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Substance Abuse and Addiction Health Center

Benzodiazepine Abuse

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When to Seek Medical Care

If you have any questions, you could call your doctor, but if you are in doubt whether someone needs immediate medical attention, you should go directly to a hospital emergency department.

If you are concerned that you or someone else has taken an overdose, it is very important that you seek medical help immediately. You should go to the nearest emergency department or call 911 for help. After someone takes an overdose, the effects may not become immediately obvious.

It will assist the doctors if you bring the pill containers with you because it helps them determine the number and type of pills taken.

Exams and Tests

The diagnosis is based on findings from your medical history, examination, and any lab tests performed.

  • In acute ingestions, diagnosis is often obvious because you or your family can tell the doctor exactly what was taken.
  • The diagnosis of chronic drug abuse can be much more difficult because an abuser and his or her family often try to cover up or hide what is going on.
  • The emergency department workup of any possible toxic drug overdose consists of an initial evaluation. Doctors will assess how well you are breathing. The rest of the workup depends on you and your symptoms. The physician will ask about many of the signs and symptoms. Unless you are willing to admit that you are abusing benzodiazepines or family members are present to help with the history, it is easy for you to cover up drug abuse.
  • Monitoring and testing
    • In the emergency department, you will usually be placed on a monitor evaluating heart rate, blood pressure, and pulse oximetry. An IV line will be started. Oxygen is given if you are short of breath or have a reduced level of consciousness.
    • Urine drug screens are sometimes performed. These lab tests can detect many of the commonly abused drugs, including benzodiazepines (but may not be able to discover them all). The urine drug screens do not, however, reveal a specific level or amount of the drug taken. Urine is also usually tested for pregnancy in all females of childbearing age.
    • Blood samples, ECGs, and chest x-rays may be obtained if there is concern that you may have taken other dangerous drugs.

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