Institute of Art Design + Technology
Dún Laoghaire

Matt McDonnell 

BSc [Hons] Applied Psychology

My name is Matt and I am a final year student in the practice path of Applied Psychology at IADT. During my third year of the course I was given the opportunity to work for a drug addiction service, which further developed my interest in the areas of trauma and addiction. I am currently working for St John of God Community Services.

Project Title

Benzodiazepine Addiction and Recovery: A Qualitative Investigation Through Online Forums

Project Overview

This project investigated the the lived experience of individuals who were addicted to benzodiazepines, a category of drugs that act as a depressant and are commonly prescribed for anxiety, mental health and other illnesses. Xanax and Klonopin are common prescribed examples. Despite this, benzodiazepines pose a risk of addiction if used beyond 2-4 weeks and contribute to 10% of drug abuse cases in Ireland (Health Research Board, 2022).

Project Description

This qualitative study investigated personal accounts posted on a benzodiazepine forum online. The study aimed to answer two research questions: 1) what are the motivations and circumstances leading to benzodiazepine addiction and 2) how do individuals recover from benzodiazepine addiction. Research was conducted using Braun and Clarke’s (2006, 2012) reflexive, top-down thematic analysis.

Project Findings

Results contributed to previous research suggesting that there is a lack of awareness surrounding the risks of benzodiazepine consumption. Individuals were commonly given long prescriptions that far exceed the 2-4 week guidelines. Results observed that individuals were not given guidance surrounding the drugs and when they began to experience negative side effects they were commonly given new drugs or higher-dose prescriptions. Despite being diagnosed with various illnesses, their symptoms often subsided after individuals ceased consumption of the drugs.

Results surrounding recovery suggest that a multifaceted approach is needed for recovery. Tapering (i.e. slowly reducing consumption) appears to be the safest method of recovery. Alongside this, coping mechanisms such as support and distraction appears important to allow for the healing mechanisms. The necessity of a 'benzo-informed' therapist was outlined alongside healthy lifestyle improvements such as exercise and healthy eating to allow the body to heal.