Benzodiazepines are a class of psychoactive drugs and are often referred to casually as benzos. They’re used primarily for treating anxiety, but they are occasionally prescribed for other problems as well. They target the neurotransmitter chemical gamma-aminobutyric acid, which nerves use to communicate with each other. The exact mechanisms, by which benzodiazepines function, remains somewhat unknown, but scientists believe that they increase the amounts of gamma-aminobutyric acid, which decreases the amount of activity in the brain. Scientists have also postulated that the usual cause of anxiety is excessive nerve activity in the brain, which is why slowing down that action proves to be an effective treatment. Benzodiazepines are almost always prescribed for oral administration.
Benzodiazepines that are legal and used frequently in the United States include:
Benzodiazepines have a number of different medical uses. While they are primarily prescribed to treat anxiety, they are also often used to treat seizures and insomnia. They can also be used as part of general anesthesia and pre-surgery sedation and as a muscle relaxer. Doctors also periodically prescribe them to treat nausea, panic attacks, and depression. They’ve also been used as part of drug and alcohol addiction treatment programs to calm participants during physical withdrawal. They are also sometimes taken recreationally but are not recommended unless prescribed by a physician.
Benzodiazepines Side Effects
When used frequently for a long period of time, benzodiazepines can cause physical addiction and lead to withdrawal symptoms when the patient stops taking them. Below is a list of side effects that may occur while taking the drug or after stopping it:
- Loss of self-worth
- Muscle cramping
- Upset stomach
- Blurred Vision
- Memory Loss
You should notify your doctor if you are taking benzodiazepines and you begin experiencing vision changes, yellowing of the eyes or skin, chest pain, or a change in heart rate. Symptoms of an allergic reaction to the drug may include a rash, itching, swelling, dizziness, and trouble breathing. Seek medical attention immediately if you may be having an allergic reaction to the drug.
When being prescribed benzodiazepines you should notify your doctor of any other medications that you are taking, especially depression medication, narcotic painkillers, sedatives, and medicine used to treat allergies or colds. Also, avoid grapefruit and grapefruit juice while taking benzodiazepines unless your doctor tells you otherwise. The effects of benzodiazepines are intensified when used with other drugs that slow the brain, such as alcohol, barbiturates, narcotics, and tranquilizers. Antacids can also reduce the rate of absorption for benzodiazepines, but that can be mitigated by administering antacids and benzodiazepines at different times. Smoking cigarettes can decrease the effectiveness of the drug.