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Benzodiazepines

Benzodiazepines are prescribed for a myriad of issues. They are often used to treat Generalized Anxiety Disorder or GAD. Below we will explain what Benzodiazepines are, side effects of Benzodiazepines, withdrawal risks, and addiction complications.

Table of Contents:

What Are Benzodiazepines?

Benzodiazepines are a class of drug. There are more than 15 different kinds of benzodiazepine drugs that are approved by the FDA. The drugs are often referred to as “benzos”. They are prescribed for many medical and mental health issues. Xanax is a benzodiazepine. It was the most commonly prescribed psychiatric drug from the years 2005 to 2013. They have hypnotic, muscle-relaxant, and anticonvulsant features. They are used to give relief from anxiety.

What are Benzodiazepines Prescribed For?

  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder
  • Insomnia
  • Social Anxiety
  • Panic Disorder
  • Catatonia
  • Tremors
  • Alcohol Withdrawal
  • Sedation Prior to Surgery
  • Acute Agitation
  • Seizures

Benzodiazepine List

Benzodiazepines have different action times. Some are short-acting, some intermediate-acting, and some are long-acting. Drugs with briefer half-lives function more rapidly and exit your system faster. Long-acting benzo drugs take longer to start functioning and remain longer in your system. The short-acting benzo drugs include the following:

  • Triazolam: This is a sedative-hypnotic that is used for troubles with insomnia.
  • Midazolam: This is used before surgery to ease anxiety and cause sleepiness.
  • Clorazepate (Tranxene): This is an anti-anxiety drug that treats anxiety, insomnia, and seizures.
  • Xanax (Alprazolam): This is used for anxiety and panic disorders.
  • Ativan (Lorazepam): This is used for insomnia, generalized anxiety. or anxiety combined with depression.
  • Restoril (Temazepam): This is a sedative-hypnotic that is prescribed for insomnia
  • Serax (Oxazepam): This an anti-anxiety drug used for the treatment of anxiety, anxiety mixed with depression, and alcohol withdrawal symptoms.
  • Prosom (Estazolam): This is a sedative-hypnotic that is used for insomnia problems.
  • Valium (Diazepam): Valium is an anti-anxiety, muscle-relaxant, an anticonvulsant medication that is used for anxiety and muscle spasms, as well as for alcohol withdrawal issues.
  • Librium (Chlordiazepoxide): Librium is an anti-anxiety drug used to treat alcohol withdrawal symptoms, anxiety, and tremors.
  • Dalmane (Flurazepam): This is a sedative-hypnotic drug for preventing insomnia.
  • Serax (Quazepam): This is also a sedative-hypnotic drug used to ease insomnia.
  • Klonopin (Clonazepam): This is an anticonvulsant that is prescribed for anxiety, panic disorders, and epileptic seizures.
  • Ambien: Ambien is a nonbenzodiazepine but does carry some of the same results and side effects.

Benzodiazepine Side Effects

There are benzodiazepine side effects and associated risks. The side effects vary from individual to individual. This variation depends upon genetics, metabolism, tolerance levels, and other factors. Other factors include the dosage, amount, duration of use, and method of ingestion. Short-term side effects can include the following:

  • Headache
  • Drowsiness
  • Dry Mouth
  • Depression
  • Blurred Vision
  • Slurred Speech
  • Weak Muscles
  • Short-term Memory Issues
  • Impaired Cognition
  • Dizziness
  • Tremors
  • Impaired Motor Skills
  • Loss of Appetite
  • Nausea
  • Confusion
  • Fatigue
  • Diarrhea

At larger doses, there may be issues with sedation. Overdose brings with it its own set of complications. Benzos may have lasting effects on cognition if used in high doses over a long period of time. There is also a greater risk for Alzheimer’s disease with use.

Benzodiazepine Abuse and Dependency

If you use a drug without a prescription where one is needed, then that is drug abuse. If you have a prescription but take too large of a dose, this is also considered abuse. Some people use multiple doctors to get more of the drug than is suggested.

Users can rapidly become dependent if they use large amounts or use the drug for a longer period of time than is recommended. Abuse makes dependence a real possibility. Dependence happens when the brain alters its structure to adjust for the drug. This changes the reward pathway. They will start to feel benzodiazepine withdrawal when the drug exits the bloodstream. Benzodiazepine withdrawal varies in severity depending on the severity of dependency, the type of drug abused, the method of abuse, the dosage, and the duration of abuse.

How Do Benzodiazepines Affect the Brain?

Benzodiazepine drugs depress the central nervous system. The central nervous system has control over the regulation of heart rate, respiration, blood pressure, and body temperature. Benzos slow down these functions. They accomplish this by interrupting the communication between the brain and the body.

medical illustration of the effects of benzodiazepines on the brain

 

The brain controls body systems via chemicals called neurotransmitters. Stress and anxiety stimulate the brain. These drugs interfere with the creation or interpretation of these brain chemicals. This slows down activity there and creates sedative effects.

Since these drugs function quickly, they are many times used to aid in managing overstimulation. They are not good when used over the long term, though. Tolerance develops in the presence of the drugs. You have to use more and more of the benzos to achieve the same effect.

Benzodiazepines function best when used in combination with other medications. For instance, General Anxiety Disorder can be treated with antidepressants after a short course of treatment with benzodiazepines.

Benzodiazepines are good when used as prescribed. They can aid in creating a situation where longer-term solutions can develop. Long-acting forms of the drug can be used for social anxiety, alcohol withdrawal, and seizure disorders. The drugs have amnesiac effects. This means that they may affect memory in a negative way.

Benzodiazepine Withdrawal

If you use these drugs in a way that is not prescribed, you may become dependent on them. At the point that use is decreased or ended, the body goes through benzo withdrawal. The symptoms of withdrawal can range from slight discomfort to life-threatening.

The severity of Benzodiazepine withdrawal will be tied to the average dose of the drug previously taken and how suddenly they are stopped. People who abruptly halt their usage after a sustained period of use are at a greater risk of serious withdrawal than those who slowly taper their use.

The withdrawal can be dangerous. This is particularly the case for users with severe dependence or with pre-existing health issues. Severe symptoms of Benzodiazepine withdrawal can include psychosis and seizures. If not properly managed, these symptoms may get even more serious.

Symptoms of Benzodiazepine Withdrawal May Include:

  • Anxiety
  • Panic
  • Irritability
  • Insomnia
  • Sweating
  • Headache
  • Muscle Pain and stiffness
  • Seizures
  • Poor Concentration
  • Sensory Distortions
  • Nausea
  • Heart Palpitations
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Agitation
  • Tremors

Medications can be used in the treatment of benzodiazepine withdrawal to get users off of the drug. Your doctor may slowly taper you off the drug over a period of weeks or months. This is better than abruptly halting the use of the drug.

In this article, we have discussed what are benzodiazepines and gave a benzodiazepine list. Benzodiazepines are very useful for many physical and mental conditions, but the possibility of dependence exists if they are not used as recommended.

You should always follow the advice of a doctor with respect to the administration of these drugs and understand that the possibility of abuse and dependence exists. You also need to be watchful for the many possible side effects that can come with Benzodiazepine use. If you have too many issues with side effects, then your doctor can alter your prescription or possibly switch you to an alternative medication.

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