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What Are Benzodiazepines?

an upset woman sits on the ground in front of empty pill bottles on the floor and asks herself what are benzos

What are benzos? Benzodiazepines are a class of prescription medication used to treat conditions that cause excessive nerve activity in the brain. They affect the brain’s gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) production, producing mild to severe depression of the central nervous system and sedation. This sedates and calms the patient.

These medications effectively reduce brain activity, which may be required to treat certain conditions. Prolonged use may cause physical dependence. It is crucial that those prescribed them follow their doctor’s instructions carefully to avoid future problems with misuse.

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Which Drugs are Benzodiazepines?

Among the more common benzodiazepines are:

  • Diazepam (Valium, Diastat)
  • Estazolam (Prosom)
  • Alprazolam (Xanax, Xanax KR, Niravam)
  • Quazepam (Doral)
  • Chlordiazepoxide (Librium)
  • Clorazepate (Tranxene)
  • Clonazepam (Klonopin)
  • Oxazepam (Serax)
  • Lorazepam (Ativan)
  • Triazolam (Halcion)
  • Flurazepam (Dalmane)

Due to their high potential for addiction and the dangerous consequences of misuse, benzos should be used cautiously. People struggling with substance use should seek help from a nearby professional substance use treatment center. With the proper guidance and support, they can get their lives back on track and start building a healthier future.

What Are Benzos Used for?

Adults commonly have prescriptions for benzos for various physiological and psychological disorders. Psychological conditions treated with benzodiazepines include panic attacks, anxiety disorders, sleepiness, and excessive nervousness. Physical problems such as seizures, muscle spasms, alcoholism, and status epilepticus can also be treated with benzodiazepines.

Treatment for Anxiety Disorders

Several types of anxiety disorders use these medications. These include:

  • Generalized anxiety disorder
  • Social anxiety disorder
  • Panic disorder

Although benzodiazepines are usually prescribed for social anxiety and panic disorders, if antidepressants have proven ineffective, psychiatrists recognize that this class of prescription drugs lends themselves to misuse and are often hesitant to prescribe them for a prolonged period. Part of the reason clients may end up misusing these drugs is that long-term use may lead to tolerance, leading to the prescription of higher doses. Since these drugs directly impact cognitive function, they are sometimes found to be a drug of misuse in certain clients.

Common Side Effects of Benzos

People using these prescription medications may suffer from certain physical and cognitive side effects. Common physical side effects include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Changes in appetite
  • Weight gain
  • Dry mouth
  • Fatigue
  • Reduced libido

Commonly reported cognitive side effects can include:

  • Lightheadedness
  • Drowsiness
  • Confusion
  • Sedation
  • Memory impairment

While most side effects are mild, some people may experience more severe reactions to these medications, including respiratory depression, jaundice, seizures, slow heart rate, low blood pressure, akathisia, increased heart rate, fainting, and suicide. Anyone experiencing these more severe symptoms should consult their physician immediately. People may also develop dependence and may experience withdrawal symptoms after taking benzodiazepines.

Drug Interactions with Benzos

Some medications can cause negative interactions with benzodiazepines, so clients must disclose all medicines, supplements, and substances they use to their physicians before treating them. It is never safe to take drugs that depress the central nervous system, including alcohol, at the same time as these drugs. Doing so can lead to respiratory depression and restrict the body’s oxygen supply.

Drinking while taking benzodiazepines can also enhance the effects of alcohol, making it easier to experience alcohol poisoning. Opioid pain medications such as morphine, fentanyl, oxycodone, and hydrocodone should be avoided as they cause respiratory depression.

Adverse Effects of Benzodiazepine Use

Misusing benzodiazepine can lead to several adverse effects, including disturbing dreams, irritability, hostility, and amnesia. People using these drugs should look for signs of addiction, even if they use them as prescribed. These addiction signs can include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Goosebumps
  • Bone and muscle pain
  • Uncontrolled leg movements
  • Sleeping problems

It can be challenging to recover from addiction. Benzodiazepines work by changing the chemistry of the user’s brain. Quitting cold turkey can be dangerous due to withdrawal symptoms. Most doctors suggest contacting an addiction expert and tapering off of these drugs to reduce the severity of these symptoms and increase the chances of a successful recovery.

Signs of Overdose

An overdose of these medications is life-threatening. Symptoms of an overdose include a rapid and weak pulse, shallow breathing, coma, and death. Less serious symptoms of benzodiazepine overdose include clammy skin and dilated pupils.

Withdrawal Symptoms

It’s always best to detox off these medications under the supervision of a physician. If addiction or use has become a problem, the help of an addiction specialist is an option. Those who stop taking their medication abruptly may experience the following:

  • Increased anxiety and insomnia
  • Irritability
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Panic attacks
  • Tremors and palpitations
  • Headaches
  • Muscle pain and stiffness
  • Changes in perception

These symptoms range from mild to deadly. It is critically important that they seek medical assistance to taper off slowly and that they do not stop cold turkey. Quitting cold turkey can be life-threatening.

Discover Substance Use Treatment at The Arbor

Anyone who has been prescribed benzodiazepines should watch for symptoms of dependency. However, one should not abruptly stop taking them without their doctor’s approval. An abrupt stop is life-threatening as it can lead to potentially severe withdrawal symptoms.

The Arbor is here to help those struggling with substance use. Our team of highly qualified clinicians provides comprehensive treatment services and can provide support throughout the recovery process. Contact The Arbor today at 844.413.2690, and we can answer your question about “What are benzos?” and provide information about substance use treatment for you or a loved one.

References: – Benzodiazepines

Medical News Today – The Benefits and Risks of Benzodiazepines