Benzodiazepines are a class of drugs that are used for their sedative effects. Also known as tranquilizers, these act on the central nervous system (CNS) and produce a sense of calm. These drugs work on the brain cells, thereby affecting memory, thinking, emotional reactions, muscle coordination and so on.
Apart from producing a sense of calm, benzodiazepines are known to promote muscle relaxation and reduce anxiety levels significantly. The most common forms of benzodiazepines are sleeping pills and drugs like Valium and Xanax. These are generally prescribed to women and seniors over the age of 65 for combating problems related to sleep and anxiety. Several other uses of benzodiazepine are:
- Controlling alcohol withdrawal
- Managing seizures
- Eliminating anxiety-related symptoms before surgery
- Causing muscle relaxation
Long-term use of benzodiazepines associated with several side effects
The main advantage of benzodiazepines is that these are extremely quick in action. For people who have a chronic anxiety problem, these are considered a better alternative than elective-serotonin reuptake inhibitors, which could take several weeks to be fully effective. Similarly, in the elderly with a sleeping problem, these are considered highly beneficial due to their sedative properties. However, long-term use of such drugs can lead to addictive behavior, characterized by persistent sedation and detachment from life.
Some of the disadvantages of resorting to the long-term use of benzos are:
Addiction: Benzodiazepines are extremely addictive.People who have been on benzos for a while develop a dependency. They tend to consume extremely high dosages to get the same effect.
Psychological impairment: Apart from causing negative side effects, these drugs are associated with dependence and serious withdrawal symptoms. According to a 2014 report by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), long-term use of benzodiazepines is associated with an increased risk for Alzheimer’s disease (AD). For most elderly dealing with sleep problems, these drugs are helpful in aiding sleep but when used for a prolonged period and in higher doses, these could cause a range of unfavorable symptoms. In the elderly, these are associated with impaired cognition and mobility. Unmonitored benzodiazepine intake can cause a stroke, seizures and heart attacks.
Reaction with other drugs: Considering the reactive nature of the drug, it is essential to inform the doctors in advance about any such occurrence. While benzodiazepine by itself is not fatal but when mixed with opioids, alcohol and antidepressants, it could increase the risk of an overdose.
Overdosing: If medications belonging to this category are used with alcohol and other drugs, it can be the root cause of drug poisoning or an overdose. In case someone has become dependent on benzodiazepines, it is essential to taper the dosage slowly instead of stopping it cold turkey. Side effects of a sudden withdrawal could be seizures, muscle cramps, paranoia and so on.
Road to recovery
For patients suffering from chronic anxiety and insomnia, benzodiazepines are the best treatment options. However, considering the habit-forming nature of these drugs, doctors nowadays refrain from prescribing such medications for more than a few weeks. Before taking Valium or Xanax, it is best to explore alternatives such as meditation and therapy to help relieve symptoms of anxiety and panic attacks. In many instances, an unresolved trauma could be the leading cause of anxiety. Although drugs can control or manage anxiety symptoms to a great extent, behavioral counseling and therapy can go a long way in resolving such issues.
If you or a loved one is suffering from the problem of prescription drug abuse, connect with the Prescription Drug Abuse Helpline of California to know about various prescription drug treatment centers in your locality. Call us at our 24/7 helpline number 855-738-2770 or chat online to get in touch with our representatives who can assist you in finding the best drug treatment centers in California.