What are benzodiazepines? If you’ve heard of benzodiazepines before, it’s because they are a class of drugs that are commonly prescribed, yet extremely addictive. Benzodiazepines are a class of drugs primarily used for treating anxiety, but they also are effective in treating several other conditions. The exact mechanism of action of benzodiazepines is not known, but they appear to work by affecting neurotransmitters in the brain, chemicals that nerves release in order to communicate with other nearby nerves.
One of these neurotransmitters is gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), a neurotransmitter that suppresses the activity of nerves. Scientists believe that excessive activity of nerves may be the cause of anxiety and other psychological disorders, and benzodiazepines reduce the activity of nerves in the brain and spinal cord by enhancing the effects of GABA.
What Conditions are Benzodiazepines Used For?
Benzodiazepines are used for treating, anxiety and panic, seizures (convulsions), and insomnia or trouble sleeping. They also are used for general anesthesia, sedation prior to surgery or diagnostic procedures, muscle relaxation, alcohol withdrawal and drug-associated agitation, nausea and vomiting, depression, and panic attacks. Some Benzodiazepines are alprazolam (Xanax), chlordiazepoxide (Librium), clonazepam (Klonopin), clorazepate (Tranxene), diazepam (Valium), estazolam (Prosom), flurazepam (Dalmane), and lorazepam (Ativan).
What are the Side Effects of Benzodiazepines?
The most common side effects associated with benzos are sedation, dizziness, weakness, and unsteadiness. Other side effects include transient drowsiness commonly experienced during the first few days of treatment, a feeling of depression, loss of orientation, headache, sleep disturbance, confusion, irritability, aggression, excitement, and memory impairment. All benzodiazepines can cause physical dependence. Suddenly stopping therapy after a few months of daily therapy may be associated with withdrawal symptoms which include a feeling of loss of self-worth, agitation, and insomnia. If benzodiazepines are taken continuously for longer than a few months, stopping therapy suddenly may produce seizures, tremors, muscle cramping, vomiting, and sweating.
In order to avoid withdrawal symptoms, the dose of benzos should be tapered slowly. Benzodiazepine addicts also have a higher risk for developing dementia, an illness affecting the brain that causes gradual memory loss and problems with language and motor skills, in the long term.
What are the Dangers of Benzodiazepine Addiction?
Two serious concerns of benzodiazepine therapy are the potential for abuse and the development of physical dependence. Although intentional abuse of prescription benzodiazepines is relatively uncommon in the general population, it should be used more cautiously in individuals with a history of drug abuse as they are at the greatest risk for seeking benzodiazepines to experience a “high.” Benzos are rarely the sole drug of abuse, and abusers usually combine benzodiazepines with other drugs to increase the effect. For example, benzodiazepines are combined with certain opioids, a class of strong prescription pain relievers, to enhance the euphoric effects. Among abusers, diazepam (Valium) and alprazolam (Xanax) are most popular due to their rapid onset.
The dangers of benzodiazepine addiction are many. Fatal cases of overdose have been reported with the use of benzos. Each year benzodiazepine overdose contributes to a significant number of trips to the emergency room and hospital admissions. The antidote for benzodiazepine overdose is flumazenil (Romazicon). To treat benzodiazepine overdose, flumazenil is injected rapidly into the vein.
How Can Allure Detox Help You?
If you or someone you know is fighting with benzodiazepine dependence, Allure Detox provides a safe and comfortable environment for you to begin your journey to recovery. Our services meet the specific medical, mental, social, occupational, and family needs of our patients. We provide different therapies and treatments in order to maximize each person’s success by facing everyone’s health and happiness head-on. Our addiction professionals will help you plan your care which includes but isn’t limited to outpatient therapy and residential treatment. Take the first step towards recovery by reaching out to one of our confidential professionals at Allure Detox.