What Is Benzodiazepine?

A benzodiazepine is a type pharmaceutical drug mainly used in the treatment of anxiety, but is also used to treat several other conditions. Benzodiazepines are often used to help manage symptoms of alcohol withdrawal during detox. Benzodiazepines work by enhancing the effect of the GABA neurotransmitter, which results in a sedative effect. They contain hypnotic, anti-anxiety, muscle-relaxant, and anticonvulsant properties, and are considered to be mild tranquilisers.

What Conditions Are Benzodiazepines Used For?

Benzodiazepines are used to treat the following conditions:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Panic
  • Panic Attacks
  • Seizures
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Muscle relaxation
  • Alcohol withdrawal
  • Drug-induced agitation
  • Nausea and vomiting

Different Types of Benzodiazepines

There are different types of benzodiazepines that vary in how quickly they begin working, how long they work, and what they are typically prescribed for. Benzodiazepines are short, medium, or long-acting. Short-acting benzodiazepines work quickly and long-acting benzodiazepines take longer to start working, but offer long-lasting effects.

Short-Acting Benzodiazepines:

  • Triazolam (Halcion): A sedative used in the treatment of insomnia
  • Midazolam (Versed): An anaesthesia used before surgery or other medical procedures to relieve anxiety and induce sleepiness
  • Clorazepate (Tranxene) An anti-anxiety medicine that helps with anxiety, seizures, and insomnia

Intermediate-Acting Benzodiazepines:

  • Alprazolam (Xanax): An anti-anxiety medicine used to treat anxiety and panic
  • Lorazepam (Ativan): An anti-anxiety medicine used to treat anxiety with depression, insomnia, or generalised anxiety
  • Temazepam (Restoril): A sedative used to treat insomnia
  • Oxazepam (Serax): An anti-anxiety medicine used to treat of anxiety, anxiety coupled with depression, and alcohol withdrawal symptoms
  • Estazolam (ProSom): A sedative used to treat insomnia

Long-acting benzodiazepines:

  • Diazepam (Valium): An anti-anxiety, muscle relaxant, and anticonvulsant medicine that is used to treat anxiety and muscle spasms. It is also used during alcohol and drug withdrawal.
  • Chlordiazepoxide (Librium): An anti-anxiety medicine that is used to treat alcohol withdrawal symptoms, anxiety, and tremors
  • Flurazepam (Dalmane): A sedative used to treat insomnia
  • Quazepam (Doral): A sedative used to treat insomnia
  • Clonazepam (Rivotril, Klonopin): An anticonvulsant medicine that treats anxiety, panic disorders, and epileptic seizures

The Side-Effects

There are side-effects and risks associated with taking benzodiazepines. The type of medication, dosage size, how long a person has been using, and the method of ingestion are all things that will determine the severity and type of side-effects a person experiences. Some of the side-effects of taking benzodiazepines are:

  • Headache
  • Dry Mouth
  • Drowsiness
  • Depression
  • Dizziness
  • Slurred Speech
  • Blurred Vision
  • Fatigue
  • Confusion
  • Short-term memory loss
  • Loss of coordination
  • Impaired motor skills
  • Tremors
  • Diarrhoea
  • Constipation

The Dangers of Benzodiazepine Use

While benzodiazepines are excellent for treating anxiety and other problems, they hold potential for dependency and abuse. While intentional abuse is typically uncommon, there are several people who find using benzodiazepines over a period of several months significantly increases the risk of tolerance, dependence, and symptoms of withdrawal when they stop using them.

There are some individuals who consume benzodiazepines with the intention of getting high. These situations typically involve people with a history of substance abuse. Benzodiazepines are frequently used alone, but rather combined with other drugs or alcohol to increase effects. When used with alcohol or other narcotic pain relievers, the chances of overdose significantly increase.

People that abuse benzodiazepines are at an increased risk of negative side effects associated with their used. These include slurred speech, confusion, extreme drowsiness, difficulty breathing, and extreme weakness. Individuals addicted to benzodiazepines are also at a higher risk of developing dementia later in life.

The elderly are particularly susceptible to the dangers of benzodiazepine use. Not only are they at increased risk for dependence and addiction, but are more likely to develop mental impairment, impairment of muscle coordination, sedation, and memory problems.

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