The most recent National Survey on Drug Use and Health reported that nearly 2.2 million adolescents (ages 12 to 17), or almost 9 percent of adolescents in the U.S., were currently misusing illicit drugs. Of these 2.2 million, about 500,000 adolescents — nearly one in every 50 across the country — were misusing prescription psychotherapeutic medications like Xanax, Valium, or other benzodiazepines. At our boys’ substance abuse treatment center, our adolescent benzodiazepine (benzos) use treatment program provides young men with the tools for recovery from addiction.

Benzodiazepines, or “benzos,” are psychoactive drugs that have been used since the 1960s to treat anxiety disorders, panic attacks, seizures, and alcohol withdrawal symptoms. Xanax is one of the most commonly prescribed, alongside Ativan, Klonopin, and Valium. With anxiety disorders currently ranking as the number one mental illness in the U.S., it’s no wonder that these drugs are becoming a common sight in medicine cabinets. One survey found that between 1996 and 2013, prescription rates for benzodiazepines jumped from 8.1 million to 13.5 million. This is a 67% increase, while dosages had increased by about 1.4 times. This combination of easy access and increasing prescription strength makes benzodiazepines a prime target for use among young people.


Benzodiazepines, like Xanax, are a type of sedative drug. They work by boosting the effects of a chemical in the brain called GABA, which has known inhibitory properties; some chemicals in the brain excite your brain cells, but GABA calms them down. Increasing the soothing effects of GABA can be a great relief from the brain’s overactivity, which causes anxiety. But it can result in a sleepy and zoned-out “high” when benzos are used recreationally.

Many of the dangers of Xanax and benzodiazepines (benzos) lie in the ease with which a user can build up a tolerance and then the problems that arise with withdrawal. Repeated use of a benzodiazepine drug causes the brain and body to become accustomed to the higher amount of GABA activity. So when the effects wear off, the brain will feel as if it has been overworked. Mood swings, anxiety, difficulty sleeping and headaches are common signs of withdrawal when the adolescent stops taking the benzodiazepine drug.


An adolescent who uses benzodiazepines typically exhibits noticeably changed behavior while high, and long-term use will result in personality changes, particularly when a high wears off. Some of the signs of a benzodiazepine high include:

  • Confusion or appearing “lost in thought”
  • Drowsiness
  • Slurred or slowed speech
  • Uncoordinated movements
  • Poor judgment
  • Lowered social filters

Signs of benzodiazepine use disorder or withdrawal include:

  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia/disturbed sleep
  • Vivid dreams
  • Amnesia/forgetfulness

Those addicted to benzos may also exhibit drug-seeking behavior. All in an attempt to get a prescription for Xanax or a different drug. Sudden unfounded complaints of anxiety-associated symptoms, requests to see multiple physicians about these symptoms or running through prescriptions very quickly are all signs that point towards benzodiazepine use disorder.


If your teen has been behaving erratically or differently than his/her usual self, make a note of the changes and talk to a physician right away. A doctor or other medical professional can help you learn about your options for determining whether your teen is addicted to benzodiazepines. Teen use of prescription medications like benzodiazepines can be harmful, both physically and mentally. They should be treated with substance abuse treatment by professionals as soon as possible.

It is dangerously easy to develop a physical dependence on benzodiazepines. Treatment for benzodiazepine use disorder can often require a medical detox period in which we safely wean the adolescent off the drug. This allows him/her to gradually become re-acclimated to daily life with normal levels of GABA and other brain functioning. At Stonewater, our detox services are supervised by a trained physician and highly qualified nursing staff. Withdrawal management is a 24/7, in-house monitoring treatment program for residents who require a supervised detoxification period. We are capable of providing this service for adolescents before they transition to our primary Residential program.

Following medical treatment, the next step is to treat the underlying mental and emotional health concerns associated with substance use. At Stonewater, we aim to uncover the causes of adolescent substance use through a variety of therapies. These include one-on-one and group talk therapy, art therapy, music therapy, equine therapy, adventure therapy, and many others. We help teens in our program learn healthy ways to cope while spending their free time in recovery. Our programs are available in 30, 60, and 90 day periods. The length of your adolescent’s stay will depend on his/her individual needs.


At our recovery campus in Oxford, Mississippi, we aim to give your child the tools he/she needs to return to a normal, drug-free lifestyle that allows them to reach their full potential. Your adolescent can safely recover from a benzodiazepine use disorder under our care, and we can teach them the healthy habits they need to stay away from drugs and other addictive substances going forward. If you suspect your child is struggling with a Xanax use disorder or a disorder involving a different benzodiazepine, you can contact Stonewater right away to learn more about our treatment programs. The earlier you seek treatment, the sooner your teen can recover and find meaning and purpose in a substance-free life. Call us today at 662.373.2828.