The benefits and risks of Benzodiazepines
Benzodiazepines are a class of psychoactive medications used to treat a range of medical conditions, including insomnia and anxiety. Benzos are one of the most widely prescribed drugs in the United States, particularly among older patients. Benzodiazepines have potent that can help to reduce stress, seizures, and induce sleep.
Short term use of these drugs generally safe and effective. However, long-term use is controversial because of the potential for dependence, tolerance, and other adverse effects. It is possible to overdose with benzos and combining them with other substances can be injurious.
In this medication guide, we will look at how these drugs work, any related side effects and risks, and what they used for.
Fast Facts on Benzodiazepines
- They used a range of health problems such as sleep disorders, anxiety, and panic disorders, and alcohol withdrawal.
- They work by affecting a tranquilizing chemical in the brain.
- Its side effects can include drowsiness, dizziness, poor coordination, and feeling of depression.
- Mixing them with alcohol can be fatal.
What are the primary uses of Benzodiazepines?
They are useful for treating a range of neurological and psychological disorders due to its effects on the neurons that trigger anxiety reactions and stress.
These conditions can include:
Insomnia is a medical term that used to indicate a type of a typical sleep condition. Patients with such conditions find it difficult to stay asleep or fall asleep, or both. People with such sleep conditions often feel drowsiness when they wake up from sleeping, and it can lead to fatigue or restlessness and other unwanted symptoms.
It is the most commonly occurred sleep disorder, according to the American Psychiatric Association. APA has said that about 1/3 of all adults report insomnia symptoms, and about 6 to 10 percent of them have severe symptoms.
Benzos usually are only used as short-term management for severe insomnia, as they can lead to dependence.
Anxiety & Generalized Anxiety disorder: It is a normal and healthy emotion or a mental condition. However, when an individual regularly feels disproportionate levels of Anxiety, it might become a severe disorder.
The American psychological association has defined it as an emotion characterized by feelings of tension, worried thoughts, and physical changes like increased blood pressure. Occasional anxiety (depression) is an expected part of life. A patient with Anxiety might experience Anxiety when faced with a problem at home, work, or school, before taking a test making or making an important decision. But anxiety disorder involves more than mortal fear or worry. Its symptoms can interfere with daily life activities such as schoolwork, job performance, and relationships.
Benzos often used in the treatment of generalized anxiety disorders. The United Kingdom National Institution of Health and Clinical Excellence recommends taking benzos too treat short-term GAD for no longer than 30 days.
This disorder occurs when an individual experiences is recurring unexpected panic attacks. A report defines these attacks as abrupt surges of intense fear and discomfort that peak within a couple of minutes. People with such a condition live in fear of having seizures. Panic attacks may occur after a sudden feeling of overwhelming terror that has no known cause. Individuals with panic disorder can experience physical symptoms like breathing difficulties, sweating, and a racing heart.
Most people experience a panic attack once or twice in their whole lives.
Because of their fast-acting anti-anxiety effects, they are very effective at treating anxiety symptoms associated with panic disorder. The American Psychiatric Association says that many different study trials support their use for initial treatment. However, the association advises that long-term use of these drugs not recommended for the management of panic disorders.
Seizures are a sudden, uncontrolled electrical disturbance in the human brain. It can produce changes in the patient’s behavior, feelings, movements, and levels of consciousness. There are several types of seizures, which range in severity. Its models vary by how and where they begin in the individual’s brain.
Doctors also recommend benzodiazepines for seizure management as they are highly effective at preventing prolonged epileptic seizures.
Sometimes, patients can experience some unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. Mostly they occur when an individual suddenly stops using benzodiazepines. The most common Benzodiazepine prescribed for alcohol withdrawal is chlordiazepoxide, followed by diazepam. They help people with alcohol dependence by removing toxins from their system and reducing the risks of severe alcohol withdrawal symptoms.
The human brain contains some neurotransmitters responsible for communicating messages between brain cells. These cells can have either excitatory or tranquilizing effects.
When an individual experiences overlay anxious, his or her brain becomes overactive or excited. Tranquilizing transmitters quickly send messages to the brain, slowing down activity in the brain and reducing the symptoms of anxiety disorder.
Gamma-aminobutyric acid or GABA is the tranquilizing neurotransmitter, and billions of brain cells respond to its signals a. They work by enhancing the effects of the neurotransmitter GABA. The medications contain chemicals that add to the calming effects already produced by the human body and keep the human brain in a more tranquilized state.
Benzos can include
- Alprazolam or Xanax: It approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration for the management of anxiety disorder and panic disorder. Xanax (Alprazolam) is the most prescribed Benzodiazepine in the United States.
- Diazepam (Valium): It is an anxiety-reducing, sedative, hypnotic drug that acts rapidly. It used to treat panic disorder, seizures, insomnia, and alcohol withdrawal symptoms. It also used for the management of benzodiazepine dependence due to its low potency.
- Clorazepate (Tranxene): This medication is a sedative, hypnotic drug used to treat anxiety disorder and severe insomnia.
- Oxazepam: This medication used to treat anxiety disorder and insomnia. It can also manage the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal symptoms.
Side effects associated with Benzodiazepines
Any benzodiazepine may cause the adverse effects listed below. Every patient reacts to medication differently, so you may or may not experience them.
The most common side effects include:
- Lightheadedness and drowsiness
- Unsteadiness, dizziness, and slurred speech
- Memory problems, muscle weakness
- Nausea, dry mouth, and blurred vision, etc.
Some less common side effects:
- Low blood pressure, digestive disturbance
- Increased saliva production, headaches
- Sight problems including double vision
- Tremors, incontinence, and difficulty urinating, etc.
These drugs are associated with an inability to form new memories. Due to such conditions, it usually recommended that they should not be used for sleep unless patients are sure of not being disturbed before they have had a full night’s sleep.
Effects of long-term use
If someone takes benzodiazepines for more than two to four weeks, he or she may experience symptoms like:
- Difficulty concentrating
- Feeling isolated and unreal
- Feeling dulled and slow
- Feeling cut off from your emotions
- Weight problems
- Memory problems
- Irritability and impatience
- Loss of confidence, etc.
Patients may also experience withdrawal symptoms while they are still taking the drugs, or they may need to use a higher dose to achieve the same level of effectiveness as before.
The chronic use of benzos can also result in physical dependence. It can begin after using the benzodiazepines for as little as one month, when on the prescribed dosage. If a patient has become dependent on such drugs, they mustn’t suddenly stop therapy.
Benzodiazepine overdose is rarely fatal until they mixed with other high-potential drugs such as opioids, barbiturates, tricyclic antidepressants, and alcohol. The common symptoms of benzodiazepine overdose are central nervous system depression and intoxication with impaired movement and balance control. People who experience overdose symptoms may use Flumazenil as an antidote.
Before initiating treatment with benzodiazepines, it is crucial to tell the doctor about every other medicine currently being taken. Some medications, including oral contraceptives and antidepressants, can produce a dangerous buildup of drugs. And this activity can make some worse side effects.
Nowadays, abuse of such medications become a severe public health issue. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, hospital admission related to the misuse or abuse of benzodiazepines for people over the age of 12 rose from twenty-two thousand and four hundred in 1998 to about sixty thousand in 2008.
It is the responsibility of both patient and doctor to keep benzodiazepines use in check. Medical experts need to make sure that they are not overprescribing the drug. Doctors should also take care that they are not prescribing benzos as a first-line treatment.
Once in possession of the medication, patients need to ensure that benzos are stored safely out of the reach of the children and drug addicts. Patients should follow all the necessary instructions indicated by their health care experts.
While the risks posed by mixing benzos with other potent substances such as alcohol are considerable, they can have a positive effect on some mental health and neurological disorders when used as advised.
As long as the doctor informed of any other substance patients may be taking, and they are making such medications as advised on the packaging, there are no significant dangers in using them to treat suitable conditions.