Benzodiazepines is an umbrella term for multiple medications used to treat anxiety, insomnia, and many other conditions. Benzodiazepines (BZDs) are also among the most prescribed drugs in the U.S and other parts of the world. Moreover, these medications can reduce seizures, relax muscles, and induce sleep. Short terms use of benzodiazepines using medicine taking app is generally safe and effective. However, their long-term use may result in tolerance, dependence, and other harmful effects on health. Overdosing on benzodiazepines or mixing these drugs with alcohol or other substances can be fatal.
In this article, we will look at how these medications work, what are their uses, what could be side effects; and other related information.
What are the uses of benzodiazepines?
Benzodiazepines target the neurons that are responsible for inducing stress and anxiety. Due to this ability, these medications are used for treating a broad range of psychological and mental disorders.
These disorders include:
Benzodiazepines serve as a short-term remedy for insomnia because their prolonged use can produce dependence.
Benzodiazepines can also reduce anxiety. However, the health experts recommend taking benzodiazepines for no longer than 1 month because of their risk of addiction.
Benzodiazepines are also a highly effective solution for preventing lengthy epileptic seizures.
Benzodiazepines help people cope with alcohol dependence and reduce the risk of alcohol withdrawal. Chlordiazepoxide and diazepam are two of the most commonly prescribed benzodiazepines for alcohol withdrawal.
Because of their quick effects, benzodiazepines are a great cure for panic attacks. However, health care professionals advise against the long-term use of benzodiazepines for the treatment of panic disorder.
So, these are some common uses of benzodiazepines. Apart from these conditions, benzodiazepines can be used for treating general anesthesia, muscle relaxation, sedation prior to surgery procedures, nausea, vomiting, and depression.
What are the side effects of benzodiazepines?
Benzodiazepines have several side effects. In case of improper use, you may experience:
- Impaired coordination
- Feelings of depression
- Vision problems
- Slow heart rate
- Skin rash
- Blurred vision
- Slow breathing, and other.
More research is in progress on the possible side effects of benzodiazepines. Some patients who took benzodiazepine using pill tracker app have also reported experiencing severe allergies like anaphylaxis and angioedema.
What are the dangers of benzodiazepine addiction?
The risk for abuse and addiction with BZDs is high. Although intentional abuse of these medications is rare, individuals with a history of drug abuse should use it more cautiously as they are at the greatest risk for developing physical dependence.
Besides, it is very rare for benzodiazepines to be abused solely, and they are often mixed with other medications or substances to increase the effect. For example, drug abusers often combine benzodiazepines with certain opioids (pain relievers) to enhance the euphoric effects.
In most cases, prolonged use of benzodiazepine does not cause addiction, tolerance, or withdrawal when it is no longer needed. However, it does significantly increase the risk for these issues with dose reduction or at the closure of treatment.
Benzodiazepine addicts may experience the same side effects mentioned earlier in this article. They also have a higher risk for developing issues with language and motor skills along with dementia, a condition which causes gradual memory loss.
Moreover, addiction to these medications results in a significant number of emergency room visits and hospital admissions each year. In order to deal with such cases, flumazenil (Romazicon) is injected rapidly into the veins.
How dangerous is benzodiazepine withdrawal?
On stopping benzodiazepine treatment abruptly, you may experience withdrawal. The symptoms of withdrawal may range from mild to severe. Factors that determine the risk and severity of benzodiazepine withdrawal include the amount of dose and how long you took it.
Common withdrawal symptoms of BZDs include:
- Muscle tension
- Trouble sleeping
The less common withdrawal symptoms of benzodiazepines include:
- Blurred vision
- Muscle coordination problems
- Muscle twitching or spasms
Hallucinations, seizures, delusions, and tinnitus (ringing in ears) may also occur in rare cases.
Another important factor to remember is that the risk of withdrawal depends on the amount of dosage and the treatment duration; high doses and prolonged treatment often put you at a higher risk. Early recognition and treatment of benzodiazepine withdrawal is the best way to keep the risk lower.
Benzodiazepine withdrawal is treated by injecting Diazepam (Valium) into the vein.
What are some famous benzodiazepines?
The list of famous BZDs includes:
- Alprazolam (Xanax, Xanax XR)
- Chlordiazepoxide (Librax)
- Clobazam (Onfi)
- Clonazepam (Klonopin)
- Clorazepate (Tranxene)
- Diazepam (Valium)
- Lorazepam (Ativan)
- Temazepam (Restoril)
- Triazolam (Halcion)
What to do in case of overdose?
Benzodiazepine overdose occurs due to excessive use of BZD medications. Generally, symptoms of benzodiazepine overdose include excessive sedation, impaired mental status, slurred speech, and central nervous system depression. Although these medications are relatively safe, their overdose may cause respiratory depression resulting in coma and rarely death.
Flumazenil is a common antidote for benzodiazepine overdose, however, most cases of BZD overdose require the patient to be fully observed and supported until the body has naturally released the drug. If this approach fails, then flumazenil will be given to control the problem.
What drugs do benzodiazepines interact with?
Benzodiazepines tend to cause excessive sedation when mixed with other medications and substances that affect the brain’s processing. Common Examples include barbiturates, alcohol, narcotics, and tranquilizers.
Also, drugs like ketoconazole (Nizoral), valproic acid (Depakene), cimetidine (Tagamet), and fluoxetine (Prozac), may reduce the elimination of some benzodiazepines (Xanax and Valium). As a result, your blood concentrations will rise and the risk of side effects from the affected medications may increase.
Antacids are another group of medications which may reduce benzodiazepine’s rate of absorption from the intestine. in case you are taking antacids and benzodiazepines using an app for pills, take them with several hours of gap to prevent the interaction between them.