Benzodiazepines (benzos) are drugs that are normally administered to ease anxiety and they also help in sleeping. They are depressant drugs that lessen some brain activities thus causing a calming effect. They are also prescribed to people who are having painful or stressful health procedures, in such a case they are referred to as sedatives. At times they can also be used to treat muscle spasms and seizures. Whenever Benzodiazepines are used as prescribed by a medical specialist, they are safe especially when compared-with barbiturates. Some people use barbiturates instead of benzos but benzos are safer.
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When overdosed, benzos can cause death especially when they are taken with other different drugs. Old people are in particular vulnerable to benzos and can go through falls or experience confusion. When taken through the mouth, the stomach and the small intestine absorb them and the liver metabolizes them. These drugs are very fat-soluble and they build up in the fat tissue. They are excreted through saliva, sweat, breast milk, stool, and urine (Salamone; 2001). Benzos function mostly in the brain, affecting emotional responses, thoughts, memory, consciousness control, toning, and coordination of muscle.
Benzos improve neurotransmitter and Gamma Amino Butyric Acid (GABA) actions and functions. Neurotransmitters are substances that facilitate cells of the brain to send out/transmit impulses from one-to-another. Electrical signals help in releasing them from brain cells. Once they are released, neurotransmitters signal adjacent brain cells’ excitation/inhibition. Gamma Amino Butyric Acid helps in calming or slowing things down. Benzos boost the efficiency of Gamma Amino Butyric Acid, hence bringing about inhibition and soothing/calming. Benzos are extensively prescribed, they include; Clonazepam (Klonopin), alprazolam (Xanax), lorazepam (Ativan), and diazepam (Valium).
These medications are listed among the topmost regularly prescribed drugs. Benzos usually produce almost instant results and therefore may be recommended for temporary, irregular usage. Since several anxiety disorders emerge after a while, patients mostly prefer benzos because these drugs can be taken at irregular intervals, whenever the patient feels anxiety or the need to take them. Most patients can use benzos with caution. Benzos are also extensively used for other different reasons like; spasticity of muscle, paroxysmal disorders, pre-surgical sedation, alcohol and substance detoxification, anxiety linked with gastrointestinal or cardiovascular problems. Benzos vary in how fast they work, and their common usage. For example:
- Clorazepate (Tranxene) and Diazepam (Valium) and have “fast onsets of action”,
- Alprazolam (Xanax), clonazepam (Klonopin), and lorazepam (Ativan), have “intermediate onsets of action” and
- Oxazepam (Serax) has a “slow onset of action.”
Even though most benzos are used exchangeably, some are commonly used for particular conditions.
- For alcohol detoxification, chlordiazepoxide (Librium) is used;
- For anxiety conditions, diazepam (Valium), chlordiazepoxide (Librium), Alprazolam (Xanax), lorazepam (Ativan), clorazepate (Tranxene), and midazolam are used;
- For Insomnia or lack of sleep, quazepam (Doral), temazepam (Restoril), estazolam, flurazepam,and triazolam (Halcion) are used;
- For Seizure conditions, diazepam (Valium) clorazepate (Tranxene), and clonazepam (Klonopin) are used;
- For anesthesia, diazepam (Valium) and midazolam, lorazepam (Ativan) are used;
- For relaxing muscles, diazepam (Valium) is also used.
There are common side effects of benzos drugs, they include:
- Feeling depressed
- Sleep troubles
- Loss of orientation
- Weakness, and
All different kinds of benzos can bring about physical dependence. Abruptly stopping medication after a few months of routine medications can be linked with withdrawal signs which involve a feeling of self-esteem or self-worth loss, agitation, anxiety, and lack of sleep (Trimble; 2000). If benzos are taken constantly for more than a few months, ending treatment abruptly can cause convulsions, tremors, muscle spasms, sweating, and vomiting. To avoid these withdrawal signs/symptoms, benzodiazepines dosage ought to be tapered gradually. Benzodiazepine most commonly experienced side effects include; sleepiness and lack of coordination. Sluggish mental processing, memory impairment, bewilderment/confusion, and tiredness are also common benzos’ side effects.
Patients are advised to consult their healthcare provider when these side-effects come up and when they continue to be worrisome and troublesome (Miller; 2009). Benzos interact with some other drugs, for example, all benzos bring about extreme sedation when they interact with other drugs that drag processes of the brain: for instance narcotics, barbiturates, alcohol, and tranquilizers. The removal of some benzos like diazepam (Valium) and alprazolam (Xanax) is lessened by drugs that drag or slow drugs’ elimination in the liver, for instance; cimetidine (Tagamet), ketoconazole (Nizoral, Xolegel), fluoxetine (Prozac), and valproic acid (Depakene, Stavzor). Lessened elimination can bring about more concentrations of blood and affect benzos’ side effects. Benzos absorption rate from the small intestines can be reduced by Antacids. Separating benzos and antacids administration can stop this interaction.
Some examples of benzos include:
- Quazepam (Doral)
- Alprazolam (Xanax)
- Chlordiazepoxide (Librium)
- Flurazepam (Dalmane)
- Clonazepam (Klonopin)
- Clorazepate (Tranxene)
- Triazolam (Halcion)
- Diazepam (Valium)
- Estazolam (Prosom)
- Lorazepam (Ativan)
- Temazepam (Restoril)
- Oxazepam (Serax)
Benzos should be taken as prescribed by the medical expert because the wrong usage can cause death or further health complications.
Miller, F. (2009).Benzodiazepine: Benzodiazepine. List of Benzodiazepines, Long- Term Effects of Benzodiazepines, Benzodiazepine Dependence, Benzodiazepine Withdrawal Syndrome, Paradoxical Reaction, Psychoactive Drug, Benzene. New York, NY: Alphascript Publishing.
Salamone, S. (2001).Benzodiazepines and GHB: detection and pharmacology. New York, NY: Humana Press.
Trimble, M. (2000).Benzodiazepines. New York, NY: Wrightson Biomedical Pub.