistics

Some of the statistics surrounding sedative abuse may be surprising. Sedative abuse is a common form of addiction presenting itself across all age groups and other demographics in the United States. The number of people affected by sedative abuse and addiction continues to rise annually, making the need for proper sedative addiction treatment even greater.

Since 2002, there has been a fourfold increase in the number of overdose deaths from benzodiazepines, according to the  National Institute on Drug Abuse.

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