Benzodiazepines: Everything You Need To Know

What Are They, And How Do They Work?

Benzodiazepines are medications that are made by man and can result in mild to severe depression of the nerves in the central nervous system (or the brain) as well as drowsiness (aka sedation).

Anxiety, seizures, and other types of conditions and diseases that require treatment with benzodiazepines can be caused by over-activity of the brain’s nerves. These particular drugs can work by increasing the effects of GABA, which is the gamma-aminobutyric acid, in the brain. GABA is a neurotransmitter and a chemical that the brain’s nerves utilize to send messages among one another. GABA cuts down on the activity of the brain’s nerves, thereby boosting the effect of GABA with a benzodiazepine and reducing activity in the brain.

How Are Benzodiazepines Used?

Adults use benzodiazepines to treat a variety of conditions, including the following:

  • Anxiety
  • Panic disorders
  • Nervousness
  • Muscle spasms
  • Sleeplessness
  • Seizures
  • Alcohol withdrawal
  • Premenstrual syndrome
  • Status epilepticus (which is a life-threatening condition of the brain)

Some additional uses of benzodiazepines include:

  • Panic disorder
  • Generalized anxiety disorder
  • Social anxiety disorder

Benzodiazepine drugs, which are commonly referred to as benzos, are very habit forming and can result in addiction. Long-term use of these drugs can also lead to tolerance, meaning that lower doses of them can eventually become ineffective causing patients to take higher doses. Some individuals abuse these drugs in order to obtain a “high” because of the drug’s effects on the brain.

What Are the Know Side Effects of Benzos?

There are numerous side effects associated with the use of benzodiazepines, including the following:

  • Constipation
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Dry mouth
  • Drowsiness
  • Lightheadedness
  • Confusion
  • Memory impairment
  • Fatigue
  • Increase/decrease in appetite
  • Weight gain
  • Improper body balance
  • Sedation
  • Reduced libido

More serious side effects include the following:

  • Fainting
  • Increased heart rate
  • Severe low blood pressure
  • Slow heart rate
  • Jaundice
  • Respiratory depression
  • Withdrawal symptoms
  • Dependence and abuse
  • Akathisia (which is a movement disorder)
  • Seizures
  • Suicide

Are You Able to Consume Alcohol with Benzodiazepines?

No, you should never consume alcohol when taking benzodiazepines as it is extremely dangerous. Individuals who do will feel the effects of the alcohol much faster. It isn’t safe to consume alcohol or take drugs with similar effects on the central nervous system simultaneously since these substances or drugs may interact with oral benzos by causing additional depression of the respiratory system and brain. Respiratory depression can result in breathing that is not adequate for supplying oxygen to the entire body, potentially resulting in death. Some examples of these products and drugs that can boost the sedative side effects or increase the risk of respiratory depression from benzos include:

Pain medications (opioids) that may result in respiratory depression:

  • Acetaminophen/Hydrocodone
  • Hydrocodone
  • Oxycodone
  • Fentanyl
  • Morphine

Sedatives that may result in sedation:

  • Eszopiclone
  • Zolpidem
  • Zaleplon
  • Intermezzo
  • Phenobarbital
  • Several other drugs

Is It Possible To Become Addicted To Benzodiazepines?

Yes, these drugs are very habit forming, so it is possible to form an addiction to them. This is true even if you are taking them as prescribed by your health care professional. Individuals with a history of alcohol or drug abuse are more likely to develop an addiction to benzos. If these drugs are used over an extended period of time, it’s likely that you will develop a tolerance for them, meaning that you will need larger doses of the drug to treat your medical disease or condition due to the tolerance of the weaker formulation of the drug. Benzodiazepines can be effective for treating several conditions, such as insomnia and anxiety, but it is important that you are careful when taking these drugs due to the likelihood of addiction.

The street names for these drugs are Benzos and Downers. Addicts tend to abuse these drugs in order to obtain a “high”. They create a similar addition to opioids (narcotics like hydrocodone, oxycodone, morphine, and fentanyl) cannabinoids (marijuana), and GHB (gamma-hydroxybutyrate), which is a club drug.

These drugs are most frequently abused by adolescents and young adults who tend to crush the drugs up and snort them or just consume the tablet orally to get high. If this medication is abused, there are adverse effects with some of the following symptoms:

  • Irritability
  • Amnesia
  • Hostility
  • Disturbing and vivid dreams

Signs and symptoms that you may be addicted to benzos include the following:

  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Goosebumps
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Bone and muscle cramps
  • Uncontrollable leg movements

What Are the Symptoms and Signs of Withdrawal for Dependence of Benzodiazepine?

If you stop taking benzos suddenly, there is the chance that you will experience withdrawal symptoms that could include the following:

  • Headaches
  • Panic attacks
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Irritability
  • Sleep issues
  • Dry heaving and vomiting
  • Increased anxiety and tension
  • Hand tremors
  • Muscle pain and stiffness
  • Palpitations
  • A host of perceptual changes

The severity of the withdrawal symptoms will vary based on the duration and amount of the use of the benzodiazepines. In some cases, withdrawal symptoms can be deadly.

Benzodiazepines have been classified by the DEA, the Drug Enforcement Administration, as Schedule IV drugs, which means that they have a lower risk and potential of dependence than other more potent drugs like testosterone, codeine, Vicodin, anabolic steroids, Adderall, OxyContin, and Ritalin.

What Are the Different Kinds of Benzodiazepines?

Some examples of oral benzos include the following:

  • Alprazolam (brand names: Xanax and Xanax XR)
  • Clobazam (brand names: Onfi)
  • Clonazepam (brand names: Klonopin)
  • Clorazepate (brand names: Tranxene)
  • Chlordiazepoxide (brand names: Librium)
  • Diazepam (brand names: Diastat, Diastat Acudial, and Valium)
  • Estazolam (brand names: Prosom, which is discontinued in the United States)
  • Lorazepam (brand names: Ativan)
  • Oxazepam (brand names: Serax, which is discontinued in the United States)
  • Temazepam (brand names: Restorial)
  • Triazolam (brand names: Halcion)

What Are the Formulations of Benzodiazepines?

All oral benzos are available in the form of a tablet.

  • Alprazolam and clorazepate are available in extended-release tablets.
  • Alprazolam, diazepam, clobazam, and lorazepam can be purchased in oral liquid form.
  • Oxazepam, chloradiazepoxide, and temazepam are available in the form of capsules.
  • Diazepam can be purchased as a rectal gel.
  • Some benzos are available as injections.

Is It Safe to Take Benzos While Pregnant or Breastfeeding?

The Federal Drug Administration classifies benzos as pregnancy category D, meaning that the drugs can potentially result in harm to the fetus if administered to pregnant women. If benzodiazepines must be used in women who are pregnant or if the woman becomes pregnant while taking the drugs, it is imperative that the patient is informed of the potential risks to the fetus.

Benzodiazepines can enter the breast milk, and the drugs can result in lethargy as well as weight loss in the baby. As a result, these drugs should be used in mothers who are breastfeeding.

In Conclusion

Benzodiazepines are a class of drugs in the United States, and they are manmade drugs that are typically prescribed to treat a variety of conditions such as nervousness, anxiety, panic attacks, insomnia, muscle spasms, and seizures.

Below is a list of examples of generic and brand names of benzodiazepines that are available within the United States.

  • Alprazolam (brand name: Xanax)
  • Clobazam (brand name: Onfi)
  • Clonazepam (brand name: Klonopin)
  • Clorazepate (brand name: Tranxene)
  • Chlordiazepoxide (brand name: Librium)
  • Diazepam (brand name: Valium)
  • Estazolam (brand name: Prosom)
  • Lorazepam (brand name: Ativan)
  • Oxazepam (brand name: Serax)
  • Temazepam (brand name: Restoril)
  • Triazolam (brand name: Halcion)

Benzodiazepines are habit forming drugs, and it is possible for patients to become addicted to these drugs even if they are being taken as prescribed by their health care professional. Dosage, drug interactions, side effects, storage, as well as pregnancy and breastfeeding safety should be carefully reviewed before taking this medication.

If you or someone you love is suffering an addiction to benzodiazepines, stop suffering. Get the help you need by contacting Shadow Mountain Recovery today.