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What are benzodiazepines?

Benzodiazepines are a class of medications that can be helpful in treating a range of conditions. Doctors usually prescribe these medications to treat anxiety, insomnia, and seizures.

The short-term use of benzodiazepines is usually safe and effective; however, their long-term use may lead to tolerance, dependence, and some adverse effects.

There are two formulations of benzodiazepines:

Short acting benzodiazepines

Short-acting benzodiazepines are useful in the treatment of conditions that require immediate action. They quickly reach the system, and their therapeutic effects generally last for four to six hours.

Long acting benzodiazepines

Long-acting benzodiazepines are useful in the treatment of conditions that require extended delivery medications. They reach the body slowly and gradually keep working in the body. Their therapeutic effects typically last for eight to twelve hours.

Common benzodiazepines include many various widely prescribed psychiatric medications. The primary benzodiazepines examples include:

  • Alprazolam (brand name Xanax)
  • Lorazepam (brand name Ativan)
  • Clonazepam (brand name Klonopin)
  • Diazepam (brand name Valium)
  • Midazolam (brand name Versed)

Taking benzodiazepine overdose or too much of it can be dangerous and cause adverse effects. Here we discuss all the significant information about benzodiazepines.

What are benzodiazepines used for?

Benzodiazepines change the activity of neurons that trigger anxiety and stress reactions. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved them for the treatment of:

  • Generalized anxiety disorder
  • Social anxiety disorder
  • Panic disorder
  • Insomnia
  • Seizures disorders, such as epilepsy

These are major benzodiazepine uses, but doctors can also prescribe these medications for other purposes. The type of benzodiazepine you are using will determine its potential uses. Other off-label uses of benzodiazepines include:

  • Bipolar disorder
  • Tic disorder
  • Sleep disorders
  • Acute alcohol withdrawal

Majorly, doctors prescribe benzodiazepines for anxiety.

How do benzodiazepines work?

Benzodiazepine's mechanism of action is different for different medicines of the class. However, they collectively work by enhancing the effects of GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) neurotransmitters.

These neurotransmitters are brain chemicals that communicate messages between cells. These messages have stimulating or calming effects. GABA is a receptor sending calming messages to the body.

When someone feels anxious, the brain gets overstimulated. People who take benzodiazepines will have their brain messages sent to counter this overstimulation. This activity reduces anxiety symptoms.

Types of benzodiazepines

There are many different types of benzodiazepines. They differ in their uses, mechanism of action, potency terms, and how quickly they get absorbed.

Several primary types of benzodiazepines include:

NameBrand nameUses
AlprazolamXanaxAnxiety disorders and panic disorder
DiazepamValiumPanic attacks, insomnia, restless leg syndrome, seizures, acute alcohol withdrawal
ChlordiazepoxideLibriumAnxiety and alcohol withdrawal
ClonazepamKlonopinSeizure disorders and panic disorder
LorazepamAtivanSeizures, anxiety, anesthesia

Benzodiazepines side effects

The most common benzodiazepines side effects include:

  • Confusion
  • Drowsiness
  • Depression
  • Dizziness
  • Increased or rebound anxiety
  • Impaired coordination

More severe side effects of benzodiazepines include memory problems, delirium, behavioral changes, risk of dependence and addiction with long-term use, increased risk of dementia.

People can have additive side effects of central nervous system depression if they take benzodiazepines and alcohol together.

Benzodiazepines withdrawal

A wide range of benzodiazepine withdrawal symptoms can occur when someone suddenly stops using them. They include:

  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Anxiety and panic
  • Restlessness and agitation
  • Tremors
  • Seizures
  • Hallucinations
  • Shortness of breath

Experts recommend taking benzodiazepines for up to two weeks. A person using them for 3-4 weeks and then stopping it the cold turkey will experience withdrawal symptoms. Doctors prescribing them for the long-term keep the patients under observation and gradually stop the dose while discontinuing it.

Benzodiazepines overdose

Taking a benzodiazepine overdose may cause:

  • Extreme drowsiness or sedation
  • Slurred speech
  • A very low breathing rate
  • Confusion or difficulty thinking
  • Loss of muscle control
  • A coma

The overdose can be fatal if a person takes benzodiazepines and alcohol together, or uses some other drugs of abuse with them, takes opioids or other benzodiazepines concomitantly, is older than 65 years of age, and takes an overdose.

Benzodiazepines interactions

Before beginning treatment with benzodiazepines, an individual should enlighten their primary care physician regarding each other drug that they are using.  A few medications may escalate the impacts of benzodiazepines, while others may make them less viable. 

It is fundamental not to use benzodiazepines with narcotics or liquor, as this can prompt hazardous impacts.  Individuals ought to likewise never consolidate them with cannabis use. 

Benzodiazepines misuse

Benzodiazepine abuse is a reason for concern. A few categories use these medications for sporting purposes without a clinical expert's management, which can be risky. 

Individuals can keep away from conceivably dangerous issues by: 

  • Using these medications just if a specialist recommends them 
  • Enlightening the specialist concerning any prescriptions or different substances, including supplements, that they are taking 
  • Adhering to the specialist's guidelines absolutely 
  • Trying not to use the medications for more than the specialist recommends 
  • Asking the specialist before changing the dosages 
  • Abstaining from using them close by liquor or narcotics 
  • Forgoing using someone else's medications 
  • Keeping all medications out of the range of kids 
  • Thinking about asking the specialist regarding elective choices


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